Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Live: Depeche Mode's Hollywood takeover

April 24, 2009 |  7:13 am


Standing in the audience for Depeche Mode’s traffic-stopping free show on Hollywood Boulevard, it felt like a little bit of New York's Times Square had come to town. With giant billboards trumpeting the arrival of the new W Hollywood Hotel & Residences and the marquee of the Pantages Theater looming above the massive crowd that spilled over onto neighboring side streets, the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street was charged for the arrival of the synth-pop pioneers. Before the show even started, a surge of fans on Vista Del Mar Street buckled a gate and caused a gaggle of police to run over and quickly restore order.

If only for a moment, it was like a quick flash of the band’s infamous 1990 autograph session  at the now-shuttered Wherehouse Records store that once stood on La Cienega across from the Beverly Center, where serious Depeche Mode fans stormed the entrance, resulting in a full-fledged window-shattering riot with the band fleeing for safety.

It's 19 years later, and Depeche Mode can still wreak havoc on the streets L.A.

Depeche Mode in Hollywood

The band celebrated the release of its 12th studio album, “Sounds of the Universe,”with a free performance on Hollywood Boulevard. It doubled as an appearance on ABC's “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” late-night TV talk show, which was scheduled to broadcast the first two songs later in the evening.

Fans who snapped up the free tickets through the band’s website showed up early and endured the tedium of filming a TV show, which included lots of cheering on cue until the band -- augmented by a live drummer and additional keyboardist -- finally appeared on stage around 8 p.m. to open with the industrial stomp of the new single, “Wrong."


Fellow Kimmel guests Elisha Cuthbert and Tatum Channing were lurking in the wings, and Deftones singer Chino Moreno was also spied on the scene. Catering to the crowd, which was rumored to have reached upward of 10,000 people, Depeche Mode launched into its 1989 smash hit, “Personal Jesus,” followed by “Walking in My Shoes” from the 1993 album "Songs of Faith and Devotion."

After satiating the audience with such time-tested tunes, the band dug deeper into its new album with the hypnotic dirge “Come Back,” and the retro-electro pulse of “Peace,” a dramatic showcase for singer Dave Gahan’s surprisingly supple vocals, which are arguably as strong as they've ever been. He’s also in fighting physical shape, eliciting female screams even before shedding his jacket.

After Gahan thanked the crowd for its patience -- many had been in line since the early afternoon waiting to get in -- the band closed the set with an extended version of "Violator's" “Enjoy The Silence,” featuring some impressive guitar work from songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Martin Gore, and then one for the old-school set, the 1987 single “Never Let Me Down Again.”

The remaining members of Depeche Mode have spent the last 12 years rebuilding themselves from the crash-and-burn of the mid-90s, when Gahan's well-documented addiction issues and the departure of longtime member Alan Wilder dominated headlines. Ending the show with the hopeful fan favorite was  an inspired choice, and from the glow of satisfied fans jostling out of the stage area when it was over, it was an apt sentiment the band has obviously taken to heart.

Scott T. Sterling

Photo, top: Dave Gahan. Associated Press.

Photo, lower: Depeche Mode fans. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times