The Depeche Mode singer songwriter's first solo UK gigs were always gonna be popular and attract hardcore Gore fanatics. Tonight's cosmopolitan audience (it seemed as if almost half didn't have English as their native language), who screamed and sang along from the moment he stepped on stage to the point he finally left it, lived up to expectations. This was partly good news and partly bad. Good because it created a buzzing atmosphere that heightened the sense of occasion. Bad because I had to listen to three German girls standing next to me scream out the lyrics to virtually every track for the entire evening. Thanks girls, but I came to hear Mr Gore.
The geeky blonde one was out promoting his second solo effort, Counterfeit2, another collection of cover versions. Although not as good as the first EP (this time it's a full length album) there are a few good interpretations. Unfortunately, Gore only performed one song from the first EP, the superb Mother Earth yet gave up half the set to versions of Depeche Mode songs. It was virtually inevitable we were going to hear a few DM tunes, but this was a wasted opportunity and should undoubtedly have included more from the earlier Counterfeit EP.
Moreover, the way Gore constantly intermixed the Mode tracks with the cover material didn't work - often leading to some awkward changes in pace and tone - and only suggested that (somewhat ironically) he felt unsure about the strength of the cover material - relying upon the tried and tested, and self-penned, DM formula to bring the audience to frenzy point. The sound mix was excellent and the DM tracks that Gore simplified to suit either solo guitar or guitar and piano were skillful adaptations that worked remarkably well - there were just too many of them. It was stifling in an Astoria rammed from wall to wall and there was a genuine sense of relief by the time I managed to escape to the fresh air outside - which isn't how it should be.
Gore is a consummate performer but he's still a better composer in his own right and this performance only emphasised that. One hesitates to use the phrase self-indulgent, but the whole Counterfeit2 exercise, (and as the choice of the first single - a somewhat dismal version of David Essex's Stardust - indicates) this is Gore indulging himself in public. Sometimes it works brilliantly but too often it struggles to engage. Whilst I'm sure it would have been a very different night had Gore chosen not to include any Depeche Mode tracks (or just a token one or two) then I suspect I would have found the entire event more worthwhile. As it stands, it looks like Gore will find it hard to shake off his impressive past.
Dave Gahan - Shepherd's Bush Empire,
London - 9 July 2003
Depeche Mode Gig Reviews