By the time this gig came around, the public Depeche Mode-bashing by Gahan had reached fever pitch. Not a week could go by without a website somewhere reporting that once more Gahan had chosen to criticise the DM work ethos, or directly attack Gore or even harmless old Fletch. This resulted in at least one official counter comment by Fletch, who characteristically labelled Gahan a "bigmouth"... easy tiger!, and threatened (and possibly has) buried all hopes of a Dave Gahan inclusive Depeche Mode forever. All this gave us plenty to chat about in the queue outside this West London venue - leading to obvious but still mildly amusing suggestions that one of us shout out during a quiet moment "Oi, Dave - how's Martin?".
In contrast to Martin Gore's solo efforts (which comprise of covers only) Dave Gahan's first solo album Paper Monsters gave the former Basildon boy the chance to release some of his own songwriting, having forever been in the shade of his Ivor Novello Award winning colleague. Gahan's more overtly 'rock' direction comes as no surprise and suits the man down to the ground at this point in his long and often traumatic career. There's also those crooning bluesy numbers that so suit Gahan's seasoned voice that would have been unthinkable early in his career.
Unlike the recent Martin Gore gigs, Gahan's set effortlessly incorporated choice DM tunes. Opting either for the rockier side of DM or songs that he wasn't afraid to significantly rework, tracks like Walking in My Shoes, a stonkingly monsterous version of A Question of Time, I Feel You, Policy of Truth, and a good facsimilie of Never Let Me Down all sounded perfectly in keeping with Gahan's own material. This proved that Gahan has a talent worthy of solo exposure that mostly stood well enough alongside the Gore compositions even if it doesn't challenge them.
All the familiar live Gahan-isms aimed at encouraging audience participation were present, but unlike latter years Depeche Mode gigs, this never came across as Gahan being either lazy or vocally exhausted. Although clearly with something to prove, there nevertheless was a noticeably relaxed Basildon bloke on stage tonight, who was happy to pull a banner from the audience and show it to all. It read "We Love Dave Gahan - He's The Daddy". "And don't you forget it!" he playfully said (possibly another dig at Gore?). Even an accidental fall off stage left towards the end didn't dampen Gahan's spirits. He said 'Hello' to him mum in the balcony at one point.
This was a man far removed from the angst-ridden drug addict of the late 90s Mode who got so wound up live that he frequently burst into tears. Yet still there was passion, drive, commitment and even some good new material. Gahan is clearly a better man than he used to be. What's better still is that change hasn't dampened his spirit nor his natural boyish charm.
Martin Gore - Astoria, London - 2 May, 2003
Depeche Mode gigs