Although this wasn't exactly my first Depeche Mode concert, it was my first experience seeing a show at The Gorge Ampitheatre. Picture if you will, a fairly decent sized outdoor stage, with the usual metal scaffolding and catwalks, overhead lights, and scrambling techs trying to get everything just right. The back of the stage was enshrouded not by solid walls but by sheer black fabric to let the view in. Framing the stage one can see nothing but sky and cliffs for miles and miles. Imagine pictures of the Grand Canyon, crop it a bit, plunk a stage on the edge and there you have it. But as spectacular as the surrounding natural wonders may have been, it was a bit difficult to concentrate on anything other than the fact that very shortly, Depeche Mode would soon be on stage. At 14 rows back we would have a terrific view of everything.
The floodlights went out, stage lights came on, the crowd went mad, and all you could hear were the accelerated and sinister opening noises of Dead of Night. It's pure cheeky sleaze with a pulsating beat - a perfect song to open this evening with. Everyone is on stage by now and Mr. David Gahan was growling out "we're the horniest boys with the corniest ploys..." all the while he did his patented slinky pop god shimmy. I forget my age and feel 16 again as the crowd screams for more.
It seems so very different from the last time they played across the mountains in Seattle. No huge video screens or other glaring stage props, only the band and it truly was a case of 'less is more'. The energy this time between band and adoring fans felt terrific, this is how it was supposed to be. They slipped into The Sweetest Condition. The twangy slide guitar sounds melting in so perfectly with the backdrop of the Eastern Washington landscape. By now it's fairly dark outside with a vast starry sky above. DM graces our ears with two older songs Halo (he gets the crowd to do that aerobic arm waving thing again) and Walking in My Shoes. Perhaps I'm just caught up in the moment, but the words seem especially poignant after all the rough patches the band has endured. Back to the current album, they play Dream On and an especially sweet version of When the Body Speaks. It is followed by Waiting for the Night. The stage was bathed in a simple blue white light. Martin Gore took center stage and sang Sister of the Night. He pointed up at the sky after the song and dedicated the song to the moon. A passionate delivery of Breathe followed, with his hands fluttering in the air as he sang the words "breathe love..." I'm thoroughly convinced he's an angel by now. Loads of applause and I'm sure everyone is just as mesmerised.
David comes back and begins to sing Freelove. Towards the end of the song he holds out the mic. to the audience to sing a chorus of "whoooooaaa free love" but instead he's met with "whoooaaaa freedom". He had this funny look on his face, tried again and same thing happened. (Let freedom ring, this is America you know). At the end of the song he said with a smile "Alright, something like that." Ok give us another shot. They oblige us with the classic Enjoy the Silence and everyone sings the correct words throughout the whole thing. Excellent stuff and the energy is still very present. I Feel You follows and it's impossible not to move and sing along. No one really cares about 'looking cool' at this point. David is onstage in his 'Rock God' pose. This was followed by In Your Room, It's No Good, I Feel Loved, Personal Jesus (arms reaching forward as "reach out touch faith" is sung), a gorgeous version of Home, and Clean. I think about David's attempt to remove himself from this world and am so very happy he was unsuccessful.
Everyone leaves the stage towards the end of the song and the crowd goes mad for an encore. We are eventually rewarded with Black Celebration and Never Let me Down (more hands waving back and forth in the air) and then it's over. They wave good night and a pair of pink knickers get thrown to the stage. Dave picks them up, holds them out, makes a funny face, and throws them off stage. I see Andrew walk off with a bouquet of red roses. The only let downs were that they didn't play I am You, and Behind the Wheel (among other favourites) but all in all it was a really tight well put together show. Depeche Mode looked like they had a good time being there and I can't think of a better way to spend a summer evening.