Depeche Mode : Toronto Molson Amphitheatre

The Mode's new stuff fails to excite, but at least they still have the classics to rely on...

On just the second night of their world tour behind 'Exciter', Depeche Mode are mired in a no-win situation. While the sold-out crowd stands in unison throughout in hopes the band rehash their 1998 Singles tour set, Dave Gahan is determined to steer a new, albeit more difficult, direction. Bypassing heroin for a mineral water-chic has certainly helped the stage presence with Elvis gyrations, quasi-flamenco dances and high kicks - and the pipes are stronger than ever. But it can't help bring some of the new material up to par.

After Martin Gore opens the night with an acoustic instrumental version of 'Dream On', the band find their feet with 'The Dead Of Night', a jazzy rocker. Although Gore seems happy to be here, ivory-tickler Andrew Fletcher looks like someone just along for the ride. The idea of someone once clinically dead being the most energetic is indeed food for thought. "How are you doing Toronto?" Gahan asks before initiating a clap-a-long during 'Halo'. The supporting cast all do their jobs, adding little to the proceedings.

The malaise sets in for the middle segment, which offers a series of slower, more melodic clunkers. Gahan and Gore take turns inducing the audience to boredom with the regular version of 'Dream On' as well as 'Freelove' and 'Breathe'. Seeing how the crowd responded to singing along early, Gahan holds the mic out as an audience cue, but virtually nobody takes him up on it. A large screen adds some visuals, but it's not enough to hide the fact a tweak in the set is greatly needed.

"How do you like the new songs?" Gahan asks. "Now we're going to play some old ones." Finally. The singles parade kicks off with 'Enjoy The Silence' and 'I Feel You', which has more of a brassy sound now with Gore's Duane Eddy guitar carrying it, before rounding off with 'Personal Jesus' - reminding us, at last, why we cared in the first place.

Jason MacNeil

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