One of the simple joys in life is seeing a band you like playing the songs you want to hear. And a greater joy is to hear old songs sound utterly relevant, with on-point visuals and an enthusiastic performance that – from a distance, at least – lets you feel you’re catching a band in their prime
And having seen Depeche Mode before, let this writer tell you that isn’t always the case. A band not always au fait with rummaging all the way to the bottom of their tombola of hits, their set at Madrid’s Mad Cool festival pulled out all of the stops, including – yes – ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, a song frontman/indestructible goth devil Dave Gahan introduced as being from “before most of you were even born – especially you.”
And he’s probably right; Depeche Mode have transcended that barrier of age, like the Stones; there are teenagers here in Depeche Mode T-shirts, and families whose fandom crosses generations.
Gahan remains an absolutely magnetic performer, with his pencil tache and whirling dervish moves. He’s a man whose leather waistcoat precedes Gareth Southgate snack-mania but makes you wonder if England might have gone that little further had their boss not teamed his trademark item with a sensible M&S shirt. Gahan performs for his life, veins throbbing in his neck, sweat beading on his brow.
Where Depeche Mode get things especially correct is in the visuals: their set is like a long Anton Corbijn shoot, moody and grainy and monochrome in parts; it’s a look and feel that evokes the band’s most glorious period in the ‘Violator’ era, the key singles from which – the brilliant ‘Personal Jesus’ and a long-extended ‘Enjoy The Silence’ – still form the backbone of their set.
Tonight, at Mad Cool, you feel they’re perhaps trying extra hard. There are two equal stages in the main arena, and the action switches between both of them so set-up time is absolutely no-nonsense. Before them is Queens Of The Stone Age, stoner-rock gods and a band who raged against corporate festivals from within the belly of the beast; after them is Nine Inch Nails, a band who took DM’s goth-pop template and added oodles of BDE.
But Depeche aren’t to be outdone. Europe is their heartland, and these are their people. ‘World In My Eyes’, ‘Everything Counts’ and so many more are still arrestingly great.
It doesn’t really matter when you were born, or however you translate their name – Fast Fashion, Fashion News… it’s a mantra that’s stuck, because Depeche Mode still feel utterly fresh. Your move, Trent Reznor.