Peter Bjorn and John were billed as the support act Saturday night at the Pearl, but they really needn’t have played; Depeche Mode ended up opening for itself. For three songs, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andrew Fletcher might as well have been unknown newcomers—with the packed house primed to explode, the British dance-pop icons opened with a song off flat new disc Sounds of the Universe ... and then another, and then … another. If their fanbase wasn’t among the most loyal on the planet, folks might have started chanting “refund.”
And then suddenly, with the preliminaries out of the way, Depeche Mode showed why it can charge $200 a head 15 years after most of America stopped paying attention. Beginning with “Walking in My Shoes,” the group unleashed a string of grade-A catalog cuts—“A Question of Time,” “Fly on the Windscreen,” “Policy of Truth,” “Enjoy the Silence,” “Strangelove,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” “Personal Jesus”—each made all the more memorable by the accompanying lights and video, and together, forming one hell of a cohesive concert whole.
Minor complaints: Gore’s back-to-back ballad turn, a rest-the-legs segment for the less fanatical; Gahan’s insistence on pointing his mic at the crowd for key lyrical passages (Dave, you sound a lot better than we do!); and the seriously oppressive heat inside the venue (reportedly the air conditioning was off for the night at Gahan’s request). Still, those shortcomings, along with the delayed gratification at the start, were easily overcome by Gahan and Gore’s playful—and seemingly genuine—interaction throughout the show, not to mention an epic rendition of “I Feel You” that could easily rank among the best individual song performances in the Pearl’s short but distinguished history.