x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Showmanship cuts through the gloom

Depeche Mode keep it vintage and current for their Grand Prix gig at du Arena.

Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode at their Grand Prix gig in the capital. Antonie Robertson / The National
Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode at their Grand Prix gig in the capital. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Sunday race-day concert is no longer a bastion for heritage acts. As Eminem proved last year, the crowds are happy to be entertained by different genres as long as the showmanship is up to scratch.

Depeche Mode delivered on that count on Sunday night with a sturdy yet challenging set of new and old favourites.

This was no warm and fuzzy trip down memory lane, à la Paul McCartney in 2011. The Goth kings reminded us they are still a dark musical force by opening the show with tracks from their latest album, Delta Machine.

The bruising opener Welcome to My World relied on the singer Dave Gahan’s crystalline vocals to inject some much-needed light into the aural gloom. The bleakness continued with Angel, a dirge perked up with occasional bluesy guitar flashes by Martin Gore.

The set eventually picked up some much-needed energy courtesy of the driving Walking in My Shoes and a luscious take on the underrated ballad Precious. The latter track came off rather sinister when paired with images of cute little puppies.

The group’s vintage synth sounds came to fore in Policy of Truth before Gore took the lead and performed a torch-song version of the fan favourite Shake the Disease.

The set took a more populist turn towards the end. Considering the heavy first half, Enjoy the Silence was a euphoric release and the simmering blues of Personal Jesus still packed a punch nearly 25 years on.

Rounding off with an encore featuring the sprightly Just Can’t Get Enough, the hard-rocking Feel You and the kiss-off Never Let You Down Again, the Mode proved they are in no danger of slowing down.

Their gloom may not be to everyone’s liking, but their musicianship and performance are undoubtedly arresting.