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DEPECHE MODE - Devotional Live   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Wednesday, 22 September 2004

The state of the art of falling apart......

 

 

 

Lets face it, in 1993 Depeche Mode were a mess. "Songs of Faith and Devotion" was their strongest yet most fractious album, and a no.1 around the globe.  On record and on stage musically, the band were at the height of their powers. Behind the scenes, they were paractising the art of falling apart; embroiled in a mess of drugs, panic attacks, gall stones, rehab clinics, enforced ‘holidays' caused by nervous exhaustion, and a 150 date Tour too far that saw them on the road for 18 months.

 

"Devotional" is a brief moment on that tour. Musically and visually the band have never looked or sounded better. This is not just the definitive Depeche Mode concert film, but one of the best concert recordings of all time. It's no "James Brown At The Apollo", but neither is "James Brown At The Apollo". Filmed at the start of their epic trek, the band are - already - falling apart at the seams, grafting odd and bizarre stadium goth  gestures onto their brand of introspective techno-rock, and already bloated by backing singers, parodic staging, and synchronised audience participation.

 

David Gahan, a man who looks not so much like a rock star as a crock star, wobbles athletically around the stage, a mess of tattoos, bad rock beards, and hand-wavy gestures, interpeting Martin L Gore's songs in an undoubtedly sincere impersonation of a Metal Gawd. But it doesn't quite work : the guy can't help himself. He wants to be in Depeche'N'Roses. Instead, at the depths of "Walking In My Shoes", a bleeding-edge confessional of redemption and self-loathing, he manages to break the edge by informing Lieven "Let's see your hands!" and running a mexican wave over the throng.

 

The rest of the show, rock star gestures aside, is a tight, and definitive presentation of Depeche Mode. No film has ever captured the band in concert as succintly or elegantly. The music - already immaculately mixed by the band's then-musical guru Alan Wilder - is given a thrilling acrobatic workout in a remastered 5:1 mix, and the print has been restored a glory that VHS could never hope to reach. Musically, these arrangements have been extensively remixed by the band themselves to the point where they are pretty much superior to the studio recordings in every respect. As a record of the band in concert, "Devotional" is pretty much a definitive document.

 

The extras on the DVD meanwhile, pretty much warrant a purchase in their own right. Two songs previously excised from all previous releases are restored to the disc, newly edited (and whilst the cutting & editing style is noticably different to the original film, these two songs remain true to the source).

 

 

On the second disc, the band present a second concert film, containing 8 songs and 50 minutes of back projections and short films shot for the tour that stands alone as a document worthy of repeated viewing. In addition to this, an archival documentary presenting interviews of the band mid-tour is certainly one of the more revealing pieces of promotional fluff I've ever seen, ditching the tradition "This-is-the-best-album-ever-we're-all-really-good-mates" bullshit of your usual documentary, as well as six remastered promo videos from the period, and an interview with the bands visual director Anton Corbjin, who also directed the concert movie, detailing in some depth the film, the tour, and the visual sensibilities of the band.

 

Ultimately, "Devotional" is the definitive Depeche Mode concert document, being both musically and visually entertaining whilst also managing to capture that most elusive of dynamics : the drama of a band at the height of it's powers..  

 

 

 

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