‘I don’t even like frickin’ cover bands!’ was the thought that was annoyingly rattling around my brain as I jumped into my Skoda Scala press car and headed towards Auckland Centre to see The Depeche Mode Experience show Strangelove. To make things worse, it was a Tuesday night (school night), I was on magazine deadline week and behind on editorials, sigh.
Ok, so I’m a big fan, sorry, make that a HUGE fan of Depeche Mode and have been for most of their thirty five-plus-year existence and since they’ve made no attempt to venture to New Zealand (despite claims of WORLD TOURS), I guess a cover band is the closest I can get to hearing them ‘live’ and arbitrary interweb research revealed that even Depeche Mode themselves rated this LA band – hmmm
Anyway, hoping for the best but expecting the worst, I arrived at the venue (Tuning Fork – beside Spark Arena) and put on a smile.
The Tuning Fork is an intimate venue but even so, the crowd flowed in, ardent DM fans in DM T-shirts (some of them looking like they’d been worn since the 80s) and several newbies not long out of nappies, I must be getting old.
The lights dimmed, the band appeared, and the concert began.
The Depeche Mode Experience are a band of four. Leo Luganskiy as “ULTRA Dave”– lead vocals, Brent Meyer as “Counterfeit Martin”– music director, keyboards, vocals, guitar, melodica, sequencing, percussion, Julian Shah-Tayler as “Oscar Wilder” – keyboards, sequencing, percussion, backing vocals, visuals and James Evans as “ InTheFletch” – keyboards, percussion, backing vocals. The stage show is simple, three ‘keyboard stations’, Ultra Dave on the wireless mic front and centre, with a white sheet screen behind that shows a variety of ‘movies and 80’s’ graphics with celluloid guest appearances from the real band. Like I said it’s simple but VERY effective.
The band was quick to get into one of my all-time favourite albums Violator and much to the contrary of the album’s title, they nailed it, not a hint of violation to be found. Leo’s (sorry Ultra Dave) voice is near pitch-perfect and his moves are the pinnacle of Gahan’s grooves, complete with spins, arm spreads and arse/hip wiggles. World in my eyes, Sweetest perfection, Policy of Truth, Halo, Waiting for the Night, Enjoy the Silence, Clean and my call of the evening Personal Jesus all sung with ultimate professionalism. Although if I’m perfectly honest, Counterfeit Martin’s voice was slightly overpowering in the first couple of songs, then settled and as lead it (particularly later in Someone) was outstanding.
The hits and energy from the outset was relentless. Tune after tune, People are people, Strangelove, Everything Counts, Walking in my shoes, Shake the disease, Master and Servant… I could go on. Admittedly, Depeche Mode has an enviable catalogue of top tunes to pick from and we could have been there all night (it actually ran for 2 and a half hours) but I would have like to have heard Blasphemous rumours and maybe wrong – maybe next time.
Ultra Dave had the crowd in his hands and there was plenty of ‘Thank you Auckland’ and humour to boot. ‘Thanks for selling out the venue, we could have been crap’ plus he promised to pass on the need for the REAL Depeche Mode to get off their arses and head down here – if Simple Minds can do it…. Just saying.
Strangelove – the Depeche Mode Experience was, in a word, Epic, I’m so pleased I went (and I’d go again when they next pop down). I guess you’d say, I just can’t get enough.
Thanks for the invite Steve