When arguments arise in bars, basements and blogs for "Rock's Best Frontman,"Depeche Mode's Dave Gahan rarely gets mentioned. Why? Friday night at the Yahoo! Party at Brazo's, the singer blended theatrical camp, ominous menace and boundless energy in a hour-long set for the arena-filling band's smallest show in years.
Splitting the set between old singalongs ("Enjoy the Silence," "Personal Jesus") and new tracks from the upcoming Delta Machine ("Angel," "Heaven"), the veteran New Wave/synthpop group treated the intimate South by Southwest set like a stripped-down arena show. The reverbed vocals of "Angel" bounced around the room, while drummer Christian Eigner's kit sounded thunderous on "Barrel of a Gun."
Gahan didn't say much, but he didn't have to. The subtle theatricality of finger-gunning the crowd during "Walking in My Shoes." The strutting and preening of "Enjoy the Silence." There were no grand gestures; just life by 1,000 little, transfixing moves.
The group does switch it up, though. "Personal Jesus" began with a heavily slowed-down intro, intensifying the already isolated, lost-in-the-desert vibe of the original track. "Only When I Lose Myself," sung by co-founder Martin Gore, is even creepier and more ominous than the album version, an industrial-pop horror movie soundtrack that was a set highlight.
By the end, set closer "Enjoy the Silence" became Depeche Mode karaoke, as Gahan surrendered the mic to the audience for the chorus. The crowd, a curious mix of disheveled music fans and dressed-up fashionistas (and Owen Wilson), duly obliged.
2. "Should Be Higher"
3. "Walking in My Shoes"
4. "Barrel of a Gun"
6. "Only When I Lose Myself"
7. "Personal Jesus"
8. "Soft Touch/Raw Nerve"
9. "Soothe My Soul"
10. "Enjoy the Silence"