Depeche Mode stood in front of a 40-foot, ultra-high def video screen with a 35-foot, twitching neon “M” at its center. Lights strobed, lasers beamed, images flashed on the screen with impossible brightness. None of it distracted from David Gahan.
DM frontman Gahan captured everyone’s attention at the packed TD Garden on Tuesday. The singer, in perfect impassioned and overwrought voice, moved around the stage like a flamenco dancer, a ballerina, a stripper, a devilish imp, and a kindly guide across the void and into a throbbing discotheque.
The band’s first Boston concert in more than half a decade had the makings of a goth prom — Depeche Mode on Halloween, c’mon, sublime! But Depeche Mode’s art is both too monolithic and personal, too absolutely connected to the broken parts of the world, the broken parts in us, to have even a whiff of kitsch.
Gahan and Martin Gore started the show by chanting to the crowd, to the world, into that void: “No rain, no clouds, no pain, no shrouds, no final breaths, no senseless deaths.” A new song, “My Cosmos Is Mine” is a glitchy, eerie anthem, a song that — as much as any in the band’s catalog — speaks to being crushed (it also contains the lyric: “Don’t stare at my soul, I swear it is fine.”)
The boldness and genius of the band is its constant attention to the damaged, an investigation of the existential set to electric, melodic and industrial clicks and beeps (something drawn into harsh light since the sudden passing of founding member Andy Fletcher last year). Gore wrote “My Cosmos Is Mine” right after Russia invaded Ukraine, and while the song rages against war, it also speaks to the intimate, unrelenting relationship with death we carry around.
But in this darkness, despite the confrontational lyrics and moody sonics, Depeche Mode remained a flicking candle in gloom, and that played out song after shattered-and-sharp song.
The band spent a nice amount of time with new LP “Memento Mori,” and got intense (“Wagging Tongue,” “My Favourite Stranger”). And so poppy — new tune “Ghost Again,” a clear meditation on life and death, had such a bright, buoyant hook.
But the now duo (rounded out brilliantly by the amazing drummer Christian Eigner and multi-instrumentalist Peter Gordeno) also resurrected a ton of old existential — and sexual — jams, those hits goth kids and goth adults made rock standards in the ’80s and ’90s.
Gahan, intensity and playfulness positively oozing from him, took control of the audience over and over again. That big voice, those grandiose movements and his indomitable charisma, stomped and crept through the crowd for “Walking in My Shoes” and “I Feel You” and “Never Let Me Down Again” and “Personal Jesus” and…
Beside him, Gore was an ideal foil with his high harmonies, jagged guitar, vintage and modern synth pulses. And when alone — Gahan left the stage so Gore could front the band for “A Question of Lust” and a piano ballad version of “Strangelove” — he provided all the wounded tenderness and intimacy Gahan doesn’t have.
In the wake of Andy Fletcher’s death, the band may have not carried on. It would have been another loss. Without Gahan and Gore around, who will lead us into the heart of darkness and the heat of the discotheque? Who will ask big questions you can dance to do and shout along with?