Dave Gahan is hot. Watching the man slink and bop and undulate across the stage in black pants and black vest fitted snugly to his naked torso is enough to make you a believer (of what, I’m not exactly sure, but…something). Before the show started Don Rickles* came out on the stage to warm up the crowd, making me reflect that, of the three tapings of late-night shows I have now attended, Rickles has appeared on two of them. I am not sure what that says about me, Rickles, or society in general. And then Jimmy Kimmel’s people instructed us on how to be a good audience for the cameras. We practiced our enthusiasm until they were satisfied. The cool thing was seeing the wide-angle shots on the camera monitors that angled high above us: the streets were spilling over with people, like some kind of mass exodus that wasn’t actually going anywhere. “It’s a block party,” Sam observed, and we oohed and aahed over that: A block party in LA! Just imagine! It was a novelty to think of a city as spread out and decentralized as LA as even having the kind of block in which to set such a party.
The band opened with ‘Wrong’, one of my favorite songs of the moment — I have it on my Facebook profile, along with Keane’s ‘Spiraling’ and Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Ulysses’ and ‘No You Girls’ and the Plastician/Skream remix of Black Ghosts ‘Some Way Through This’ — and then hit us with ‘Personal Jesus’, that well-loved synth-pop bassline charging up the crowd and then “Walking in My Shoes” which brought back memories of junior high so vivid I could practically taste the air in the gym, hear the clang and echo of the lockers. Their new songs — ‘Peace’, ‘Come Back’ — showed a matured, more meditative side to the band that the crowd didn’t know what to do with. Gahan’s vocals were amazing. His talent and sleek, ageless appearance can get you musing about deals with the devil and whether he might have made one. “All right,” he told us, “you guys have been very patient,” before rewarding us with ‘Enjoy the Silence’ and finishing off with ‘Never Let Me Down Again’.
And I had one of those moments of — I don’t know what to call them, since ‘transcendence’ sounds pretentious and New Age and lame. But it made me think of something Brandon Flowers — lead singer of The Killers — said in a radio interview I was listening to in my car the other day. He was talking about how he liked music growing up, but “everybody listened to music” so it didn’t occur to him until much later that maybe there was something different about the way he liked it and what it did for him. I’ve noticed of late that my own interest in music seems to be a bit more — intense? involved? — than average, especially as I reach an age where it seems many people stop exploring the new stuff and stick to what they grew up with. Music gets into my body and my head and I can literally feel how it alters my brain chemistry: it puts me into a thrilling tender dream-state that feels remarkably similar to what reading and writing can do for me, or intense exercise, or even the sense of being genuinely connected to someone I love. It’s awesome, and when that feeling swept over me near the end of the Depeche Mode mini-concert I closed my eyes and stepped right into it.
* I think it was Rickles, if not someone please correct me now.