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ACL Fest review: Depeche Mode

Joe Gross

Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 5, 2013

Relive Depeche Mode’s ACL Fest set (or experience it for the first time) with our Spotify playlist of the set list.

“If I had known that (the guys in) Depeche Mode were straight and (two of the guys in) Husker Du were gay, my adolescence would have been very different” — a very wise, 40-year old friend of mine.

“I’m an overpaid stripper” — Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan, 51.

From the moment Depeche Mode walks out on stage Friday night at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, a co-headliner with Muse, who is playing at the other end of the park, you are reminded that the three core musicians have been a stadium act, since the Reagan administration.

Baritone singer/self-described stripper Gahan, guitarist/songwriter/ tenor singer Martin Gore and guy-who-hangs-out-behind-a-synth-but-is-actually-their-business-manager Andrew Fletcher have been a recording band for more than 33 years.

They scaled up small-bore synth-pop to world-dominating size, mostly by writing songs that are about mixtape-ready longing (the Gore-solo vocal “Shake the Disease,” “Home,” “Enjoy the Silence”), hanging out with people who are slightly less depressed than you are and are therefore desirable (“Black Celebration”), the line between pain and pleasure (“A Pain that I’m Used to,” “Walking in My Shoes”), and sin versus sex (“Personal Jesus,” pretty much the rest of them).

They also more or less took their hardcore audience with them, which at least for hit singles such as “Policy of Truth,” was a whole lot of people. And that audience is not young. “There are a lot of kids, teenagers, at this festival,” a 35-year old gent from Detroit said to me while we were watching the band. “NONE of them are in this crowd right now.” I sure couldn’t see any.

For their part, Gore and Gahan, both in their 50s, look a bit rough hewn in the face area; both have had well-documented bouts with drugs and alcohol.

But Gahan is in terrific physical shape, maybe the best of his career, still preening and spinning with the mic stand and shaking his tail like the stripper he claims to be. Guyliner on his eyes, no shirt on his back, that dude absolutely own the stage.

And neither has lost his voice; Gahan’s baritone is still rich and vibrant. Gore’s torchy tenor still sounds like he should be singing in a cabaret.

Augmented by hired-gun drummer and synth player,After a few new songs the crowd politely put up with (“Welcome to My World,” “Angel,”), the sprinkled out the hits, both smaller (“Walking in My Shoes”) and sing-along-ready (“Policy of Truth,” “Enjoy the SIlence”).

Gore played guitar for most of the set; the music sometimes veered into straight-ahead rock (“A Pain…”) while “Personal Jesus” got a smart, slow-blues intro.

Encoring with their 1980(!) bubble-pop smash “Just Can’t Get Enough,” the 1993 semi-grunge hit “I Feel You,” and the 1987 is-this-song-about-gay-guys-or-what classic “Never Let Me Down Again” made for a near-perfect festival set. Total pros, total pop stars, total strippers.


Welcome to My World


Walking in My Shoes


Policy of Truth

Black Celebration

Home (Acoustic)

A Pain That I’m Used To (‘Jacques Lu Cont’s Remix’ version)

A Question of Time

Enjoy the Silence

Personal Jesus


Shake the Disease (

Just Can’t Get Enough

I Feel You

Never Let Me Down Again