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The Band Dances with Death

Fans came from as far as Scotland and as close as Sacramento’s J Street to the Golden 1 Center Thursday night to see the legendary Depeche Mode onstage for their first full-length concert since 2018’s “Global Spirit Tour” (get tickets here) The evening’s revelatory ride through 15 albums and four decades boasted many live debuts and several not-in-a-long-time musical arrangements.

When they last left us five years ago, Depeche Mode were a trio — and now a duo, a result of the untimely death of founding member Andy Fletcher in May 2022. The remaining original band members, songwriter/guitarist Martin Gore and vocalist Dave Gahan, continue on through their new album, Memento Mori, out today, and the tour, which will traverse the world through December. The sentiment behind “Memento Mori” (“remember that you have to die”) appeared everywhere during the almost two-hour set.

Gahan and Gore delivered the show their fans hungered for. Depeche Mode, unlike many legacy acts, don’t shy away from new material — evidenced by the first three songs they played, all from Memento Mori. An instrumental riff from the symphonic “Speak to Me” (and later on a live debut of the full track) welcomed the band, its screeching and grinding hyping up the crowd, illuminating a large letter M with every sonic brush stroke. That intro moved into the live debut of “My Cosmos Is Mine” followed by “Wagging Tongue.” Gahan’s unmistakable voice cried out, “You find it hard to swallow when you watch another angel die,” establishing a sense of comfort and familiarity even though the lyrics might be new. From these early indicators, the Northern California crowd knew it would be a night of firsts.

The visuals to complement each track were haunting, vivid and surreal, switching from the letter M to short interpretive video vignettes.

“Well, well, we are here we are again,” Gahan said in his first address to the crowd before transitioning into 1993’s “Walking in My Shoes” from Songs of Faith and Devotion. He sped ahead to 1997’s Ultra with back-to-back “It’s No Good” and “Sister of Night,” letting everyone know, “we’ve never played that song ever… pretty good.” It was the first non-acoustic version of “Sister of Night” since 2009 and the first time with Gahan on vocals.

“Everything Counts” brought its “grabbing hands” lyrics to life with a sign interpreter — clad in all black with white gloves —featured in a background video vignette as Gahan took the front of the stage for the first time.

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