Depeche Mode’s first North American tour in three years got off to a rocky start in Quebec with a wildly uneven concert at the Montreal Forum. The show nearly fell apart halfway through the evening when lead singer David Gahan lost his voice.
The trouble really started when Gahan attempted to belt out “Condemnation,” the standout bluesy, gospel number from the group’s recent Sire release, “Songs of Faith and Devotion.” It’s arguably the best song on the record and it was also clearly meant as the centerpiece of the first half of the show, with Alan Wilder on grand piano and the addition of two back-up singers, Samantha Smith and Hildia Campbell.
Unfortunately, Gahan’s voice broke down halfway through the tune and he ended up walking off stage, leaving the three stunned-looking band members to finish the song. Gahan was suffering from a bad cold, according to sources at Warner Music. Guitarist/keyboard player Martin Gore picked up the slack by heading to the front of the stage to sing lead on “Judas,” the Middle Eastern-flavored ballad from the new album.
Gahan returned about 15 minutes after his hasty exit to deliver a surprisingly vigorous “Mercy in You,” but vocal problems plagued him for the rest of theshow, especially on the more melodic material. The entire set, including encores, only lasted a littel over an hour and a half, and the band didn’t perform any of their old hits.
The band still managed to salvage the night thanks to Gore’s musical leadership and the rabidly enthusiastic support of the 13,000 fans on hand.
The show began with Gore, Wilder and Andrew Fletcher playing keyboards on an elevated stage behind Gahan, in a high-tech setup typical of previous Depeche Mode tours. But, in a radical change of pace for the group, the musicians moved on to acoustic instruments as the night wore on.
Fellow Brits The The opened with a 50-minute set dominated by lead singer Matt Johnson’s brooding, intense presence. Crowd reaction was fairly upbeat, but Johnson’s dark, somber style didn’t really carry much force in an arena setting.