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Depeche has faith in new ‘Songs’

Depeche Mode’s 1990 in-store appearance at the Wherehouse Entertainment store near the Beverly Center drew 20,000 fans and resulted in a riot.

Ironically, the British quartet wondered if any fans would show.

“We’re always very worried when we do in-stores that it’s going to be Spinal Tap and nobody will show up,” Depeche Mode’s Andy Fletcher said. “It got frightening. It looked like the glass window would cave in. We had only signed a hundred autographs when the police canceled it, whisked us out and the fans rioted.

“We got back to the hotel and turned on the TV. The news kept flashing to the hospitals. Fortunately there were only a few minor injuries.”

The incident was a good indicator of how far Depeche Mode’s popularity has grown in the U.S. since its first American top 20 hit, “People Are People,” in 1985.

“Personal Jesus,” released in 1989, went on to be one of the year’s best-selling 12-inch recordings and the group’s first U.S. gold single.

The group became certifiable superstars when 1990’s “Violator” album went multiplatinum, selling 6 million units. The accompanying tour brought Depeche Mode to stadiums and an estimated audience of 1.2 million in eight months.

“Songs of Faith and Devotion” (Sire Records) arrives in stores tomorrow, three years after the “Violator” success story.

Lead singer Dave Gahan has virtually changed his image by growing a beard and long hair, a departure from his previous stubble. The album also shows change, with Depeche Mode using outside musicians for the first time (including a 28 -piece orchestra) and showing the influence of songwriter Martin Gore’s interest in gospel.

With more emphasis on guitars in addition to their trademark keyboards, “Songs” avoids the techno groove many observers anticipated. “We sort of reacted against that,” Fletcher said. “We always tend to do the unexpected.”

Early signs of success are good. The single “I Feel You” has jumped from No. 70 to No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart after only two weeks. The video, directed by renowned photographer/director and longtime Depeche Mode collaborator Anton Corbijn, is an MTV exclusive and in heavy rotation.

Although Depeche Mode considered not touring behind this record, the upcoming stadium tour will end up being much longer than the “Violator” road show.

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