Between the sweaty outdoor heat and the songs of inner turmoil, Tuesday’s Depeche Mode concert produced the most pain at this year’s State Fair outside of the Birthing Center.
Don’t let that be misunderstood, though: The 1980s British synth-pop pioneers’ first Twin Cities concert in 12 years was joyously received by the mostly middle-age, mostly hard-core grandstand crowd of 7,693.
Fans had to be fanatical to turn out in that heat on a school night at the very non-Mode-like fair. This audience was so receptive, it even cheered when guitarist/keyboardist Martin Gore took lead vocals for two songs mid-show. And that always hurts a little.
Singer Dave Gahan otherwise handled the ringleader duties, and he did so with impressive gusto.
The 51-year-old, eye-liner-dripping frontman battled quite a few demons years ago and has come out the other end looking ridiculously fit and ready to shake his hiney all night. The hot weather didn’t seem to slow him down for even one of the show’s 120 minutes.
After two coolly received opening tunes, “Welcome to My World” and “Angel” — both from the new album “Delta Machine,” the crowd quickly warmed up to the livelier older nuggets “Walking in My Shoes,” “Black Celebration” and “Policy of Truth.”
During “Policy,” ga-ga fans went ballistic when Gahan opened up his black vest to go bare-chested. Talk about a secret weapon.
As if “Black Celebration” wasn’t dark enough, things got really bleak and quite blah, too, in “Barrel of a Gun” and the harder-thrashing new tune “Should Be Higher.” With eerie lighting effects and pulsating beats, it sure seemed like Gahan & Co. wanted to be Nine Inch Nails.
They did fare better as a grungier band later on with “Soothe My Soul” — yep, there were a lot of new tunes in the set list — plus the penultimate encore “I Feel You.” Of course, the pre-encore finale “Personal Jesus,” the band’s 1990 signature hit, effectively rocked things up, after starting out with a slow-grinding, drumless intro.
The best stuff, however, was still the lighter, poppier, more New Order-ly fan favorites such as “Enjoy the Silence” and “Just Can’t Get Enough.” There definitely wasn’t enough of those, but fans didn’t get too down about it.
A sharp contrast to Depeche’s dark proceedings, Natasha Khan of the opening band Bat for Lashes wore a bright, sparkly red dress for her charmer of a 40-minute set. The burgeoning British songstress ranged between quirky, Björk-like throb-pop in “A Wall” and dramatic, Kate Bush-style ballads such as “Laura,” definitely gaining some new fans along the way.
See Tuesday’s set list at startribune.com/artcetera