The Tuning Fork, Auckland NZ
A letter from the future to my 16 year old self would contain some really good, well-meaning advice – but of course, I wouldn’t have listened. I don’t trust 53 year old me, because he’s probably been oppressed, exploited and had his spirit crushed by the Man, yeah? Well, yes – spot on, spotty! Past and present versions of me have read enough academic papers* about relativity to know enough not to mess with even the smallest decisions I have made, so the whole exercise would be useless.
Apart from this little detail – I would have been interested to know that 53 year old me was in New Zealand (huh?) and was thoroughly entertained by group of young American men pretending to be Depeche Mode from 30 years before. How could that possibly happen?
Well it happened like this – in a smallish venue (perhaps 500 in the audience) Strangelove wandered onto the stage fairly causally and set up the first song, World in my Eyes. The real Depeche Mode whip up the anticipation by emerging eventually after a massive intro sequence. Pretend Dave was remarkable – the physical resemblance to 80s Dave Gahan was present and correct – but can he sing? Oh yes. Very much the same baritone as the man himself and he can hold the notes and twirl and jump about and do all the things that Gahan does. Counterfeit Martin is blessed also with a similar voice to Martin Gore and in a live show is actually a stronger and more confident singer than the man he impersonates. Looks nothing like him though – apart from the hairdo. On another day, he could convincingly front a Flock of Seagulls band (a Mock of Seagulls?).
“Oscar” Wilder resembled Alan Wilder only vaguely but his stage persona wasn’t a big part of Depeche Mode anyway – he was the classically-trained musician, happy to tinker and noodle away in the shadows.
A puzzling but very funny presence was “Fletch” . He looked serious throughout the show but resembled Fletch in no other discernable way at all. Not even trying – yet he is referred to as Fletch occasionally during the onstage banter. They could have had Kendo Nagasaki there and it would have made just as much sense.
One massive difference is that the real Depeche Mode, even in the early days, have very little onstage chit chat. It was strange to see Pretend Dave break out of character to thank tne audience, talk about New Zealand and give cryptic clues about what the next song might be.
But they delivered. Every major hit song from that 1980-1997 period was bashed out convincingly and with exceptional energy. They performed all of Violator, a few deep cuts to thrill saddoes like me and they entertained relentlessly. It’s a pocket, fun-sized version of a real Depeche Mode gig but dammit, even in these circumstances the gloriousness of Never Let Me Down Again does mean the audience gets swept away in it all.
And – in a very, very un-Depeche Mode gesture, they mingle with the audience afterwards. Even to the point where my companion for the show, wondered if they wanted to go for a beer with us. I vetoed that idea – but a part of me thinks they might well have said yes. They were very, very nice people.
Quite a few people of my vintage – male and femaile and a smattering of quiet, lone people just drinking it in. One man near me gripped his heart throughout the show -I don’t think he was a having a cardiac arrest (although I can’t be sure). There were even a few families, with children, all bedecked in Depeche Mode clobber.
It made me think..
As we get older and we have virtual people that talk to us and look after us while we watch Countdown – I think we might actually enjoy the experience.
*by that I mean watching Back to the Future and Dr Who