Saturday, December 12, 2009

Concert Review: Depeche Mode / Soulsavers - live at the O2, Dublin

This was my first visit to the O2 (formerly known as the Point). The Point was never one of my favourite venues. Eddie Vedder commented about it on stage at a Pearl Jam gig circa 2000, when he told a long and rambling story and then said "what's the point? It's a great place to play in Dublin." But the truth is it was little more than a large warehouse with poor sound and tortuous queues for bar and toilets.

The new venue is completely opened out, which has the effect of the gig being visible (and audible) from the bar. Discovered it's way too easy to get beer. Disturbingly, they also sell buckets of popcorn, just like the cinema. That's entertainment?!

Anyway, enough of the venue and on to the music. Soulsavers were on stage when we arrived. Lanegan was wearing a suit and surrounded by musicians, there must have been more than 10 on the stage (including backing singers). The set was a mixture of their last 2 albums, solo Mark Lanegan (Hit The City and Kingdoms of Rain were highlights) and they finished with a Spacemen 3 cover, Feel So Good. They were pretty good, though would like to see them in a smaller venue - the sound in the O2 is still a bit muddy. Lanegan was his usual compelling presence, standing still at the mic stand, and the band played well, though the backing singers were a little OTT, over-'gospelly', maybe?

Depeche Mode followed up which was a completely different experience. Last time I saw them was in 1994 in the same venue when singer Dave Gahan was in his 'rock god' drug phase, and they were very impressive. They began with tracks from their most recent album, Sounds of the Universe which got an OK reception but most fans were here for the older stuff. I had forgotten how small Gahan is, he's really tiny. The sound was too polished for my liking, it was hard to pick out the instruments, it just sounded like one mass globule of sound. Maybe that was deliberate?

Anyway they rolled out many of the 'classics' - A Question of Time, Personal Jesus, Walking In My Shoes, and both Gahan and Martin Gore were in fine voice, but the experience was a little like watching a video or listening to a CD. Perhaps the venue was too big for me? One of the songs they played was Miles Away. It felt like it.

Have to have a word about the merchandise: €70 for a Depeche Mode hoodie was almost as amusing as the popcorn sellers!