Ever since I’ve been a fan of Depeche Mode, I’ve been hearing about how amazing this movie is. Even today a quick Google search will pull up tons of reviews raving about it. Up until this point I hadn’t watched it and now while I can see why people like it so much, I do think it’s a bit overrated. There’s no doubt that the band is awesome live; if anything, this documentary proves that, but the whole thing didn’t blow my mind or make me want to drop everything I was doing and buy it. While it is a great film, there are some aspects of it that brings it down.
In a nut shell, this film is more about the makings of the Music for the Masses tour, rather than the band themselves. There is some live footage from their legendary Rosebowl show, but it’s often inter cut with footage of the band doing radio promotion, the crew setting up the various stages, sound checks, and even some down time with the guys. The footage with the band is often funny, like when Dave describes when he got into a fight with a large cabbie who ended up losing his pants or just seeing Dave strut around in his underwear and there are times where it’s kind of sad. One of the most intimate scenes in the entire film comes from the second hour. The band is backstage taking a breather during the Rosebowl show. The camera pans to Dave and he’s sitting there with his face in his hands crying. Later, he said it was because he was so overwhelmed by it all, but still it’s an unnerving and heartbreaking moment.
No matter how great concert films are, there’s a point where they get a little boring. The fact that this one is spliced with so much other footage makes it stand out and keeps it going. What I really liked about the whole thing is when we get the behind the scenes of the tour itself. There’s a really cool part with the light tech at one of their shows and they show her controlling the lights by hand. Her hand movements are going along with the keyboard of the song. It’s just really cool to see and shows how much hard work goes into a show not just from the band, but from the crew as well. Another interesting scene is during the Rosebowl we see the accountants adding up all the money and talking about how much will be owed if there’s any damage to the field. If anything the film as a whole shows the ups and downs of touring. We see the nights when things go well and we see the nights when everything breaks down. It gives fans a better idea of what life on the road is like.
The one thing that brought the movie down for me are the fans that followed the band for two weeks. I’ve seen documentaries that follow fans of a specific band and some are quite interesting, but these kids are annoying. They often have nothing interesting to say and most of the time they don’t even seem that excited to be a part of the 101 experience. All they cared about was drinking and sex. There’s a scene where they’re talking about what makes something art and it was at this point I was thinking “Why do I have to watch them?” They just seem like an elitist bunch of kids who care more about their appearance than anything else. It would’ve been different if they actually talked about why they liked the band or how they got into them, but they really don’t seem excited about them until after the Rosebowl show where they talk about how great it was.
Of course the live footage is absolutely amazing. If you think that Depeche Mode is all about moodiness and doom, then you don’t expect them to be much live, but on stage is where all their energy and passion comes out. Everything they do on stage sounds amazing and Dave Gahan is quite the frontman. Not only does his voice sound great, I absolutely love his dancing. His spins and gyrations also make him look quite sexy. I mean he does look pretty hot in those jeans he was wearing (wink). The thing I love about the live scenes is when it pauses on Gahan and a huge smile breaks out on his face as if he can’t believe the response his music gets. It just makes you smile when the band you love is obviously having a good time on stage. There are a few full live clips included in the movie, such as “Everything Counts,” “Just Can’t Get Enough,” and “Behind the Wheel,” but if you’re lucky enough to get the remastered version on DVD there is a second disc which features most of the Rosebowl show. I highly recommend it because these guys are amazing live.
Overall, the film gets 8/10. There’s no doubt that it’s a classic and something that every Depeche Mode fan needs to see at least once. Not only do we get some great candid footage with the band, but we get to see the makings of the tour as well. The live performances make the film because it shows off the seer power of Depeche Mode on stage. The kids that won the contest to follow the band around are pretty annoying and often times they feel pointless to the film, but once you make it past them the movie is amazing. The movie has aged well over the years and while it has been over hyped since its release, it’s still something to have in your collection.