Release Year: 2014
Sometimes it’s hard for a band who’s been around as long as Depeche Mode to keep their live set exciting and vibrant. This new release shows Mode doesn’t have that problem. Live in Berlin, directed by long time collaborator Anton Corbijn, features footage from the band’s 2013 Delta Machine tour and while it’s not their greatest live release, it’s still damn good. The guys can still command the stage and bring fans to their knees. Dave Gahan is still a powerful frontman even though his moves are starting to look like Mick Jagger’s. Despite that, Mode puts on a captivating show.
The setlist is a great mix of the best songs from their last album and classics, like “Enjoy the Silence,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” “Walking in my Shoes,” and “I Feel You.” While Gahan’s voice can be shaky and hoarse at times, once he gets in his groove his distinctive baritone voice sounds as warm and silky as ever. The frontman has always loved to dance on stage and things are no different here. He still has his impressive spins intact. What’s even better is during “A Question of Time” he lets loose, grabs the mic stand, becomes a whirling tornado as he spins faster and faster. Gahan has always been sexy and while sometimes his shimming is a little awkward, he’s still got it with his toned physique. Not bad for someone turning 53 this year.
What’s so great about Depeche Mode’s shows are how they keep things fresh. For certain songs they switch up the tone to change it drastically from the studio version. One example is “Halo,” where they slow things down and use elements from the Goldfrapp’s remix. More spontaneous moments come during Martin Gore’s set. He always has a solo during live shows; this time around he has three. When he comes on stage, you can usually guess what song is coming next (“Somebody” or “Question of Lust,”) but not this time. Rather, Gore took the stage to perform stripped back versions of “But Not Tonight” and “Shake the Disease,” two tracks he didn’t record vocals for. Something about seeing him do simple versions of these songs is breathtaking. It gives the songs new life, particularly the former one since it was a track the band wasn’t so fond of. His soft subtle voice turns these classics into gentle ballads. He does an amazing job.
If you get the boxset there are five discs two of which are two versions of the same film. Alive in Berlin has interview clips spliced between the performance footage. Though this does make it longer, it does offer some great insight as to why Berlin is such an important place to the band. Filmed in black and white, it seems they were going for a 101 vibe, which they don’t really achieve. Even though it does make for interesting viewing, it can interrupt the flow of the concert. What’s baffling is why they decided to go with two different versions of the same film for the boxset. They easily could’ve released everything one disc or include the interviews as part of the special features. This along with some other issues make the box set a little weak.
The collection also includes Delta Machine on Blu-ray audio. This is pointless for anyone who already bought the album. Also, who uses a blu-ray player to listen to music? It would’ve been different if some exclusive videos were also on the disc, but that isn’t the case. It’s pretty pointless. There’s also a booklet that leaves much to be desired. It’s very small and features only a couple of photos of the band on stage. The two audio discs included with the set are a good addition for any fan. Both feature all the songs from the show. So while the performance itself is pretty good, the box set is only worth it if you want both audio and visual from the show.
Overall, the release gets 8/10. It’s easy to point out how Depeche Mode’s earlier performances were much better, but they’re not that band anymore. This disc shows the years long band putting on an exciting, energetic, and fresh show. They clearly love performing live and it comes out in their finely crafted visuals, sound, and movements. Though not everything in the boxset is a winner, both the CD and DVD of the show is well worth it for any fan, especially if you want live versions of their latest songs. Hopefully, this will whet the appetite of those who have yet to see the Mode live.