Depeche Mode: Devotional (1993)
"Let me take you on a trip,
around the world and back
you won't have to move..."- lyric from World In My Eyes
Stars: David Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher, Alan Wilder
Director: Anton Corbijn
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:33m:54s
Release Date: 2004-09-21
DVD ReviewTalk about an evolution.
British synthsters Depeche Mode morphed from happy, perky dance pop of the early 1980s into a group of sometimes brooding dramatists, but along the way their sound actually managed to mature in tandem with their noticeably serious change in focus and mood. It's no accident they were often referred to as Depressed Mode; too electronic to really be Goth and predating the emo shoegazer movement, they sometimes teetered on the edge of becoming more gloomy than fun, but by 1993 they were riding what was probably their highest crest with the release of the CD Songs of Faith & Devotion, and the tour filmed for this two-disc set (recorded in Barcelona and Frankfurt) captures the band at an oddly compelling point in their career.
Visually, a concert like Devotional is a weird, though more often than not, satisfying experience. The stage design is elegant and exciting to look at, a two-tiered affair with a series of towering video monitors underneath that allow all sorts of projected images to flit about behind the sweaty posturing of head Mode Dave Gahan. This concert film juxtaposes the somber reverential angst of a Depeche Mode studio recording and mixes it up with a jarring combination of clichéd stadium rock moves from Gahan and the flashy stage set designed by lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe and celebrated rock photographer Anton Corbijn, who also directed this disc. We get all of their quasi-serious synth dirges—and truly the band is operating on a high plane of cool here—but Gahan works the stage like a crazy man, screaming "yeah" and pumping his arms to get the crowd going when the rhythmic ebb and flow of the electronic music belies such standard (and sometimes silly) rock moves, especially during cuts like Personal Jesus.
It's almost like apples and oranges; I do like their music a lot—and have for a long time—even if some of the stage drama is a bit on the overblown side. The last time I saw Depeche Mode live was on a tour or two before Devotional (circa 1991), and the band was almost Kraftwerk-ian in the way they hunched over their keyboards, and there were moments then when I wasn't even sure they were actually playing. Times change, I guess, and the band has moved on to more pronounced rock star cool moves. During Devotional, the band opens by performing the opening song Higher Love behind a huge, diaphanous curtain, with Gahan building his initial appearance into a prolonged bit of horny rock foreplay that seemed to go on a tad too long.
World in My Eyes
Walking in My Shoes
Behind the Wheel
Mercy In You
I Feel You
Never Let Me Down Again
In Your Room
Enjoy the Silence
Fly on the Windscreen
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.66:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Devotional is presented in 1.66:1 nonanamorphic widescreen, and while Corbijn's coverage of the band's stage show is excellent, the transfer suffers from some smearing and graininess as a result of the concert lighting. It's not an awful transfer by any means, just not as crisp and sharp as I might have expected.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Audio comes with the choice of either Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or PCM 2.0, and for a broader, more expansive presentation the high marks have to go to the 5.1 track. No real beefs whatsoever with the PCM mix, but it is tough to hold a candle to the larger, more aggressive track that spreads out the synth noodlings and crowd sounds into what comes closer to recreating that "live" concert sound. Dave Gahan's voice is crystal clear, and small effects like the circuitous synth pans and car sounds during Behind the Wheel noticeably move and swirl around the room.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Extras Review: Disc One includes a couple of additional live tracks, with the band performing stellar versions of Halo (04m:42s) and Policy of Truth (05m:07s). Not exactly sure why they weren't part of the main set, but whatever.
I experienced some major playback issues on Disc Two (on three different players), with either a shrill, high-pitched whine or blocky, distorted graphics that eventually locked up any machine it was tried out on. Not sure if it was some kind of mastering problem, or if I just got a bum disc, so your mileage may vary. I can't really comment on the quality of the supplements on the second disc, but I can at least tell you what they were supposed to be.
The second disc (at least according to the back cover) contains six music videos in PCM Stereo (I Feel You, Walking in My Shoes, Condemnation, In Your Room, One Caress, Condemnation-Live) as well as the background projections used onstage during performances of Walking in My Shoes, Stripped, Condemnation, Judas, I Feel You, Never Let Me Down Again, In Your Room, and Enjoy the Silence. The projections are available in either 5.1 or PCM Stereo. There is also an MTV documentary entitled Depeche Mode Rockumentary, a short Monologue by Anton Corbijn, and images from the Devotional tour programme.
So while I couldn't actually enjoy all of the extras, they do seem moderately interesting, so just on principle I'll go out on a limb and guess that if your second disc plays ok, it will be enjoyable. If I'm wrong, let me know.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsI'm not used to seeing Depeche Mode prance and preen around like arena rock stars, and though their music still has that "I'm a cool, moody loner" feel to it, watching them live on this particular tour is another story entirely.
My wife and I (big Modesters from way back) caught ourselves chuckling a few times at the frequent fist pumps and crowd exultations, but the slowly building and familiar rhythms of tunes like Behind the Wheel and Walking in My Shoes made everything better in the end.
Even with the weird posturing, this one is still a fine-sounding rock show.
Rich Rosell 2004-10-06