I’ve got to be honest. I was never a Depeche Mode fan. My lack of interest in them didn’t really come from their music, which I always thought was different – in a good way. It was just that in the 80’s and 90’s, MTV played their videos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The video for “Enjoy the Silence” was burned into my eyelids. I couldn’t get away from the band no matter how hard I tried.
My, how things have changed. MTV doesn’t play Depeche Mode videos anymore, or any videos for that matter, and after wat…hing Depeche Mode’s concert DVD, Devotional, I have come to appreciate the band to the point where I would proudly say that I am now a fan. In an age where your choices range from over-saturated pop, to recycled rap music, Depeche Mode is a breath of fresh, nostalgic air. Front-man Dave Gahan’s overstated baritone voice is completely different from anything you hear nowadays and Martin Gore’s lyrics are actually quite deep for a techno-rock band, peppered with religious images and undertones. Far more introspective than most of the “music” that is mass produced today.
In Devotional, all the aforementioned traits and qualities about Depeche Mode ring true. Filmed over two 1993 tour dates in Barcelona and Frankfurt, by the band’s longtime video collaborator Anton Corbijn, the group performs its most acclaimed songs in front of a frenzied throng. Dave Gahan knows how to work a crowd, as evidenced by his patented tush-waiving and getting the crowd to sing along. He also takes off a shirt and rings the sweat from it before tossing it into the crowd. He then jumps into the crowd himself much to the dismay of the security. Anton Corbijn films the concert straight up, not sensationalizing the performances, and in the process makes the show an intimate evening with the band. The religious imagery present in Gore’s lyrics are featured visually on stage, meshing with the music just as they did in the videos Corbijn directed throughout the band’s career.
Depeche Mode fans will no doubt find plenty to get excited about in Devotional. For those of us less familiar with the band, there are plenty of occasions to get acquainted, so that by the time we’ve finished watching their performance on stage, we’ll call ourselves Depeche Mode fans too. You’d almost be crazy not to.
Devotional’s lone shortfall is the picture. Filmed in 4:3 fullscreen, the picture is stained in pinks and blues, is grainy as all hell, and not sharp at all. It looks like Corbijn lit the stage in a black light. While it does give a certain mood to the performance, it almost takes away from the connection between the band and the viewer. At certain points in the concert, I felt like I was watching the band in “Predator-Vision.”
This is where the disc really comes to life. Although I’ve only come into contact with one other concert DVD, that being The Last Waltz, I can tell you that the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound present on Devotional is amazing. The sound is so full, so crisp and so engulfing; you’ll feel like you are a member of the crowd. The bass in “Personal Jesus” will shake your house like a tremor.
However, to achieve the best sound from this DVD, you may need to play around with your audio receiver. I used the “Rock Concert” function on my receiver and the sound was enhanced greatly, adding to concert feel of the DVD. In normal Surround Sound, the sound is too separated, giving the surround speakers more crowd noise than they can handle, and Gahan’s vocals are also masked in echoes. If your receiver comes with a function for concerts, I would seriously recommend using it.
The DVD’s other sound option is PCM Stereo. While it’s severely lacking when compared to the disc’s superior DD 5.1 track, the PCM Stereo mix is competent enough to get enjoyment from. While the subwoofer gets less of a work out here, in concert mode the PCM Stereo track still thumps enough to make you feel like you are at the show. However, the PCM Stereo track in regular Pro Logic is far too jangly, and the subwoofer takes the day off. There are too many highs and not enough lows to equal out the track. Again, if your audio receiver has a “concert” mode, use it.
Devotional Live Projections – Here you have only the stage projections and artwork displayed to eight of the band’s live songs. The audio options are DD 5.1 and PCM Stereo.
Promotional Videos – Here we have some of the music videos from Songs of Faith and Devotion, the album Depeche Mode was promoting while on tour. Audio options here are only PCM Stereo.
MTV Documentary: Depeche Mode Rockumentary – As the title states, this is the 1993 MTV documentary about the make-up of the band, and the relationship Depeche Mode has with their visual collaborator, Anton Corbijn. This is where we learn that Gahan was not always the crowd-worker he is during Devotional. Audio – 2.0 Stereo.
Monologue by Anton Corbijn – The band’s visual collaborator speaks on how he translates the band’s music into visual images throughout their relationship from the early 80’s to the early 90’s when the concert was filmed. Audio – PCM Stereo.
Devotional Tour Programmes – Here you can thumb through the actual programs for the concert.
Devotional really gets beneath the surface of Depeche Mode and will allow fans both old and new to appreciate what is presented. While the picture could be better, the excellent audio more than makes up for it, and the many extras will allow fans to learn more about the performance as well as the band. Although the disc has its shortcomings, I’d be a fool not to recommend it.
Special Features List
- Devotional Live Projections
- Promotional Videos
- MTV Documentary: Depeche Mode Rockumentary
- Monologue by Anton Corbijn
- Devotional Tour Programmes