1983-09-30 St. David's Hall, Cardiff, Wales, UK
A concert review by Steve Howell for Electronics & Music Make magazine, issue dated December 1983:
Friday, September 30, saw the palatial surroundings of the newly erected St. Davids Hall in Cardiff recoiling at the onslaught of a powerful does of Depeche Mode, playing only their second gig in Cardiff for nigh on two years.
Supporting Depeche was Matt Fretton who gave a Splendid performance to the accompaniment of a Teac 4-track backing tape. Doing a solo performance of this nature must take some doing but Matt, resplendent in a pink suit, did it with great vigour, leaping, dancing, and singing his way through his set which lasted getting on for an hour. The 4-track backing tape was put together by Melt himself and sounded chunky with its’ driving percussion and synthesisers. Also on the tape was a brass section. It seems that Matt has two tapes, one which contains the bass and one that doesn’t, as he sometimes has the bass section live on stage with him. His music is varied: sometimes electronic, sometimes with a Gabrielesque ethnic feel to it and sometimes very funky. He played his last single and his latest, ‘Dance It Up’, which deserves to be a hit.
There was a short break to clear the stage, and then Depeche took up their positions to an ecstatic response. The stage was set with David Gahan flanked on each side by Alan Wilder who played a Jupiter 8 (with another as a spare!) and Andy Fletcher who had an OBXa. Martin Gore was centre stage at the back and had at his disposal a newly acquired Yamaha DX7 which replaces the PPG because it’s too unreliable. He also had an Emulator, a variety of flutes and a 12-string guitar. The band also had a Sundrum each, and these were used to great effect during the show.
The backing tape was as powerful as ever and sounded particularly good. They now use an 8-track to accommodate the extra sequencers and keyboard parts, while their drum sound is now provided by a Drumulator, extra percussion being synthesised.
The band kicked oil with the latest single ’Love, In itself’, from their excellent new album and finished with ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. Sandwiched in between were tracks from their three albums and, of course, most of their singles. One of the highspots of the gig for me was their rendition of ‘Pipeline, also from ‘Construction Time Again’. David Gahan left the stage for Martin to take the vocal mic while Alan hit a huge sheet of corrugated iron and Andy scraped some strange tubular device. Meanwhile the tape provided various synthesised (and sampled?) metallic industrial sounds.
The set was very good indeed and consisted of what appeared to be simple flat screens, but during the course of the gig they rotated into various configurations to reveal that they were, in fact, lighting gantries. They gave the stage an unforgettable atmosphere.
The sound was also excellent. The 13K rig was supplied by Audiolease: punchy but still clear. Two Roland Space Echoes, an MXR DDL and a Lexicon 224 digital reverb were used for effects.
In all the band played for about 1¼ hours plus an encore. They looked good, sounded good and gave a good show — exactly what the audience paid for. David Gahan is a great frontman for the band and his voice comes over much stronger live than it does on record in my opinion (he’s also quite a stylish mover). The rest of the band remain fairly static, however, preferring to concentrate on their playing and backing vocals which, incidentally. were spot on throughout.
Depeche Mode are off to America very soon. Let’s hope that they can win the hearts of Stateside audiences — if they perform as they did in Cardiff I see no reason why they shouldn’t.