Review: Depeche Mode at BB&T Center

Less than 24 hours after one of the tattooed heroes of radio-ready rock, Adam Levine, removed his shirt and showed off Jagger-like moves for a South Florida crowd, a similarly ripped time traveler from a previous generation offered a spirited rebuttal.  Edge: Dave Gahan.

More than three decades after the release of their hit “Just Can’t Get Enough,” the Gahan-fronted Depeche Mode filled the BB&T Center in Sunrise Sunday night, a testament to their remarkable durability and a connection to fans that still seems quite personal.

The two-hour-plus concert included a half-dozen songs from the new album, “Delta Machine,” omitting hits such as  “People Are People,” “Master and Servant” and “Strangelove,” but still offered plenty of memorable touchstones for the generations that danced, drank and came out to the dark ‘80s-‘90s soundtrack created by vocalist Gahan, guitarist Martin Gore and keyboardist Andy Fletcher.

Gahan, looking trim with black hair slicked straight back, arrived onstage in a black sportcoat and pants for the “Delta Machine” opener, “Welcome to My World,” but by the second song (“Angel”)  removed it to reveal his assortment of throwback tattoos and a haphazardly buttoned black vest  that would fly open to display his impressive six-pack abs. By “Personal Jesus” he had dropped any pretense, and the vest, and just went topless.  

Wielding his microphone stand like a lance, a sword and a phallic distraction, Gahan, 51, preened and strutted the stage like the Rolling Stones rock star referenced in “Moves Like Jagger” by Levine, the famously clothing-averse lead singer of Maroon 5 who performed up the road at the Cruzan Amphitheatre on Saturday.  

You may wonder if Levine, when he’s in his 50s, would or could implore fans to, “Reach out and touch me!” And whether he’d receive the same passionate response.

But such is the special relationship that Depeche Mode has engendered among pop-music outliers with its forthright examination of sexual politics, intolerance and hypocrisy.  Sunday night’s near-capacity crowd seemed  equal parts original followers – gay and lesbian couples, ex-dance club kids and a sprinkling of recovering goths ­ ­– and younger fans (some tweens) for whom the band’s songs were gifts handed down.

The fashion was memorable, with plenty of black and white, stripes and polka dots, fishnets and mini skirts, buckled boots and chunky heels. Surely the scent of poppers in the air was a mirage.

Performed from a spare black stage only occasionally punctuated with white or red lights, songs such as “Walking in My Shoes,” “Policy of Truth,” “A Question of Time,” “Enjoy the Silence” and “Personal Jesus” produced enthusiastic seat dancing, as expected. Quieter moments on "Home" and “The Child Inside,” from "Delta Machine," both ballads with Gore accompanied only by pianist Peter Gordeno, were remarkable for the audience continuing to sing along after Gore had taken his bows.

Other cuts from the new album that went over well included the dreamily quixotic new single "Heaven" and the swaggering dance track "Soothe My Soul.”

The night ended with Depeche Mode showing off with a showcase of diversity by following the muted poetry of the icy “Halo” with the Technicolor jubilation of “Just Can’t Get Enough.” As the crowd was stirred into a wave of hip-thrusting nostalgia, Gahan led them from atop a set of speakers, dropping the cool Lizard King persona long enough to blow a kiss and offer a broad smile.  The 1981 dance track then gave way to the gritty, grungy bombast of 1993’s “I Feel You,” which was followed by 1987’s danceable declaration “Never Let Me Down Again.”   

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