Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Depeche Mode Live 1990

One of my long-standing music-related mini missions has been to track down a quality live recording from Depeche Mode's "World Violation" tour. It was the tour for the album that's usually cited as their best, and yet it produced relatively few bootleg recordings. Then again, it's not too difficult to speculate on the reasons for this. They were now firmly in place as a stadium-only band, and the larger the venue, the harder it is to make a half-decent sounding recording. The "Music For the Masses" tour produced the famed "101" tour film and the legendary Rose Bowl concert, the "Devotional" tour produced the concert video of the same name (and the finest of the band's career), and the subsequent four-year gap stretches to the DVD/internet/filesharing age, where concerts are far more easily recorded and distributed. "World Violation" ended up being the neglected middle sibling of Depeche Mode's history.

Pay a visit to this webpage and you'll find not only a pristine soundboard recording of DM's July 1990 concert in San Fransicso, but a load of other rare electronic music gems, such as a few Scion + Tikiman gigs and one of the very first Autechre shows from 1993. The DM recording is actually a bit too pristine, as you get all of the sound with none of the atmosphere, for all the crowd noise is completely eliminated with the exception of leakage into Dave Gahan's microphone. And the recording only proves what I have long since known from other, crappier-sounding bootlegs -- that this tour represented something of a creative nadir for DM. Without the benefit of hearing the music in a stadium packed with tens of thousands of freaks going apeshit in their long black coats and skintight black leather pants, the musical arrangements sound too crisp, too sparse, too sterile. Most of the songs remained frozen in time since the "Music For the Masses" tour in that the versions they play sound nearly identical. While it's nice to hear the live debut of the "Violator" tracks, most of them have been staples in live sets ever since, and newer versions are far superior versions to the ones from "World Violation". But beginning with the "Devotional" tour, the band overhauled (and dismissed) the 80's setlist, changed up the arrangements, started relying on guitar/drums/percussion to augment their live shows, and became a even more exciting live band in the process.

Of course, part of me couldn't care less about any of this analysis because Depeche Mode are my favourite band ever and I saw their Toronto concert about a month before this and have long since sought a way to help relive those amazing memories with the help of a quality sounding bootleg.

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