Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion Live
To promote the studio album, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Depeche Mode took the decision to undertake a massive tour, one that would prove a strain on all four members. With Depeche Mode travelled a huge entourage, which at one point included a $5000 a week psychiatrist. Communication between them broke down so much that they barely spoke to each other off-stage. Separate limos, separate assistants, and at one point on the tour, they even insisted on separate hotel floors to keep them apart.
For the tour, they actually travelled the world twice, with a break of a number of months between the two halves of the tour. The decision to tour again after the break came out of the financial necessity – such was the scale of the tour, it was the only way to actually turn in a decent profit. It was this second half of the tour that would be the most disastrous, especially when hard-partying Primal Scream were added as support act. Martin Gore suffered a seizure during a business meeting and again in his hotel room, due to the excess alcohol and lack of sleep. Alan Wilder contracted kidney stones, again brought on by stress. Fletch was the first one to bail out, returning home half way through suffering from nervous exhaustion, replaced by one of the tour assistants. And Dave Gahan’s decent into causality status is well documented. His drug abuse continued, despite his protestations that the scratches on his arm were caused by an over enthusiastic crowd.
Between the two tours, while the other band members rested, Alan Wilder and Steve Lyon prepared this live document, and, in a (for the time) original approach mixed and produced an album which captures the previous release, song for song. No other material is present on this album – it presents Songs of Faith and Devotion, live, in the order of the original LP. And it simply does not work.
Whilst the songs sound fine and fit together well on the studio album, this live version captures none of the excitement. The arrangements are sometimes different, and the songs sound muted and lack any passion. This structure means that the album often sags, and becomes a real effort to listen to. It starts fine – “I Feel You”, with its extended introduction, sounds great, and gets things off to a good start, but “Walking in my Shoes” sounds awful, it plods along, Gahan’s voice thick and droning. “Condemnation” is better, Gahan obviously enjoying the song as he blasts it out, but from here, it is downhill all the way.
Nothing else on this album sounds right. The crowd is loud and obtrusive. Gahan’s little yelps as he hypes the crowd are just annoying (never has a man shouted “oh yeah!” so much). Songs that sounded so rich and vibrant on the album sound flat and boring here. “Get Right With Me” is a classic example; an outstanding album track is reduced to drivel on this release. The way it plods along and suddenly bursts into Rush is just awful, the two songs obviously performed at opposite ends of the set list. Why they took the decision to stick with this rigid order, rather than showing how a gig builds, song by song, baffles me.
On the Devotional tour, the band played to close to 2,000,000 people. However, this album charted at 46, a colossal failure. Once the tour was finally over, the band dispersed, at the point where they did not even say goodbye to each other as they left. Back home, Dave Gahan would find his body twitching at the time every evening he would normally be on stage. His drug taking grew and grew, and became more public as his dependency became more obvious. His habit became known among his family as his mother, helping him look after his son, found him comatose, surrounded by his apparatus.
As for Alan Wilder, he finally decided that enough was enough. Driving in Scotland one day with his new wife, Hep (a singer from Devotional tour support act Miranda Sex Garden), he witnessed a plane crash. An RAF fighter crashed mere feet from his car, showering Wilder and his wife in debris. The silence afterwards was total and shocking, as the mangled body parts of the pilot lay strewn over the road. Wilder feels that this experience was life changing, and in June 1995 called a meeting where he announced his departure. Gahan was unable to attend, but Gore and Fletch were present. Fletch reacted angrily, but Gore accepted it, merely shaking Wilders hand and wishing him well.
Fletchers anger maybe suggests that he thought what Wilder assumed – that without him, the band would be finished. Wilder issued a statement to the press which, with no prior knowledge of the huge imbalance of workload in the studio, could be considered arrogant. But, with the most accomplished musician and studio boffin leaving, and the lead singer looking closer to death with every passing day, few would have thought that Depeche Mode had much of a future.