Depeche Mode Enthralls Santa Barbara Bowl Crowd as Part of Their ‘Global Spirit Tour’

Moody anthems were the theme for the night when Depeche Mode brought their iconic sounds to the Santa Barbara Bowl  on Oct. 2. For many, Depeche Mode are a bucket list item waiting to be marked off, so it was understandable when fan revelry was at an all time high.

The Santa Barbara Bowl is both a blessing and the bane of a concertgoer’s existence. The arduous trek up the steep hill left everyone winded by the time they reached the top, and many more found themselves downright sucking air like marathon runners by the time they reached their assigned sections. It was all worth it, though. Depeche Mode fans have a passionate streak behind them, and it was no different on this October evening. The air sizzled and crackled with a palpable energy. A whole lot of bucket list entries were about to get marked off.

Before Depeche Mode took the stage, female group Warpaint kicked the night off, and they did so with a bang. The L.A. group have experienced a gradual ascent to indie stardom, winning over countless fans of their own with their breathtaking harmonics and blend of dream-pop and psychedelia. For them, opening up for a band as iconic as Depeche Mode is just icing on the cake, and they clearly relished the opportunity. They left fans satisfied, but the real main event was about to hit the stage.

It was the legendary tones of The Beatles’ “Revolution” that signaled Depeche Mode’s impending entrance, and the thumping baseline to “Cover Me (Alt Out)” wafted through the Bowl as the band took the stage and busted into “Going Backwards,” and an immediate takeaway is Dave Gahan’s uncanny showmanship, skipping and sneering to and fro. Not only is “Going Backwards” the perfect track to kick off “Spirit,” but it’s an ideal way to start a live show off in a grand way.

Like every Depeche Mode set, the hits wouldn’t stop coming, and they all landed in different ways. “So Much Love” knocked the set into a full, frenetic tilt, and Gahan’s embellished dance moves gave “Barrel of a Gun” an added sense of levity. Of course, “In Your Room” turned up about six songs into the set, and it was just what the crowd was waiting for, with the song whipping them into a gleeful mass of awestruck onlookers.

The setlist had a masterful architecture about it, with “Cover Me” serving as the bridge between Dave Gahan’s portion and Martin Gore’s, which opened up with a rousing rendition of “A Question of Lust.” That unfurled into “Home,” which in turn led to an impassioned sing-along in which every audience member participated. It was one of those moments that live and breathe on their own, exuding an unfathomable amount of energy up on that great hill.

The official set finished off with a veritable parade of hits. “Everything Counts,” “Stripped,” and “Never Let Me Down Again” were received like long-lost friends, with the crowd and even Gore busting a groove to mark the set’s end. But it was the encore that really made this night special. The group followed the obligatory and deafening space between set and encore with “Somebody,” and all it took to light up the crowd was to flash the song’s title across the video screen. The group also paid homage to David Bowie with a deeply moving cover of “Heroes” before wrapping things up in a neat little bow with the one-two punch of “I Feel You” and “Personal Jesus.”

It’s rare when a venue roars the way the Santa Barbara Bowl did when Depeche Mode left the stage for the second and final time. No fan left downcast that night. In fact, it’s safe to say when they arrived home to finally check that all-important item off the bucket list, they did so emphatically and with a gleeful grin on their faces.

Depeche Mode’s ‘Global Spirit Tour’ played the Santa Barbara Bowl on Oct. 2.