Depeche Mode prepares for Tour of the Universe

Sat Mar 21, 2009 5:17pm EDT
 
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By Kerri Mason

NEW YORK (Billboard) - In a room in New York's Greenwich Hotel, Dave Gahan is sitting erect in a straight-backed chair, immune to the wind outside that's blowing garbage cans down the street.

Gahan, the lead singer for Depeche Mode, is a rock star and he dresses the part, in all black. He folds one ringed hand gently over the other and speaks in thoughtful, measured, complete sentences. Onstage, Gahan can be a shirtless, sweaty beast. Right now, though -- months before the April release of his group's new album, "Sounds of the Universe" -- he's as composed as bandmate Martin Gore's lyrics."

We're all very individual, but I've always loved a good melancholy song," Gahan says. "Not necessarily in tempo, but some sort of cynical, lyrical content matched with a beautiful melody can really do it for me. Because I identify with that sentiment, wanting to lift yourself from this place."

That contrast between melody and melancholy is perhaps why, after 30 years, Depeche Mode is still a force to be reckoned with. Together, Gahan, Gore and bassist/collaborator Andy "Fletch" Fletcher have almost broken up, almost died and almost been declared obsolete. Along the way, they've sold more than 100 million records worldwide, according to record label estimates. And they remain one of the world's biggest live acts, reaching 2.8 million people in 31 countries on their last tour alone.

"Sounds of the Universe" (Mute/EMI), due April 21, is the band's 12th album and is reminiscent of its "Violator" heyday of catchy dance beats with a hint of darkness. The accompanying world tour -- called, with a certain dark glee, Tour of the Universe -- is already selling out stadiums in difficult markets like Eastern Europe.

"Even at the very beginning, they seemed to connect to the audience much better than other bands," says Mute chairman Daniel Miller. "It was never an 'us and them,' it was very much a one-to-one."

EXPANDING AUDIENCE

The four-month, 57-date Tour of the Universe kicks off May 10 in Tel Aviv and closes September 5 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The band's first all-arena trek includes eight dates in Germany and two at Los Angeles' Hollywood Bowl, plus unusual stops like Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Latvia, all of which are nearly sold out.   Continued...

 
<p>Members of the British band Depeche Mode arrive on the red carpet for the 'Echo Music Awards' ceremony in Berlin, February 21, 2009. The German Phonographic Academy honours artists from all over the world in 24 categories. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz</p>