It's the final day of the 6music Festival and the headliners tonight have been going for over 35 years and are known entirely for their original material. Depeche Mode made their breakthrough with songs written by Vince Clarke, who went on to form Erasure, and subsequently Martin Gore took over the songwriting mantle. The support in Barrowlands for them tonight is Unkle DJ, James Lavelle. Best known for that partnership with DJ Shadow, Lavelle is renowned behind the decks in his own right. The ballroom is an intimate venue by the standards of the Basildon quartet. They have been stadium and arena headliners since the ‘80s.
While the anticipation builds for that Los Angeles based soul singer Kadhja Bonet starts proceedings over in Saint Luke's. Her debut album came out in November. Her father is an opera singer and her mother is a musician so Bonet, or one of her six siblings, was bound to end up following in their footsteps. She appears with a double cutaway electric guitar, and her voice interweaves smoothly with the jazzy chords she plays. Her backing band is a single guitarist who pitches in some harmonies, but Bonet holds the formerly sacred congregation in communion with her seemingly effortless vocal. Saint Luke's feels like a New York basement in the thrall of her voice.
All of which is only a distraction from the main event. There is a ruck on the way in. There's a crowd across the street holding signs requesting tickets. The first twenty people through the door have travelled across the continent for the opportunity to catch the Essex boys in this relatively intimate environment. Next, a maniacal crowd of Scottish DM fans enter. There's pushing and fighting to get upstairs and stake out a place at the barrier. It's two hours to the headline show and already 500 people are packed tightly in front of the stage. You have to feel some sympathy for James Lavelle playing to such a partisan crowd. Metallica played for a decade without an opening act because the audience would just boo them into submission, but I'm sure nothing like that will happen tonight.
Any such fears are allayed the moment he steps foot on stage. Though the audience are here for the following set, they cheer politely when Lavelle appears. He mixes spoken word samples, soulful vocal tracks, and lethargic beats. Anyone familiar with his Unkle work will know the type of thing to expect. The idea of paying to see a DJ is a foreign concept to me so I merely stake out my place for the main act. A sample from Queens Of The Stone Age's ‘I Appear Missing’ plays over some ethereal piano eliciting a reaction from the crowd but the general consensus is that they'd rather hear the original.
The crowd now stretches from the barrier to the wheelchair access platform at the back. The lightshow is impressive but cannot hide the fact that the music is quite dull. There is no motion in the crowd at all. People are not being allowed out to smoke and the German contingent are making their displeasure felt. And they are absolutely right; this would not happen in Germany. The impatience becomes palpable. James Lavelle raises his arms and claps rhythmically, but no one follows his lead. A remix of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ garners some attention and there is a cheer when he finishes. In standup comedy terms; he died. Painful to watch.
As the crew clear away his gear, the tension ratchets up a notch. The room is filled to bursting with fans of all ages. There are vintage t-shirts rubbing shoulders with hip young kids but all are wound tight in expectation. The roadies, checking the lines, get cheers and sustained applause. When Lauren Laverne appears, the cries are deafening. It’s their first time playing this venue since 1984. When they come onstage there is applause, there are screams, there are tears. They don’t bother with an introduction but go straight in to the first song, ‘Going Backwards’. Lead singer Dave Gahan doesn’t need to ask for applause. Whenever he stops singing, it spontaneously erupts.
Gahan, guitarist /keyboardist Martin Gore, and keyboardist, Andy Fletcher are expanded to a five piece with the addition of a touring drummer and yet another synth player. Gahan struts about like he owns the stage and, during ‘So Much Love’, he truly does. With his leather jerkin and slicked back hair, he looks every bit the rock star. He goes full-on Jagger for ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ and the audience sing it back. The opening riff of ‘World In My Eyes’ elicits the biggest reaction yet. It's a Gore-era tune that retains the catchiness and pop synth lines of the Vince Clarke era.
Gahan departs and Gore takes centre stage for ‘Home’. The crowd repeat the closing refrain a capella after the band finish. Over and over. The most recent single follows, with the whole band singing, “Where's the revolution/C'mon people you're letting me down”. ‘Barrel Of A Gun’ is a song I've waited twenty years to hear live and it doesn’t disappoint. Filthy, sleazy, and borderline mentally ill, it is the centre piece of their late '90s opus, Ultra.
The crowd out-sing the band for ‘Personal Jesus’ and the extended refrain of “Reach out/Touch faith” has people turning to their partners, and to strangers, and hugging them. The inevitable ‘Enjoy The Silence’ forms the encore and I've rarely seen a reception like it. It takes nearly an hour for my breathing to regularise. It'll be a couple of days before my muscles stop hurting but that is the type of gig that reminds you of the power of music and why you fell in love with it in the first place. What a way to end the festival.