By Chuck Cox

Special Contributor

Depeche ModeOne of the first concert films I remember truly loving was 101. It was recorded at the Rose Bowl as part of Depeche Mode’s Music For the Masses Tour in 1988. I was blown away by just how big of a show it was — especially considering it was a time when I was just starting to go to concerts. Everything about the movie made me wish that somehow I could have been at the Rose Bowl that night.

Instead, seeing Depeche Mode live was something I just kept missing out on. But thanks to a well-timed bye week for the high school football team I cover, I finally got to see the show I had been wanting to witness for nearly 25 years on Friday night at Gexa Energy Pavilion. And while it wasn’t the band at a gargantuan stadium in its heyday, let me assure you that it more than exceeded my expectations.

From the opening notes of “Welcome to My World,” off the band’s latest album, Delta Machine, Depeche Mode delivered exactly what I wanted to see — an incredible rock show with the energy of a band still looking to sign its first record deal. Lead singer Dave Gahan, 51, oozed rock star with every move he made, tirelessly moving and dancing while sounding amazing. And the band sounded great right along with him.

With a catalogue filled with incredible songs, the techno rock pioneers had the huge crowd in the palm of their hands for the duration of the two-hour set. It was so much fun to hear the reactions from the crowd get bigger and bigger as the band flawlessly played mega hits like “Policy of Truth,” Enjoy the Silence,” “Personal Jesus,” “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “I Feel You,” and show-closer “Never Let Me Down Again.” If I closed my eyes, it felt like I was back in high school again. It was absolutely one of the most enthusiastic crowds I have seen in quite some time.

The new songs sounded great, too. Depeche Mode played four tunes off the new album as part of its 21-song set. To me, the band is one of the few that have been around a long time that actually still put out quality albums. And you could genuinely tell Depeche Mode lives to tour, which adds so much to a show.

The significantly cooler weather that moved into the area made it all the more pleasant of a night, although there was some rain mixed in. That first cool breeze after the summer in Texas is one of the best days of the year.

Opening act Crystal Castles played  a solid set after opening with a song that sounded like lead singer Alice Glass’ microphone was off. It was one of those sets where it seemed to get better and better with each song, which is not an easy thing to do for an opening act.

Without a doubt, Depeche Mode shot up to the top five of shows I’ve been to this year. I will be seeing the band the next time it comes around. And the next one after that.