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(photo credit: Courtesy)
One of the biggest names in rock over the past quarter century, dark synth-popper act Depeche Mode is scheduled to perform at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park on Thursday. The list of huge acts playing in Israel this summer includes Black Eyed Peas, Sting, Roger Waters and Ziggy Marley, making Depeche Mode's appearance less of the exception it would normally be. But with a war raging in Israel's North and influential figures deploring the concert's post-Tisha Be'av time slot, some might be surprised if the show actually goes on.
Organizers, however, are resolute.
Legions of local fans are gearing up with their fingers crossed. Tickets went on sale more than nine months ago, and new records for early demand were set. More than 20,000 tickets were sold by the end of April. The Israeli Depeche Mode Fan Club Web site even has a ticker that counts down to the scheduled beginning of the band's first appearance here.
Depeche Mode has sold almost 80 million albums since it came together in 1980 in Basildon, England. Following several early 1980s incarnations that featured a lineup in flux, the group began to develop a sizable European fan base - mostly in Germany, a breeding ground for industrial pop and electronic experimentation at the time. The 1984 US release of its "People Are People" single transformed the group into a global success.
Perceived then by Europeans as mindless purveyors of pop and by Americans as Gothic brooders, Depeche Mode went to great lengths in the mid-1980s to break out of the categorizations. With the use of synthesizers and electronic beats having saturated audio pop culture, it's easier now to put the group's early sounds into context.
"The electroclash thing has come and gone," vocalist Dave Gahan told British Metro Magazine last year. "There's too much attention focused on what's trendy, but bands like us, REM and U2 have created our own worlds and our own platforms to work from, and that's quite a special thing."
1987's Music for the Masses was a smash hit that sent the band on a two-year world tour. The 1989 gold single "Personal Jesus" turned John Lennon's famous "bigger than Jesus" statement on its ear, with a European promotional campaign advertising a phone number that played the song when called. 1990 was another landmark year, which saw the release of Violator (that went on to earn triple platinum status in the US) and another record-breaking world tour. Following this momentum, 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion brought live, non-electronic drumming and session musicians into the mix.
The remainder of the 1990s was dominated by turmoil for Depeche Mode. Band member Alan Wilder quit mysteriously in the summer of 1995, probably because of a combination of "creative differences" and frontman Dave Gahan's drug abuse. 2001's Exciter album didn't sell as well as previous efforts, and solo projects soon followed.
Staying relevant isn't easy, especially for groups that originally became hits thanks to trends. But after all that Depeche Mode has been through, its members still feel the need to go out and bring their sounds to the people.
"If you'd asked me 10 years ago why the Rolling Stones were still doing it, I'd have said, 'I don't know' - but I get it now," said Gahan in the Metro interview. "It's because they still enjoy it. What's not to enjoy? You see thousands of people celebrating what you've spent your life doing."
Released in October, Depeche Mode's Playing the Angel album has been lauded as a return to form, and their current world tour has been met with critical and fan acclaim. All the gigs, including Thursday's, are available for purchase as audio recordings via booths set up at venues and via the depechemodelive.com site - a merchandising diversification usually used only by jam bands like Phish and The Allman Brothers.
The arena leg of the current tour lasted the entire winter and spanned the globe. After a short break, the Playing the Angel show went back on the road outdoors. Late-July dates in Spain, Turkey and Greece lead up to what will hopefully be the tour's finale - Thursday's Israel appearance.
Factors pointing to a cancellation are numerous and powerful. Although the concert is not scheduled to begin until the fast commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temples has concluded, National Union-National Religious Party MK Nissan Slomianski recently told The Jerusalem Post that he sees the choice of date as "not respectful to Judaism." Moreover, IDF reports differ on the extent of Hizbullah's long-range arsenal.
Depeche Mode has recently cancelled a Lisbon appearance that was originally scheduled for tonight, citing financial problems among the show's promoters. Nonetheless, the band's Israeli representatives issued a statement earlier this week confirming its determination to go ahead as planned.
According to the statement, concert organizers searched for other venues around the country and concluded that Hayarkon Park is still the best. As Germany-based producer Marek Lieberberg, who has spearheaded productions for the likes of Bob Dylan, Santana, Bruce Springsteen and The Who, recently told YNet: "We've decided to come to Israel, and we're committed to our decision."
Depeche Mode is scheduled to perform at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park on Thursday evening. The gates open at 6, with the music to begin after the Tisha Be'av fast (which concludes at approximately 8:30).
Tickets can be purchased by calling (03) 604-5000.