The Godfathers of Electronic rock have been no strangers to live recordings and DVD’s accompanying their sell out World tours throughout the years and have a pretty impressive live release catalogue to browse through, if your partial to that sort of thing, but on this occasion, instead of treating fans to a souvenir of the gig they attended by releasing numerous Live Here Now CD recordings as on their previous two World Tours, the most recent project which has been entrusted in the hands of long time creative collaborator Anton Corbijn is the standalone Live in Berlin CD/DVD project. Filmed over two nights in November 2013 at the O2 World Berlin during the 3rd Leg of the Delta Machine Tour the Soundtrack/film contains 21 songs recorded on the nights of 25th and 27th and captures tracks from their most recent album Delta Machine along with the stomping classic anthems that Depeche are world over renowned for.
This release has caused quite a bit of controversy among the DM faithful due to the exclusion of a Blu Ray release with the heavy negative emphasis on the lower resolution double DVD Live in Berlin/Alive in Berlin, which is strangely enough contained within the 5 disc “Deluxe” package with an Audio Blu Ray containing the 17 track Delta Machine album in its 5.1 glory making it’s long awaited entrance. Call me a cynic but this stinks of the marketing machine that is Columbia /Sony waiting to double tap the adoring fan base when an eventual High def version makes its appearance on physical copy (and not the recently announced iTunes download of the film) and strip them of a few more sheets of their hard earned cash.
Back to concentrating on the actual subject matter in hand and in this case the Live in Berlin Soundtrack which is simultaneously released with the Film. Live in Berlin emerges from the euphoric crowd cheers with an industrial electronic thundering that is the Delta Machine album opener Welcome to my World. Extended to facilitate the band entrance to the stage the listener is immediately immersed in the deep electronic grumblings which give a depth to the track and creates an atmosphere that even the album fails to deliver as the production and mix create a more muscular version suited to its arena surrounding’s. It is quickly apparent when Angel is performed that this recording, unlike a lot of previous live releases has had attention to detail paid from all angles and channels, and provides a clarity right through from the Vocals, to the backing tracks and onto the Fx’s creating sounds that only a very few audiophile eared types would have picked up on the live circuit, interlaced with the correct amount of reverb in parts to replicate an authentic arena experience.
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The experience continues through tracks such as Walking in my Shoes with its fanfare laden conclusion, the usually banal live version of Precious which is given a slight lift with its renewed clarity and crispness and Black Celebration with its thunderous bass crashes. The stand out track for many on Delta Machine was the Dave Gahan penned Should be Higher this having previously enjoyed a live release as the video accompaniment to its single, also shot in Berlin by Anton Corbijn except on that occasion it was in front of approx 74,000 fans in the pouring rain and the audio did not match the strength that this recording delivers. The first Martin Gore ballad ensues after the pounding drums on the revitalised Policy of Truth closes with The Child Inside. This track received extremely mixed reactions from the DM faithful and there is no doubt it will be the same with this release. The song seems simplistic compared to the album version and with a bit more twinkling on the keys from Peter Gordeno the Non band member Keyboardist, this is sure to irritate the sticklers for identicalness but doesn’t remove the track so far away from the original as others he has, dare I say butchered in the past with his “Jazz hands” tinkerings.
An acoustic version of a 1986 B side But Not Tonight keeps the energy levels quelled and ironically this track has turned out for many to be a highlight in this tour. Originally the “B side” to the Synth masterpiece Stripped the record label Sire in the US decided that they would use this as the A side in America as it was featured in the comedy Modern Girls, much to the disgust of the band as it was a rushed up “less than a day “ pop song. The slowing tempo and Beautiful piano backing turns this track from Cheese to Gold epitomized by the choral accompaniment of 17,000 devotees. Two further Delta Machine tracks are aired with Heaven and the engrossingly introed Soothe my Soul which would have enhanced the album version but was favourable as the live version but none the less still a hit with the audience.
Another tour highlight in the form of the “Jacques lu Cont” version of A Pain That I’m Used To complete with the multi instrumentalist Gordeno on Bass Guitar then cranks the atmosphere up a notch , again displaying the meaty bass line and thumping drums of Christian Eigner all the while giving visions of Dave strutting around in Jagger Esque fashion. Fan favourites in the Electro chugging A Question of Time and arguably the best electronic song ever to have graced the airwaves Enjoy the Silence follow suit, the latter sporting the usual live extended format incorporating some menacing Moog synth accompaniment, devoid of the “gotta be starting something” vibe that Gordeno introduces from time to time (Thankfully), but complete with frenetic drumming that Eigner adopts as if he’s imitating Animal from the Muppet’s.
It really doesn’t take away from the track though as even Susan Boyle couldn’t F**k this work of art up. A plodding Blues introduction of nearly Three and a half minutes builds into the Polar Evangelistic Personal Jesus but when the behemoth explodes into life it is so full of energy and sound it encourages movement and dare I say it the urge to fist pump. At this point the encore has been reached and another acoustic Martin Gore effort by way of 1985’s brilliant Shake the Disease is showcased. So well received during the Touring the Angel era DM reintroduced it into the set list and credit where due, Giordano’s piano rendition as a backdrop to Gores ever strengthening vocal is simply beautiful. The “Goldfrapp” version of Halo keeps the mood suppressed but this remixed version keeps interest level suitably intact . Early fan favourite and football chant Just cant get enough gets another live outing and adds the quirky “Fletch” bass rendition at the end accompanied by the Berlin audience “Woooaaaa ooooohhh” all the while Dave confuses everyone by shouting “One More “ at the crowd on not one but four occasions. I Feel You then powers through with a slight rework at the commencement and paves the way for the live anthem that DM have exhilarated their avid followers with, from way back at the Pasadena Rose Bowl gig.
Immediate visions of thousands waving their arms in synchronicity when Mr Gahan extends to the edge of the catwalk to a backdrop of herculean sounding electronics reminiscent of a waving cornfield makes this a truly spectacular sight and the whole ambience is captured perfectly in this recording. The reintroduction of Delta Machine’s Goodbye places as the 2nd encore track with Gahan paying homage to Berlin as an introduction, prior to Gores sleazy Blues guitar carrying this, the final track through to its epic conclusion. Well received through the first leg of the tour it is aptly named to conclude this project and has been again produced to display the capacity these electro giants have for formulating anthems that grace conventional arena settings as aptly as they suit giant stadia.
Taking away from the fact that the majority of this track listing will have featured heavily on their previous live releases, a fact that was highlighted by many as a reason not to acquire, it possesses the quality of production and mix that makes the soundtrack to Live in Berlin an extremely polished album and dare I say it, with the chance of incurring the wrath of the Black Swarm, probably the best sounding live release since 1989s monumental 101.