Mute Records, 1989
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/01/2004
Rock bands are supposed to be good live acts. As a matter of fact, the quality of a rock outfit is, to a great degree, determined by how good they sound live. Of course, rock music is always considered 'energy' music, and if the band is able to show the same amount or even more energy in their live performance than their studio performance, they can be said to be true rockers. For a rock band, live performances are very important.
It is a known fact that disco bands are never good live acts. Considering the amount of 'production' their sounds go through, it is very difficult to reproduce the same sound live. Even if the techno bands manage to re-create their studio music live, they are hardly as energetic as rock bands, or they hardly manage to create the same magic as their studio music.
Depeche Mode is a hard-core techno band. In fact, it is one of the only techno bands left, which has survived long enough to see the best and the worst periods of techno music. Also, Depeche Mode is one of the only techno bands that consists of talented musicians and songwriters, instead of being merely a product of -- or rather puppets of -- European record producers. With every album of theirs, they have been proving this fact again and again. 101 is one such Depeche Mode album that proves their superior musicianship, but with this album, the band also shows what an extraordinary live act it is, and that their talent is not just confined to studio albums.
This album, a two-cd set, is a compilation album of Depeche Mode songs of the pre- Violator days, played live -- a "greatest hits live" set. Showing off what a genius of a band Depeche Mode is, 101 has all the energy and zest of a mainstream rock act playing live music. The music is absolutely brilliant. Unlike a live show by a disco band, which seems as if some pre-recorded music is being played, this one does seem to have music played live, so that the songs themselves have been tweaked a bit from their original versions. The music is basic, hence has a natural feel to it.
More than the music, it is lead singer Dave Gahan's vocals, which are the focal point of this album, that infuse life into the songs, more than the music being played at the back. From the sound of Dave's seductive vocals, one can easily visualize oneself as a part of the crowd, focused entirely on Dave, mesmerized by his charismatic personality and his bewitching style of singing. A good live act relies on quality vocals to create a memorable performance, and Dave Gahan's vocals prove just this fact. He is one of the best vocalists in music today.
Depeche Mode is one of the finest live acts of the present time, and 101 is a proof of this fact for those who have never seen the band play live music.