Depeche Mode onstage at USANA. Photo: Lmsorenson.net

Some bands transcend the year or decade they dominate. They continue on in many other ways beyond only their albums. They mix into our culture, into our movies—we relate entire sections of our lives to their hits, forming and reliving memories with the songs. Depeche Mode are one such group, with a sound that is exciting, addicting and eerie, yet sexy. Depeche Mode have affected so many people’s experience of music and personally, I can attest that I cannot recall when I first heard this group. Was it 1989? 1990? 1995? My whole understanding of music as a child came directly from the movies I watched, the radio I listened to and my family’s CD collections. For me, Depeche Mode were there, available to me. Like so many other 1980s groups, Depeche Mode are heavily influenced by electronic and synth elements, with hard-hitting formations with a certain sway and energy to them. Depeche Mode have at times ranged in sound similar to David Bowie, Annie Lennox, INXS and The Cure and even Devo and Duran Duran. Even now, Depeche Mode have been noted to have spread their influence well beyond their origins for groups such as Muse, The Killers, Crystal Method and even Coldplay.

Effect and range arguments aside, I do not really believe there is a doubt in the world that this crew of synth, pop, new wave Brits has not had a lasting impact on not only the music world, but also people’s childhoods and high school experiences—and contemporary American culture as a whole.

Crowds of people showed up hours early to the USANA Amphitheatre for the Aug. 23 show, sporting design after design of DM T-shirts, some ranging back decades. Vintage and new merch were sported everywhere the eye could see, as fans old and new arrived. Energy and excitement came in full swing when the sun went down and the music swelled. Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and touring DM members made their way to the front amid the squeals and shouts. They began to play some music, and even dance a little, making the evening—or even the year—for their swath of followers.


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Downtown is pumping with the beats from Robert DeLong, concert goers of the Twilight Concert Series are packed in the Gallivan Center in downtown SLC with the nearby Walker Center in frame.

Twilight Concert Series has returnedto the Gallivan Center for another year of gathering Downtown for outdoor music and overall fun. This week’s musical guest is the American musician Robert DeLong, and he brings his high energy, electronic-infused, multi-instrumental experimental rock-pop style to Salt Lake City. Supporting DeLong for this summer concert, Utah-based group Mojave Nomads came along with DJ Erockalypze to help welcome in the crowds as they grab a beer and a spot on the grass as the sun heads down.

First up is DJ Erockalypze playing on the main stage to a growing crowd making their way in past the barricades to the grassy main amphitheater. Fusing a mix of popular hits as well as nostalgic oldie hits and using them together to create addictive dance-beats that put the crowd in a good mood.

Up next to the stage was five-piece local pop-rock band Mojave Nomads consisting of Tyler Harris for lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Colter Hill on lead guitar, Bryton Bell with the bass, Cole Eisenhour on percussion, Mason Hill covering synth/keys. By combining dance-rock and groovy electronic-vibes with stand out vocal work, Mojave Nomads establish their style and inspire the crowd to move their feet.

Headlining this whole shindig was, featured guest for the Twilight Concerts Series, Robert DeLong. DeLong could easily be described as an electronic musician, but that would sell short the overall experience within the production and music itself. DeLong also plays drums, keyboard, guitar, video game controllers and with lasers—Yes, lasers—all while providing vocals and manually manipulating all of the above for a live experience akin to a Bo Burnham–esque musical demonstration dialed to 11 that makes you want to dance yet stop just to watch the talent on stage. Crowd favorites such as “Favorite Color is Blue,” “Long Way Down” and “Jealousy” are all being absorbed by the crowd as they chanted along with the choruses, dance and watched Robert DeLong make his way anywhere and everywhere onstage, making this Thursday evening a great addition to the lineup of this summer concert series.

 

Mark Foster, lead singer for Foster the People. Photo: Lmsorenson.net

Lines at The Complex stretched hundreds of feet down the street and around the corner toward The Gateway. The electronic indie-pop group Foster the People had hundreds of eager fans standing in formation in the lasting summer sun to catch their live performance. Waves of teens, couples and friends mad their way through security wands and ticket lines into the main entrance, where they are greeted with a choice of grabbing a T-shirt, heading to the bar area or racing to the stage area to the front of house and getting the best views possible.

As each room begins to fill and most of the early crowd has settled in, guest musical group Palm Springsteen saunters onstage, greets the audience and begins to play. With tracks full of energy and reminiscent of 1980s electro-pop-infused punk, Palm Springsteen mix in a variety of drums, synth, keyboard and a healthy dose of reverberating vocals into a great, dance-y time for the crowd.

After Palm Springsteen’s set, the audience became restless during the wait and began to clap in unison. Shortly after, as though by magic, Foster the People began to take the stage. One by one, members grab their instruments, and through a thin layer of fog, they approached the front as the lights flickered and voices squealed from the sea of faces below.

Playing hits from their first album, Torches, and mixing in other tracks from their second Supermodel and newly released Sacred Hearts Club, any ear in the room could easily tell the changing influences from piece to piece, ranging from an arguably light, poppy, electronic tone to an almost industrial, more bass-infused and even hip-hop-inspired sound. As Mark Foster danced in the smoke as strobe lights fire, Mark Pontius hammered the addictive beats in the rear and Sean Cimino and Isom Innis took turns at sides of the stage, seamlessly providing supporting instrumental harmony. Every single face in the room was smiling, singing or screaming.


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Tony Esposito providing vocals for White Reaper, opening group for Spoon. Photo: Lmsorenson.net

Spoon have been at it a long time, releasing indie gems since 1996 up to their most recent undertaking, the slightly spaced-out Hot Thoughts, for which they are currently touring. Spoon stopped at Salt Lake’s The Depot with a young group of lovable punks, White Reaper. The two bands were an odd match, their sounds only similar in volume and energy, but that was all that really mattered. I wondered how the aging crowd—there were as many silver foxes in attendance as young bucks—would dig the rapid, nonstop onslaught of something between MxPx and Misfits. Turns out that the older portion of the crowd wasn’t all that rickety beneath their Local H and Built to Spill T-shirts—they fared just fine. White Reaper showed everyone a great time and played their accessible, hour-long set with vigor. Their pedal-to-the-metal aesthetic was a great primer for the main act.

Spoon took the stage around 9:30 p.m., opening with a song from the new album: “Do I Have to Talk You Into It.” It was a smooth beginning, quiet to start and culminating with something I was expecting. I’ve loved frontman Britt Daniel for years with his unique vocals and clever guitar plucking. He’s always been able to bring it live—he can wail, and crowds love him. He didn’t disappoint at The Depot, and nor did his bandmates. Jim Eno is no slouch, either: His drumming is every bit as impressive as Daniel’s charismatic persona.

There was a stretch of four crowd favorites in the middle of the set that really engaged the whole place. There were people cutting a rug in the furthest corners of the venue while Spoon played “I Turn My Camera On,” “The Beast and the Dragon, Adored,” “Don’t You Evah” and “Do You” without a hard break between the songs. Even the light show, which was fabulous throughout, pushed the vibe from one track to the next, hitting the crowd squarely in the chest and making no bones about doing it.

That group of songs got everyone revved up, which, I guess, was a perfect time for an intermission. For the next several minutes, the band, sans the guy with the keyboard and the drum machines, left the stage, and all we got was ambient noise with ambient lights. When the band returned, they started up again just like they did to begin the whole performance: slowly, quietly building back to a steady pace.

As I mentioned, Spoon aren’t a new band. They’ve done a lot of things over the past couple of decades. They have performed a lot of shows, and Daniel spoke of them. He talked about doing two in a row at the same venue, something he said the band likes to avoid, and apologized to fans for doing it out of necessity. He also mentioned a show from long ago at which he got into a tussle on stage. He couldn’t remember the venue, but the loyal listeners, hanging onto all of his words, quickly jogged his memory, yelling to him that it was at the Zephyr Club. I hadn’t thought about the Zephyr Club for years, and it helped to put into perspective just how long Spoon has been something worth following.

Before the encore, the show ended with the title track from the latest album, which was well done and fitting. But as the crowd cheered, Daniel came back out alone and blew me away with a solid rendition of “I Summon You,”  playing solo on his knees behind a fan that was making the whole thing that much more dramatic. It was great.

I think I can see why Spoon were touring with White Reaper. Their sound is different, but their origins are the same. Spoon have gotten older, and their production and preferences have changed, evolved. Their suits are pressed and tailored these days, but under the pleats and buttons, they are the same band I discovered who tore shit down and scuffled onstage. –Billy Swartzfager


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