When: Fri., Aug. 7, 11:15 a.m. 2009
Since forming in 1980 Depeche Mode have survived health and drug problems, the loss of two key members—lead songwriter Vince Clarke quit in ’81 to form Yazoo and then Erasure, and multi-instrumentalist Alan Wilder left in 1995—as well as a UK press that treated them like fluffy ’n’ flaky teen idols and a U.S. press that decided they were scary goths. But they’ve stayed popular enough for long enough to become an institution, and their albums are still reliably enjoyable. By contrasting polished, glossy pop with the dark drama of human ugliness, they generate a cool and distinctive tension, and the band’s recent affinity for IDM—specifically for rhythmic patterns that keep recurring in new permutations, like a theme and its variations in classical music—keeps the less inspired songs from blending into the wallpaper. Sounds of the Universe (Mute), released this April, takes a Kraftwerk-influenced turn that has some fans turning up their noses, but I’ll rassle anyone who says “Wrong” isn’t one of Depeche Mode’s best anthems for the lost. The music is lurching, obsessive, and urgent, and the lyrics are a desperate chant—I’m not sure what’s so cathartic about hearing Dave Gahan deliver lines like “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” but if there’s anything a pop star can do, it’s make failure sound thrilling. Gahan has missed several shows on this tour—he’s suffered a bout of gastroenteritis, had surgery for a tumor in his bladder, and torn a calf muscle—so by the law of regression to the mean he ought to be in fine shape here. —Ann Sterzinger
On her latest album as Zap Mama, ReCreation (Heads Up International), Marie Daulne both revisits her past—“Singing Sisters” features Sylvie Nawasadio and Sabine Kabongo, who were both part of Zap Mama when it was an a cappella quintet—and continues to add depth and richness to the cosmopolitan strain of R & B she’s settled into over the past decade. Though Zap Mama was originally inspired by the densely contrapuntal communal vocal music of Congolese Pygmies, these days Daulne applies her elastic voice to sultry balladry, French chanson, rafter-raising soul, and Bjork-like wordless abstraction; four tracks on the new disc were cut in Brazil with Alexandre Kassin and two of his steady collaborators in the +2 groups, Pedro Sa and Berna Ceppas, and others were recorded in New York with top-flight jazz and funk players like drummer Karriem Riggins and bassist Anthony Tidd. Guest vocalists include Bilal, G. Love, and French actor Vincent Cassel, and the lyrics are in several languages, but Daulne animates her songs with an aesthetic vision strong enough to help all this variety cohere into a surprisingly singular sound. —Peter Margasak These sets are part of Lollapalooza.
Price: $80 (three-day pass $250)