My guts constrict when I hear the words “tribute band.” Pair the phrase with any of my favorite groups and I feel an added mix of horror, indignation, and curiosity. So when I heard about Blasphemous Rumours, a “live tribute to Depeche Mode,” appearing at the German House this past Saturday, I had to see what it was all about.
The show started with three-piece opener Honey Pollution startling the backlit audience with tight first notes and a late 80’s-era Manchester beat. The cheerful bounce shifted to and from minor keys and wailing hard-rock guitar vibrato throughout the first song. The band continued such shifts, sometimes going a little space-jammy, sometimes a little Ben Foldsy, sometimes a little funky and bass-driven. The earnest 11-song set was at its best during the originals; sure, the crowd loves a Cure or Tears for Fears cover, but they weren’t nearly as interesting as Pollution’s own songs. I was shocked to learn that this was only the band’s second show.
Blasphemous Rumours did not make us wait. True to the live album “Depeche Mode 101,” the band opened with “Pimpf.” The drama of this electronic instrumental was a good choice, heightening the audience’s suspense and allowing us to get acclimated with the pleathered faux characterizations of DM members on either side of the stage.
So we were ready when “Behind the Wheel” began and a close reproduction of DM’s Dave Gahan (in the form of Andy Singer) came out in full schtick. I say schtick because it wasn’t until this concert that I realized that Gahan is a true showman with so many signature moves. The sassy strut, the hammy hip shakes, the head nods, the hand claps, the ass slaps, and the open-arm poses of surrender — not to mention that smooth, controlled baritone and intermittent “yeahs” — were all meticulously recreated before us.
So well crafted were these details that some of the feeling may have been lost during the slower “Stripped” and “Blasphemous Rumours,” where perhaps Singer didn’t allow himself to display his sincerity, disconnecting the crowd from the illusion. His lateral mic-stand twirls in the middle of “Blasphemous Rumours” made it all seem a little silly. I suppose it’s difficult to “get the balance right” between taking it too seriously and winking too hard, so the flaws were easily overlooked given the band’s earnest affection and obvious gratitude for DM.