Depeche Mode belong to that rarified club of rock and pop acts whose concerts are bound to disappoint their fans. The band’s history is too long, and its hits — whether one considers alternative radio and club favorites or just the more restrictive list of Billboard Hot 100 appearances — are too numerous to fit into a two-hour performance even with no other agenda. It’s a problem compounded by all the other agendas a given concert is meant to serve: promoting a new record, demonstrating the depth of a catalog, simply playing songs that the act enjoys playing and so on.
So Saturday’s concert at TD Garden was never going to be the complete Depeche Mode experience. But aside from songs such as “Shake the Disease,” “Policy of Truth” and “I Feel You,” it’s hard to say anything was missing. Opening all in dark shadow and blue light with the corrosive thump of “Going Backwards” and closing with singer Dave Gahan taking the electro-twang glad-handing of “Personal Jesus” to heart, the band covered all of the necessary beats.
It was a spirited performance of fundamentally gloomy material. The dark-tinged “World in My Eyes” was all bloops and electronic farts and whistles, and three keyboards provided a shuddering, pulsating backbone to “Everything Counts,” but Christian Eigner’s live drums made all the difference in the world, making the songs tactile and dynamic. Even less tuneful numbers — like the bass-forward churning of the midtempo downward spiral “Useless” — still tended to have movement and mood to carry them.
Gahan’s performance also provided energy, often in a way incongruous with the apparent vibe of the music. “Precious” offered more gloom, but he seemed pumped up about it. As the crowd sang the chorus to the chilly paean to isolation “Enjoy the Silence” back to him, the singer made enthusiastic raise-the-roof motions and then spun around, and he fired off T-shirt cannons during the ragingly, naively ambivalent “Never Let Me Down Again.” (Guitarist Martin Gore’s handful of vocals were more in line with the material, singing in a throaty, warbly Scott Walker baritone as if begging the voices to leave him alone in the lovely, soaring, and richly textured “Home.”)
But Gahan’s campiness never undercut the material, even when it seemed to be at odds with it. Perhaps that’s because Depeche Mode has long explored that very contrast. “It’s No Good” hit with a hard impact despite the song holding back and trying not to reveal too much. Like most of the group’s music, it was a song of alienation, writ large enough for an arena-size audience to sing along.
Opener EMA’s droning, occasionally wearying electronic-tinged grind combined low-key anguish with a defiant toughness in Erika M. Anderson’s vocals.
At TD Garden, SaturdayMarc Hirsh can be reached at email@example.com . Follow him on Twitter @spacecitymarc.