Depeche Mode Sunday 26 March Barrowlands, Glasgow
Stalking the stage, tattooed arms shiny with sweat and glitter, Dave Gahan struts like a peacock in a leather waistcoat, reminding his crowd why so many fans have become helplessly obsessed with his band from Basildon, Essex since they formed back in 1980. Depeche Mode returned to the Barrowlands for the first time since 1984, to close the BBC 6 Music Festival. Seeing a giant band play such a tiny room was a hot ticket in itself (with a 2000 capacity, it’s a tiddler compared to stadiums they’ll play on their world tour this year). But Gahan’s swagger – endlessly throwing his limbs into angular poses, dangling his bum into the front row and shaking it, stopping to preen his gelled hair in the reflection of the bass drum – took the audience to another level of raptures.
“You know you’re on telly?”, he asks midway through the set, with haughty, pretend disapproval, when the crowd won’t shut up from singing the chorus to Home, long after the band stop playing. They scream back even louder.
The set had four tracks from Spirit, the album they released just over a week ago, and crowd pleasers from further back – A Pain That I’m Used To was full of their signature BDSM and tortured romance themes; Walking in My Shoes nods to the church and its hangover of guilt, and The World in My Eyes was an invitation to let pleasure take over. By the final two songs – Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence, both from 1990 album, Violator – as Gahan lap danced his crowd like a snooty, sexy mix of John Waters and the salt bae meme, there was no choice but to submit, servants to these masters of synth pop.
Although Drake ends his show dancing round a massive, glowing orange orb in the middle of the crowd (like a kind of dancehall James & the Giant Peach), the Canadian rapper starts with the bare minimum of props – him alone on the vast Hydro stage, skipping and arm-waving through deep dry ice to Trophies and Started From The Bottom. Just him in a vest and tracksuit bottoms would probably have kept the crowd screaming his lyrics and waving their smartphones for over an hour, but he gives them plenty bangs and fireworks for their buck too. “You spent your hard-earned money tonight. This is not about me – this is a party about you!”, he shouts.
Drake is an affectionate entertainer, lovable and sometimes sweetly ridiculous. His relentless charm has him hitting on his audience with shout-outs to “my legendary babygirl in the front, rapping every word”, as well as “my medical staff” and “my security staff”. He’s not forgotten his roots, he tells us, singing John Legend covers in a restaurant, but also comfortably owns his position now as a pop super-power, a sensitive, emo-boy doing vocoder raps about weed, girl trouble and Hennessy.
Midway through, he drops two of his biggest and best hits, Hotline Bling and Hold On, We’re Going Home, accompanied by hundreds of balloons suspended from the ceiling, rolling in seductive sine waves and oscillating in synchronised dips and shapes, instantly triggering a sort of sexy moshpit, filled with swaying teenage fans. He blends rap, R&B and grime beats, with a cameo from South London MC Giggs, and twerking girls on podiums for a cover of his one-time on-off girlfriend Rihanna’s hit Work. Drizzy proves he’s a smooth operator, who can get his crowd very high with heart-on-sleeve, full of beans party vibes.