Live Monsters is a full video recording of one of Dave Gahan's live performances during the Paper Monsters tour. It was filmed on July 5, 2003 at the Olympia in Paris, France, and premiered in select Regal Cinemas throughout the US and also released on DVD on March 1, 2004 by Mute Films. The band that performed that night consisted of Dave Gahan on lead vocals, Knox Chandler on guitar, Victor Indrizzo on drums, Vincent Jones on keyboards, and Martyn LeNoble on bass. They performed all 10 songs from Paper Monsters as well as some Depeche Mode songs.
As bonus content, the DVD also includes a short acoustic performance for radio promotion and a short documentary. For now, this page only contains a review of the Olympia performance.
Click on the links below to view the media in more detail.
The main event opens by the sounds of an audience cheering and the sound of a band warming up, and we are shown a large display on the outside wall of the Olympia Hall with the giant letters, "DAVE GAHAN" emblazoned on it. As each letter lights up in red, I just think, Awww, there's Dave's name in lights...he and his family and friends must be so proud of him! The letters jump out to the front of the screen alongside "Olympia 2003" before the scene fades into the concert hall, itself, thus starting the performance.
While being near the end of the tracklist on the studio album, here, this song opens the entire night and sets the mood for things to come. I can just imagine what it's like to be standing there in the dark concert hall, waiting, and then to hear those eerie-sounding synths cut into the darkness before witnessing and hearing the whole band spring into action. As the lights on the stage grow brighter, the band comes into clearer view and we soon see Dave's familiar, sinewy figure cavorting with his microphone "dance partner", looking very much like a rock god rather than a synthpop prince. It also must be somewhat jarring to a longtime Depeche Mode fan to see Dave and then not recognize much of anybody else on stage. This is very much a hard rock concert from the get-go...the song does have its synth sounds exactly like they are on the album, but the drums and guitar are considerably heavier. Speaking of guitars, can Knox play or what? He seems to have been plucked right out of the 1970s with that warm, crunchy sound and melodic ad-lib, and he goes all out during the non-vocal parts, much moreso than on the album. Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun with this setup- Dave included, as he already begins his stripping process by unbuttoning his vest halfway through the song. He is already very lively and active, and his voice sounds tuneful and strong, though he practically growls out some of the words, something he sort of picked up during the Exciter tour, it seems. And speaking of the Exciter tour, his outfit here is very similar to one of the outfits that he wore during that tour- a black and white pinstripe vest and black bootcut pants with a silk stripe on the outer sides (see below).
In total contrast to the previous hard rock number, things mellow out quite early in the night for song number 2. But this one is clearly loved by fans, so not much energy is lost. Dave relegates the singing of the first chorus to the audience, takes back command during the second, and then takes turns with the audience during the third. The audience does appear to know the words by heart, though, which is not a surprise as they are quite simple. Unlike on the album, Dave sings this with a full voice and volume, giving it less of a tender feel, but still sounding nice. During the bridge, Dave picks up his microphone stand and holds it close to him, spinning it slowly as if he were on a ballroom dance floor, and this makes the crowd go wild. Then, at the end of the song, the crowd goes wild again when he opens his vest a bit to fan himself off, revealing a sweaty but toned torso, and then completely sheds it, commenting, "It's getting hot in here!" Oh, Dave...it's too early to be giving fan service, but no one appears to be complaining! By the way, I believe that this was the very vest that was auctioned off in 2008 for 2,225 USD. You can read more about it in this article.
Dirty Sticky Floors
Before launching into his hit single, Dave shouts into the microphone, "Good evening, PAH-riiis!" just like he did in One Night in Paris. Then, we are treated to another hard rocker. If you haven't noticed by now, I am quite prone to referring to Live Monsters as One Night in Paris: The Sequel because there are so many similarities between the two films with respect to Dave's style and performance. I guess that's only natural, though, as the actual tours had taken place just a couple of years apart. One thing I notice about this particular song is that Dave relegates the singing of "on my dirty sticky floor" to the audience in every live performance that I've seen, and this one is no exception. He also tends to comically sing with an Elvis-like drawl and that is especially exaggerated here. Anyway, I do love when Knox lets loose on his guitar solos which he does here near the end while Dave goes bonkers on the side. Knox is a damn good guitarist and you can tell that Dave is having a damn good time performing with him and the rest of his touring band. It's like..."Depeche who?" Right?
A Question of Time
As if we've forgotten that Dave is part of Depeche Mode, we are kindly reminded by this next number. You can tell how much the audience gets perked up by this one as the whole room starts dancing, clapping, and singing along. There are no loss for words here when Dave extends the microphone out to them to sing the chorus- they sing it loud and clear. And I think I counted a total of three microphone spins from Dave- once at the very beginning of the song and the other two in their usual places between the first and second and second and third verses. His hair is already becoming disheveled from all of the wild movements and the audience is all here for it and so am I! The only sort of complaint that I have is that they need to crank up the bass on this one...I'm missing those heavy, pounding 8th-note undercurrents from the original. This also doesn't have the "battle call"-like keyboard sound at the very beginning, thus making it sound more like the single version. Vincent and Martyn do a fine job of singing Martin Gore's "it should be better" parts, though.
Man, what a roller coaster of tempos we have gone through in just the first few tracks! We slow things way down again for a lesser-known Paper Monsters track, but let me tell you, I absolutely love how this song is performed live. I actually love it more than the studio version, and I think part of that is because of the piano part. It sounds so warm and twinkly and makes me feel like I'm sitting in a swanky lounge sipping on a cocktail. Dave sounds great here, too, as he is using more of his soft, studio voice and not bellowing or screaming. Don't get me wrong, he can do a fine rock bellow/scream but I think his vocals sound so much prettier like this. It just highlights his dexterity and tone so much better. Anyway, while he does start out very mellow and subdued like the mood of the song calls for, he kind of comes close to losing it by the latter half of the song. And I don't mean coming close to sucking at all, but it's almost as if he's a wild animal in a cage straining to be free; there is some random shouting and I'm afraid he might bust out a Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop rock move and I almost want to squeal out, "No, Dave, keep it together; this is not a rock song! You're doing great; just keep it under control for a couple of more minutes..." Hmmm, I know it may seem like I like picking on Dave a lot during these concerts but it's only because I adore him to pieces- I promise.
Black and Blue Again
Now, we get down and dirty with this next song which everyone seems to throw themselves into- Dave included, with his growly-sounding voice again. But it fits the mood of the song, for sure. Martyn switches to a stand-up bass and that along with Knox's very subdued guitar licks and Dave's harmonica improvisation really gives it that smoky pub vibe. Finally, things really light on fire when Dave lets out a Steven Tyler-like banshee scream and the music culminates in a hot flash of sounds, just like it does on the studio track (minus Dave's scream). After that climax and things get quiet again after Dave sings the last chorus, we can clearly hear the audience reaction to it all, and it's overwhelmingly positive. There are whistles, rhythmic clapping, and whoops as Dave sings the final "I'm not very nice" lines. This song really does have that intimate and bluesy improv feel to it and this live performance is no exception.
Clearly still pumped up from the last song, the audience starts chanting in a spirited manner (and who can blame them?) until Dave chastises them firmly, but lovingly, saying, "That's great, but not right now. We're in the slow bit now, you know...it's gotta be quiiiet..." He almost whispers the last part, and then they launch into this slow and tender number. And everyone just sounds so fine here- Victor with his ballad drumming rhythm, Knox with the shiny, warm sustain on his guitar, Martyn gently coasting along the low notes on his stand-up bass, Vincent with the twinkling piano notes on his keyboard, and of course, Dave and his deep but tender vocals, as if he's singing just for the precious person whom this song is about- his daughter. He seems to contain his energy and excitement throughout this song just fine; so no, there's no random shouting or spontaneous dancing this time, which would've been not only humorous but also inappropriate. This is a very plain and simple performance, but one of his best.
A Little Piece
We stick with the "slow bit" for now with this next song, and Victor leads the audience with the hearbeat of the song, loudly beating out its rhythm on his drums. Also, the album version remained pretty mellow straight through, but this performance really seems to go through a variety of moods, beginning with the same mellow mood of the album version, but then waxing to an almost angry-sounding climax at least a couple of times and then pulling back. It finally rises to a triumphant-sounding conclusion when Dave starts littering words from "Lips Like Sugar" by Echo and the Bunnymen. (Instead of "sugar kisses," though, he sings, "sugar wishes"). It's a random, but kind of neat addition.
Walking in My Shoes
Now out of the slow bit, we have come to "a little Mode," as Dave puts it. After just four notes played on the piano, the crowd explodes into cheers, as these aren't just any four notes, but they are the notes to one of the most iconic Depeche Mode songs of all time. Of course, the audience gets some exclusive time on the mic here and there and they embrace it with fervor. Seeing this does make me wonder, though, if there was anybody out there that night (or anytime during this particular tour) who had never seen Depeche Mode live before and that this was their very first DM-related concert. I would love to hear from that person's perspective and what that was like for them. Anyway, about halfway through the song, we see Dave take possesion of a banner from the audience. He sets it aside until later during the instrumental part of the song, and then he picks it up and shows it off to everyone. It says, "HOLD ON DAVE WE NEED YOU!" in big, black letters. Heh.
I Need You
As if foreshadowed by the words on the banner, it is now time for "I Need You!" I challenge anyone to listen to this and not feel the urge to dance or at least move your body to it. Dave sure does, at least, and we get a couple of nice bum wiggles from him every now and then throughout the song. He also litters a lot of grunting, sighing, and shouting that it's...well, uncomfortably entertaining, to say the least, but that's typical Dave for you. Anyway, Knox's guitar has a really nice echo effect going, sounding much more prominent live than on the album, making it sound absolutely otherworldly and sublime. Towards the end, Dave engages the audience for a little call-and-response segment with the words, "I need you," sent and repeated back to him. It serves quite nicely as a metaphor for the symbiotic relationship that exists between performer and listener.
It's time to get down and dirty again with this next number which Dave leads us into with a little harmonica solo. He then shrieks and cavorts around with his mic stand again and my first reaction is, Wow, this is clearly the look of someone who is totally in their element and really getting off on this type of music and atmosphere. I also notice that Knox is using yet another new effect on his guitar as he has been playing around with so many different sounds over the course of this show. I have sort of hinted at it before but I will just say it plainly now: Knox Chandler is so underrated as a musician and deserves more attention! I would also probably say that this is the least-Depeche Mode-sounding song from the whole album (which I think says something about the way Dave seems to approach it like no other performance) but it actually provides a nice transition into the very next song, which does happen to be Depeche Mode!
Not wanting to lose any energy from the last song, Dave encourages the audience to keep dancing and clapping, as the tempo picks way up for this one. Then, we see him march around the stage, using his mic stand like a baton and we're reminded yet again that yes, this still is the lead singer from Depeche Mode. (But where's the two-tone intro?! We gotta have that!) Anyway, the energy of the crowd is just through the roof at this point. Also, I know that I just got done praising Knox and his skills on the guitar, but I must admit that for this particular song, I prefer Martin's gentler-sounding Western-like twang to the more distorted, hard rock treatment being applied here. Finally, I thought I'd mention that after reading Victor's take on this show, I find it hard to believe that there was allegedly less energy during this show than there was in this very same venue the night before. But I'll take him at his word!
I must preface this and say that this is my least favorite song on the album. So, if I sound extremely critical about the performance of this, then that's why. I just feel like any energy that was built up from the previous song gets lost on this one by the combination of the downbeat tempo and dare-I-say, very gloomy-sounding instrumentation during the choruses. But it is less sparse-sounding overall than on the album, and I actually do like how the guitars and synths sound during the verses as they are more upbeat there; it seems to be a combination of funky and surreal. Oh! And holy shit...when Dave did that slow and deliberate mouth wipe about halfway through, it made me nearly forget what I was here for! Anyway, I do actually dig the way Dave sings the words, "she said," angrily and energetically, and the whole band just comes alive towards the end of the song. Not a bad way to end (the main part of) a show, really. Dave introduces everyone in the band including himself and then they all depart from the stage.
I Feel You
Less than 30 seconds later (which could've been edited for all I know), the band return to the stage for the encore! They're all out of Paper Monsters songs, though (unless you count the B-sides), so this is now purely Depeche Mode from here on out. I believe they had actually played a total of five songs during the encore (with two of them actually being a medley), but only two are shown on the DVD. Anyway, Dave starts by thanking the audience, and then we hear that familiar record scratch/static noise before Knox kicks in with another familiar sound- the sleazy, swinging guitar riff of "I Feel You," and the audience goes nuts immediately. Some food for thought is that they could've skipped the encore altogether and that would've succinctly closed out a good night of mostly-Dave songs, as they didn't necessarily have to honor the crowd with pure Depeche Mode, but I, for one, am sure glad that they did! And this just hammers home the adage that while you can take Dave out of Depeche Mode, you can't take Depeche Mode out of Dave. Now, without further ado, let's get into the song, itself!
I have heard of Dave's Paper Monsters shows being described as "big and sweaty rock shows," and this performance really drives that image home. Dave sings with maximum gusto and energy, shrieks several times, beats his chest, does his badass yoga pose on the floor, and more. It's almost as if this song was written specifically for this ensemble on stage right now and not for a band with an electronic music heritage. I have a feeling that this is exactly what early-1990s Dave was yearning for and envisioning when he first came into the studio to start recording Songs of Faith and Devotion. And it took a hard few years and lessons learned to realize that pure gumption and hard work was all that it took to achieve this- not drugs or dragging oneself through the mud, as he once put it. Anyway, what a performance! Even Victor takes the reins this time to lead the audience in some call-and-response while he beats out the galloping rhythm on his drums. I daresay everyone here looked like they were having even more fun playing this song than Martin, Fletch, Alan, and company ever did.
Never Let Me Down Again
We are now at the last song on the DVD, and what better way to end things than with the iconic show closer, "Never Let Me Down Again?" We can actually hear the audience sing the words loud and clear throughout this one. When Dave leans his body up against Knox as he sings, "I hope he never lets me down again," I just think, Aww, Dave, how can you cheat on poor Martin like that? And then I have to remember that he's not here to please Martin or Fletch or anybody else except himself and the crowd. (Yes, I know it's a Martin-penned song...and Dave did give him due credit during other shows on this tour). Anyway, we get a cool strobing effect during the bridge before the very next part when Dave leads the crowd with the mandatory ritual of waving one's arms left and right. Just as he likes to do during many other concerts, he directs the camera crew to focus in on the audience and pan across them to show off the sheer obedience of the crowd in front of their master, waving their arms in unison like a field of cornstalks (Dave's metaphor, not mine!). The song comes to an end, and Dave thanks the audience, though not with his usual night closer, "See you next time, goodnight!" which is yet another hint that there was more to this show than shown on the DVD. And then the band make their way backstage as it fades out to the credits.