Depeche Mode tribute wins skeptics

SBrent Meyer of trangelove has graced Depeche Mode since 2006. But eventually he found his “dream team” with singer Leo Luganskiy, acoustic/electronic drummer Chris Olivas and keyboards/percussionists Julian Shah-Tayler and James Evans.

“We rotated the members until we landed our dream team of Avengers superheroes,” says Meyer, the “Martin Gore,” musical director and multi-instrumentalist. When asked, he is “clearly” the Thanos of the group.

Depeche Mode has been in the band members’ blood for quite some time, thanks to the strength of the material.

“Depeche Mode has it all – fun, danceable beats, emotional maturity and depth, especially as they evolved from the early 90s,” says Meyer. “They expanded their sound. He challenges us and keeps us connected to him in an honest way. We connect with those who felt like when we were young Depeche Mode fans.

Strangelove is on tour with 80s stars Flock of Seagulls, and the ride arrives at The Van Buren on Friday, March 24. Touring with an original band gives Strangelove credibility, even though Shah-Tayler released a highly acclaimed album, “Elysium”, recently, and Olivas is a former Berlin MP.

“I think one of the appeals of our tour was being able to play for exactly the right audience that didn’t know we existed because we operated in the tribute paradigm,” Meyer said.

“People in their 40s and 50s who love new wave are the target demographic, and Depeche Mode may be one of their favorite bands.”

Shah-Tayler adds that a tour with Flock of Seagulls keeps Strangelove fresh.

“We’re used to the headliners,” says Shah-Tayler, from Leeds, England. “On this tour, we’re with the people who made the music. It keeps us humble and shows us different aspects of the tour. We haven’t been headlining the whole time I’ve been in the group. It’s humbling and wonderful too.

Songs from across the Depeche canon are recreated from the band’s early days, “Speak and Spell,” through 2017’s “Spirit.” Stage sets and costume changes in the show are reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s different eras .

In the Valley, Strangelove headlined and sold out the Chandler Center for the Arts and several shows at the Marquee Theater and Van Buren.

“It’s nice to be back in some of these same places, but in a different context,” Shah-Tayler says.

Although Strangelove is a hit, Shah-Tayler admits there is sometimes a bit of pushback among music fans because it’s a tribute act.

“We had very, very, very excellent reactions,” he adds. “They’re very kind to us, especially Mike (Score, lead singer of Flock of Seagulls) and his wife.

“Depeche Mode fans are incredibly passionate about Depeche Mode, and they have made us feel very welcome. We call them #depechefamily. We love them. We know we have people we get along with. We organize meetings after each show. We meet such wonderful people and certainly Arizona has some raucous Depeche fans and I love that.

The “David Gahan” of the group is Luganskiy, who was born in post-Soviet Russia and has lived in Brooklyn since he was a teenager. He embodies Gahan on stage, from the Essex accent to the dance moves and hand gestures. He says Depeche Mode songs are tricky.

“Ironically, the hardest songs to learn are the ones I like best,” says Luganskiy. “There are unexpected complexities. For example, “In Your Room” has a lot of unconventional vocals and you don’t want to do it robotically. I keep relieving this intense emotion all the time.

“I call them so-called fun obstacles, even though they’re my toughest stuff.”

Depeche Mode releases a new album, “Memento Mori”, on March 24. Meyer calls it the perfect time for the Strangelove tour.

“It only helps us when people ask us to do shows,” says Meyer. “During this tour, Depeche Mode will only play in eight cities in North America. It’s a pretty sparse tour. They should come back later in the year and fill in some gaps. This is where we come in. They don’t play in Miami, but we do.

Shah-Tayler adds, “It really helps that Martin talks about us in a positive light. We play the songs that Depeche Mode don’t normally play live.

Flock of seagulls with Strangelove

WHEN: 8 p.m. on Friday March 24

OR: The Van Buren, 401 W. Van Buren Street, Phoenix

COST: Tickets start at $27.50



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