Soulsavers is perhaps an apt name for Rich Machin and Ian Glover, a couple of former school friends who happen to also be a production duo with a handful of critically acclaimed albums.
They do seem to have a habit of collaborating with troubled souls. Their second album, the snappily titled “It’s Not How Far You Fall, It’s The Way You Land” was co-written with Mark Lanegan, a man who had been in rehab for a heroin addiction before his eighteenth birthday. The album featured the barnstorming gospel-tinged classic “Revival” and a low-key cover of The Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations” and marked the duo out as ones to watch.
In 2009, third album “Broken” again featured Lanegan, and also guest slots from Richard Hawley, who has spoken of his past problems with drink, and Jason Pierce of Spiritualised, a man not unconnected with drug use, and whose heart stopped twice after a bout of double pneumonia in 2005.
I like to think in 2012 Soulsavers ran down their list of baritone singers they knew with former addiction issues, preferably ones whose hearts had stopped, and realised only Dave Gahan could fill the role. The result was their fourth album “The Light The Dead See”, a moody yet uplifting album, and they have followed that up this year with another album with Gahan called “Angels and Ghosts”. It’s a straightforward collaboration: Soulsavers write the music and Gahan the lyrics, and it’s a team up that works well.
Last night Soulsavers and Dave Gahan played Shepherds Bush Empire as part of a short tour to support the album.
The collaboration with Gahan came about through a mutual friend, former Janes Addiction bass player Martyn LeNoble, who plays in the Soulsavers touring band.
Machin and Glover got to know Gahan better when they and Lanegan supported Depeche Mode on tour in 2009, and the rest is history.
It takes a special kind of band to support Depeche Mode of course.
It isn’t just winning over a partisan crowd that is the issue. Neither is it the stress of watching Andy “Fletch” Fletcher every night wondering exactly what it is that he does (although that’s still a great question).
It’s because there was a time – albeit probably not the 2009 tour – when Depeche Mode were the most debauched, drug-addled band out there. There’s a story that back in the nineties, even Primal Scream couldn’t keep up with Depeche Mode’s excesses on tour.
It’s a strange one. Dave Gahan was hardly an obvious candidate for heroin fueled excess when he and his mates first burst out of Basildon and appeared on Top of the Pops.
Keyboard players, knob twiddling producers and remix duos are not traditionally thought of as the hard men of rock n roll.
When an expensive limousine is found bobbing around mysteriously in the Wyatt House Hotel pool on a Sunday morning, and the local constabulary is compiling a list of suspects, the first name on the list is seldom The Pet Shop Boys, or even the nerdy looking Swedish DJs that checked in the night before.
Yet Gahan is a man who is not unfamiliar with that lovely euphemism of “rock and roll excess”.
A third glass of sherry whilst cooking the Sunday Roast.
That sort of wild and crazy behaviour.
Wild, like leaping out into the crowd on the last night of a tour, falling twelve feet, breaking your ribs.
Crazy, like on May 28 1996, overdosing on a speedball of cocaine and heroin which caused Gahan’s heart to stop beating for two minutes. Think John Travolta reviving Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction – via jabs of adrenaline directly into the chest and you’ll get the picture of what Gahan went through that night.
But that was all a long time ago, and now Gahan is finding the time to do the Depeche Mode thing, and still have time for these collaborations.
Focusing mostly on a selection of songs from the two albums they have recorded together, and backed by a ten piece band, including three backing singers, the set was animated by Gahan’s Jagger-like moves honed in arenas and stadiums across the world, and his wholehearted delivery.
Musically, the mix of atmospheric gospel, spaghetti western and moody electronica suits the band and Gahan well.
During new song “My Sun”, Gahan sings “I’m a sinner, I’m a saint, I’m nothing without you” and then looks at the crowd, milking the reaction as the main set closes.
The encore featured two Dave Gahan solo songs, the best being “Dirty Sticky Floors” from Gahan’s 2003 “Paper Monsters” album, and a couple of Depeche Mode songs, “Condemnation” and “Walking In My Shoes”.
For a brief while the vast majority of Shepherds Bush Empire are singing along and we might have stumbled upon a Depeche Mode gig. The only thing missing was a bloke called Fletch, clapping his hands behind a keyboard.
Here’s the new single:
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