Playing Where Personal Jesus Walked

Dave Gahan, the lead singer of new wave band Depeche Mode, will celebrate his 47th birthday in Israel this Saturday. On May 10, the day after the festive occasion, he and the other members of the band will take the stage in Ramat Gan Stadium.

More than two years ago, a summer concert in Israel was canceled because of the Second Lebanon War. In contrast to the many other international performances that were called off that summer, the cancellation of Depeche Mode was not so quickly forgotten.

Petitions were signed, pressure exerted - and so on Sunday, the official launch of the band's "Tour of the Universe 2009" will take place here.

At the same time, the band's 14th studio album, "Sounds of the Universe," will be released.

"Sounds of the Universe" currently tops the sales charts in Germany, Mexico, Austria and Sweden and is in second place in Great Britain.

In the intense heat that baked Ramat Gan Stadium May 4, the giant square-kilometer stage looked a bit like a mirage. Apart from the stage, there are plans to erect screens spanning 57 meters, on which the performance will be broadcast under the direction of music video director Anton Corbijn, who also made the feature film "Control" about the life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis.

The concert will also be taped and the recording released by Mute, Depeche Mode's record label, under the name "Live in Ramat Gan." In order to turn the performance into a full musical event, three opening acts have also been added: Guy Mar (of Hadag Nachash) will D.J., the Israeli electronic band Terry Poison will perform, and the New York alternative rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs will play for a whole hour.

The show is a major international coup for Israel, but it is also the first time Live Nation, the company that produces the greatest number of live music performances in the world, including those of Madonna, Beyonce, Coldplay, Aerosmith, Katy Perry, No Doubt and more will work here.

In a music world where recordings come in second to money from live tours, Live Nation has a significant presence in the industry. A good relationship with Live Nation could put Israel on the map with regard to the big acts that tour Europe but tend to skip over Israel.

The producer of the Ramat Gan Depeche Mode show, Shuki Weiss, says that he expects more collaborations in the future with the outfit.

According to Depeche Mode fan club co-president Sarig, Weiss decided to bring Depeche Mode here because of the very organized presence of its Israeli fans, who, in addition to sponsoring parties and events, operate a sophisticated Web site.

Sarig claims that Andrew Fletcher, the band's keyboardist, calls the Israeli fan club the best run club in the world.

"It's all thanks to us," boasted Sarig, who, together with Avner Friedman, heads up the club in Israel. "For the last 16 years, the club's job has been to maintain the status of Depeche Mode as one of the great bands still around from the 80s. They're still a hot ticket today. We're always organizing events where people discover there are thousands of other fans like them, who enjoy parties where Depeche Mode is played from beginning to end."

The club is planning a pre-show party at its headquarters this Friday night, and an official bash at the Tel Aviv Port after the performance, to which the members of the band have been invited, since they are known to enjoy mixing with their local fans.

"It's still hard for me to imagine Depeche Mode in Israel, at Ramat Gan Stadium," gushed Sarig, who has attended more than 20 of the band's concerts. "But as soon as the first chords are played, I know that, as always, I will get goosebumps. It's an overpowering feeling, but I can take it.