Making what was once joyless and hurt seem somewhat joyful is Depeche Mode's game - at least in its present-day live performances.
Since the synthesizer-based act's 1980 start in Basildon, England, its core of baritone vocalist David Gahan, primary songwriter/instrumentalist Martin Gore, and Andrew Fletcher has seemed a dour lot across its dozen studio albums.
Blame Gore's melancholic melodies, rich Euro-mantic choruses, and ruminating lyrics - a job Gahan has also taken on of late. The pair's vocal largesse - Gahan's rough-around-the-edges croon backed with Gore's angelic highs - gives the Mode an even greater helping of forlorn devotion.
Yet while those same dusky elements were on ample display Saturday at the Mode's sold-out show at the Borgata in Atlantic City, they've made the dark anthems into something of a potent epiphany, with the help of a live drummer.
Even the hardest hosannas came across as weirdly chipper. The lambs to the slaughter portrayed in the lustrous "Fly on the Windscreen," the gods witnessing broken souls throughout the curvaceous electronic roll of "Precious" - their lively panicked execution makes even the darkest moments bright.
Certainly Gahan's twirling, prancing, and sashaying like Liza Minnelli on a good day aided and abetted the band's staged sense of joy. Then there was the vocal teamwork of Gahan and Gore.
While the Mode's older tracks - the stammer of "Never Let Me Down Again" and the stripper-pole electro of "I Feel You" - found Gore singing high and outside with Gahan doing his pernicious baritone best down the middle, their newer songs varied from that formula.
Slower cuts, such as the gurgling "In Chains" and the stomping "Wrong," plus the speedier "Set Me Free," (with a particular snaky Bo Diddley rhythm), benefited from Gore and Gahan weaving their vocals into one another, with Gore surprisingly lowering his voice to mimic Gahan's musky growl.