Documenting Dave Gahan's fabulous July 5, 2003, performance at the Olympia in Paris in support of his first solo album, Paper Monsters, Live Monsters sees the Depeche Mode icon solidly, energetically living up to his persona. Gahan's touring band includes his songwriting partner and guitarist, Knox Chandler, and album drummer Victor Indrizzo, and adds keyboardist Vincent Jones and Porno for Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble. From top to bottom, the players give ace performances, as Chandler's guitar seems to merge the Mode with the Cure, Indrizzo's tribal pounding adds sonic fury, Jones acts out classic synth styling, and LeNoble jazzes up the audience performing on both bass guitar and upright bass. Whether they're tackling sleazy blues, bombastic rock overtures, or the Mode's trademark electronic sweep, everything is firmly in its right place. Depeche Mode fans worried about the absence of Martin Gore will only miss the ace Depeche Mode songwriter for a matter of minutes, as Gahan handles delicate ballads, usually Gore's duty, with grace and in fine voice. And as necessary, LeNoble and Jones harmonize with each other in an attempt to fill Gore's role. Gahan and company offer up the entirety of Paper Monsters, showcasing its quite stunning range, and inject the proceedings with no less than five Depeche Mode classics: "A Question of Time," "Walking in My Shoes," "Personal Jesus," "I Feel You," and "Never Let Me Down Again." Between the roaring, arm-waiving crowd and Gahan's rock-star god poses, Live Monsters is the next best thing to being there live. Whether he's fusing rock and the blues on "Bottle Living," slamming home a rollicking rendition of "Dirty Sticky Floors," or slowing down the pace and exhibiting some of his most fragile vocals ever on "Bitter Apple" and "Stay," he comes out of Live Monsters triumphantly victorious. The 2004 DVD edition adds three wonderful acoustic performances that highlight the strength and maturity of Gahan's first solo embarkation. It also adds a revealing short film consisting primarily of interviews, where Gahan and his bandmates detail the genesis of the album and tour, and a humble Gahan candidly addresses past demons and his hopes as a solo artist. Live Monsters is an essential experience for all Gahan and Depeche Mode fans.
AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina