Thursday, 7 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, SCHLEYERHALLE, STUTTGART, 28 NOVEMBER 2017

This review has been written by Thomas Ostermann, a chap who has seen more Depeche gigs on this tour alone that I have in my entire life. Thomas takes us on a trip through his Depeche Mode life from his early days as a bootleg collector up to the Schleyerhalle gig on 28 November. He's been to more gigs since then of course including Paris on 3 December when I happily had the chance to say hello to him. Thanks for this Thomas and thanks for the superb pictures too.




Depeche Mode live Stuttgart: from "A Break In Stuttgart" to the Global Spirit Tour

Let me introduce to myself: my name is Thomas Ostermann. I live in Germany near Frankfurt and I am hopelessly devoted to Depeche Mode. My first contact with Depeche Mode was in 1983 by a tape which my older brother copied to me. I was impressed by a song and years later I realized that it was my all time favorite Everything Counts. In 1987 I got my first record of Depeche Mode at Christmas: it was the blue vinyl of the Intercord Release of Music for the Masses. My first concert of Depeche Mode was during the World Violation Tour in 1990. I visited the show in Hannover (9th October 1990). It was a sunny Tuesday in October and I will never forget this day.

The beginning of the end:

After my first show I was so overcome I couldn’t remember what had happened. Which songs had they played? What was the order of the songs? And how amazing was the version of Everything Counts? In those days there was no internet, no Facebook or YouTube where you could watch recordings of those shows. I loved the versions of all the songs, but there was no chance to listen to them again. But in 1991 the unbelievable happened: a German record company called “Disc-Center” sold an double CD with a recording of the tour. The album Une nuit a la mode was a recording of the World Violation show the band played in November 1990 in Milan. The quality was not the best as it was an audience recording, but for me it was the beginning of a never ending love. In 1992 I started to collect recordings of every show Depeche Mode played in the past and I ended up with nearly 500 tapes from different shows in different qualities. Every year I tried to listen to one of those tapes on exactly the day when the show happened. I think I would have been a great nominee for the German TV-Show “Wetten dass?!?”. I could listen to 5 seconds of a tape and tell everyone, which tour, which date and which city it was from.

Thomas' wall of tapes

But the most import question is: what has this all to do with a review of the show in Stuttgart last week? Back in my tape collecting days, I received a recording of the World Violation show (15th October 1990). The highlight of the recording was a power cut during Shake The Disease. The complete PA was down and Dave sung the song acapella with the audience. Later the show was released on a bootleg CD called A Break In Stuttgart. Both items (Tape/DAT and CD) are still in my collection and while writing these lines I feel the to listen to it again.

Stuttgart in the 80s and 90s was the German home of Depeche Mode because their record company Intercord was located there. For me and my friends it was our duty to get to this arena and city on the all tours. During the Devotional Tour, I visited the Schleyerhalle in Stuttgart for the first time. It was an amazing show and I will never forget the moment when Dave pulled a fan out of the audience with words “I see this guy every night”. Does anyone knows the guy?



The past tours:

On the following tours The Singles Tour (23 September 1998), Exciter Tour (03 October 2001), Playing The Angel (9 March 2006) and Tour Of The Universe (8 November 2009) I always went to Stuttgart to see Depeche Mode in the Schleyerhalle. On the Delta Machine Tour, Depeche Mode played for the first time in the Stadium “Mercedes Benz Arena” and had no show in the Schleyerhalle. 



The Schleyerhalle in 2017: 

The show in Stuttgart was my 37th show of the Global Spirit Tour. I arrived at the arena at 7 pm and met some friends. When we entered the arena we tried to reach the Front Of Stage Area. The support act had already finished their show and the DJ set was still running. But there was no entry. The staff told us that they had no wrist bands left and so we couldn't get into the Front Of Stage area. The organization was unbelievable: about 100 people had tickets and got no entry? After a while they got a few wristbands and we could finally enter the area. Unfortunately the Front Of Stage section was too full. Ticketmaster sold some spare tickets a few days before the show. Perhaps not just to make not only a lot of money but to make tons of money instead?



The show started a few minutes later with the first intro of the The Beatles Revolution and then the Cover Me intro joining Going Backwards. It's No Good was very powerful and Dave welcomed the crowd with an emotional “Good evening, Stuttgart”. The rest of the show was the standard setlist of the winter tour. Unfortunately the band played Halo only during the Dublin show.

The sound was very powerful and clear, but the crowd was in my opinion very boring. I finally saw movements in the Front of Stage section during Everything Counts. I heard some other opinions to the show, but I think it is often a personal point of view.

Finally I was happy to visit this show. In the end it was a solid performance of the band, but not my personal highlight of the current tour.




Setlist:
Into
Going backwards
It’s no good
Barrel of a gun
A pain that I am used to
Useless
Precious
World in my eyes
Cover me
Insight
Home
In your room
Where’s the revolution?
Everything counts
Stripped
Enjoy the silence
Never let me down again

Encore:
Strangelove
Walking in my shoes
A question of time
Personal jesus---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Thomas!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, SAP CENTER, SAN JOSE, 8 OCTOBER 2017

This one is a bit out of sync but that does not matter one jot. Today's reviewer is Mr Breathing In Fumes also known as Glen Hammarstrom. You all know Glen, either from the unmissable Breathing In Fumes, or his work on Home, or his vinyl obsession or his regular online radio show Disappear where he broadcasts deep house from deep in Modesto. You might also actually know in which case you will simply know him as Glen. In the odd world of the internet, Glen is one of those people who has become a friend even though we've never had the opportunity for him to pretend he can understand my accent face to face. I'm delighted he's written a review for the project and here it is. There's also no need to apologise for anything Mr H. All words Glen's, all pictures from Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

First thing, I can't believe I have taken this long to get this to to David. I am embarrassed and very sorry and publicly apologize to David for turning in my review so late. He is always so generous and supportive of my projects that I am thoroughly annoyed with myself that I have let him down like this. It's no reflection of him, my view of the blog, or anything other then life/work getting in the way. "Weeks turn into months, Months turn into years..." 

While I do write for Home, the last thing I am is any kind of writer. Most of the time I feel like I am just stumbling trying to find the words to present things there in a some what interesting way. It's often a struggle and a confidence trying experience most of the time, so much so that I have to start this review expressing my self awareness of my limitations. That being said, I hope you'll hang in there with me as I share my thoughts on Depeche Mode's stop at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA on October 8th.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Writing a review is tricky, it's just my personal perspective of the night and anyone in the arena could have had a completely different experience then mine. That being said, here's my view of the night. Now, I want to start my review with a story of pure Devotee kindness. Originally I wasn't even planning on seeing the band that night. I had really good seats for the next show in Oakland and decided no to get tickets for San Jose. The morning of the show I realized I had to go and jumped online and got a ticket. I have never missed any of the bands Northern California gigs since the Violation Tour and even if my seats were awful, I would be there. I bought a cheap nose bleed seat and headed out to the show. I was sitting up there watching Warpaint, whom I love, and I text my friend Hector a quick "hello from the nose bleed seats". He text me back asking if I was alone, I was, and he text me back offering me ticket right down closer to the stage! Someone didn't show and he happily upgraded my seat for the evening. How generous is that? A big thank you Hector and you made the experience of the evening and the Global Spirit Tour just that much better.

Now there's no such thing as a bad Depeche Mode show. There just isn't. But.... (there's always a 'but') like the last few tours, the experience was one of conflict. Not in a bad way, but in a form of evolution and me struggling with my own preferences. I get it, the band has evolved through the years, especially live, and they want to present the songs in a way they see best serves the song live. Fine, but if I am being honest... there were moments in the show where I was having mixed feelings. I had seen the set list and a few clips and spoilers online, the norm these days, but I didn't sit and watch endless clips on YouTube just so I could experience it for myself.



(above - Breathing In Fumes 005 : A Spirit Tribute DJ Mix by Glen Hammarstrom)

I'm not one to sit and focus on the negative, I'm just not. I do, however, want to point out two negative themes that bothered me through out the show and those were Dave and Christian. That was not an easy sentence to write mind you, but I want to be honest. Dave is single handily the greatest front man of his generation. That's not even up for debate. And while I understand and admire he can engage the entire audience in those giant stadiums, he could tone it down a bit in the smaller arenas. At times, he came off as a little campy and trying too hard to be some "character" and it took me out of the moment more times then I care to admit. Not the entire show, but it was a bit much at times and he really doesn't need to do it. It's never been something I have noticed before, so it really stood out to me this tour. It bothered me more then his "yelling" singing style on the Exciter tour to be honest. 

I had more of an issue with Christian's drumming then anything. He just went a little to heavy on the drum fills and kind of ruined a few songs for me. I'm not anti live drums by any means, but he needs to dial it back... especially during Enjoy The Silence. I don't think the live drums work on some of the older songs and, to be honest, it kind of ruined Everything Counts for me a little bit. That amazing intro is one of the best things in years, literally, then when the drums kick in.. it was really anemic and would have been better suited with a programmed drum to really give it the right kick at the moment. Stephen Morris steps away from the drums on the songs that don't work well with live drums, why can't they? And I know, I watched all the Kerry Hopwood interviews and know they put the filters on the drums to make them sound more electronic. It wasn't that, it was like it just didn't fit right. Over all the drums were fine, but it was just more then it needed to be or not enough at times. That being said the drums add so much to other songs that I can't imagine them being performed without them. I don't normally notice the live drums bothering me at the show, it tends to be something that I notice later when I listen to the live albums or the Live Here Now releases. Which is the point, it's more about experiencing it live at the show then anything. Like with Dave... I just noticed it bothering me a the show for the first time rather then later if that makes any sense. Again, that's just me dealing with my inner conflict of their live evolution and my expectations. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
The only other downer were the people in my section. I know we're getting older, but seeing the fans sitting in my section for a majority of the set was kind of a let down. I even had someone behind me ask me to sit down as I was in their way! Which I didn't of course, but being asked was both silly and annoying. The section didn't really get moving until Everything Counts. San Jose is always a lively crowd, so that really caught me off guard. Once they got into it, the energy was amazing. I thought the over all pacing of the show was great and I was very pleased with the set list, visuals, and stage set up. Highlights were Corrupt and "Heroes" by a long shot for me with World In My Eyes, Going Backwards, and In Your Room being right up there. Not gonna lie, I got a little bored with the set list anchor songs like Walking In My Shoes, Personal Jesus, and  I Feel You, but they're so epic that by the end you kind of forget that you were eyeing the beer stands when they start. I feel like my review of the show is so negative. It's really not, the show was fantastic! I just wanted to share some elements of it that I was struggling with. Those same things were bothering me the next night in Oakland as well, but at least my section was into the show the entire time there. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

My last thought I want to share is one thing that really stood out to me and, again, another thing I just consciously started to notice recently was Andy. This really kind of stood out to me as I stood there watching in San Jose. As the live set up changes over the decades, I love that Andy is always that one constant element that's so deeply rooted into their DNA by being up there behind the keyboards the whole show. It reminds me of the past, but it's also a common thread that connects them to who they are today and how they used to perform their music live. They've added a drummer, Martin is on the guitar more then ever, Peter of course, but seeing Andy up there from the live band's original line up bringing that Kraftwerk element to them really is something I embrace and appreciate. 

Like any DM show, it's always nice to bump into fellow fans you have known through the years. Some longer then others, but always great to see so many familiar faces there.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Glen.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, FESTHALLE, FRANKFURT 24 NOVEMBER 2017

Today's review comes courtesy of Nadine Desiree from Wurzburg in Germany. After a mixed experience at the June Frankfurt show, Nadine got her second chance to see the Global Spirit Tour and thankfully loved it. Thanks for this great review Nadine and thank you very much for the pictures too. 



Writing this two days after the show in Frankfurt, I’m still surfing on a wave of happiness. It was my second show on the Global Spirit Tour and also my second Depeche Mode concert in total. I hadn’t been able to enjoy my first Depeche Mode concert the way it should be. Due to the inexorable heat at the day of their Frankfurt gig in June and some unpleasant and annoying incidents on my way to Frankfurt I had been exhausted before the show even started and couldn’t get into the right mood. So I was really excited about my second chance to see my favourite band live. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was how I’ve always imagined a Depeche Mode show to be like!

One of the reasons I favour indoor concerts over the great open air stadium shows is that the atmosphere is more intense. Band and fans come closer together. Right before the show started there was an electricity in the air like an upcoming thunderstorm foreshadowing perfectly what was about to come. Band and crowd were in best mood and it only took a few notes of Going Backwards to have everyone on the stands up on their feet.



The whole setlist got the balance right between the powerful and barnstorming songs and the more silent and emotional moments. The first part of the show contained some of their more recent songs. Going Backwards did a great job as an opener. Despite its dark lyrics that perfectly sum up the problems of our time, its steady beat built up enough energy to throw everyone off their seats immediately. However the second half of the show was dedicated to the old classics. Songs like Never Let Me Down Again, Walking In My Shoes and Personal Jesus made for a brilliant finale. To my delight Precious and A Question Of Time also made it back on the setlist. Although the whole show was a highlight in itself, my personal highlights were Martin’s very emotional acoustic version of Insight and of course hearing them play my favourite song Enjoy The Silence. It only needed one synthesizer sound to make everyone go crazy. 



One other really remarkable thing about that concert was the atmosphere and connection between the fans. At concerts it’s never hard to meet new people. But among those many Depeche Mode fans there was a special feeling like being part of a big family. I went to the show alone, but I didn’t stay alone for more than ten minutes. We still had some hours to wait until the show started, but thanks to those amazing people around me the time flew by quickly. Having seen several other bands before I can say that was a treasured experience unique to Depeche Mode.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks Nadine!

Monday, 4 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, ACCORHOTELS ARENA, PARIS 3 DECEMBER 2017

This review is by me. So are the photos. 




The most common question I have been asked by friends and colleagues since March this year (the Barrowlands gig) is "why do you go and see them so many times?" Tonight was my 5th gig of the tour, not counting the Barras show as that was technically a warm up and not on the tour itinerary. Ok, it's on the back of the blog t-shirts, but we're now splitting hairs. My point is that I am someone who in the context of the normally sane music fan sees a specific band far too much. I consider what I do to be perfectly normal, and indeed I find myself jealous of the likes of Claudia and Thomas, reviewers for this blog past (here's Claudia on Manchester) and present (Thomas on Stuttgart to come soon), both of whom I was delighted to meet tonight and both of whom have seen Depeche Mode over 30 times on this tour alone! 

Depeche Mode do this you see. They draw you in, grab you and never let you go. They rarely alter the set, yet many people go to multiple shows on every tour and there has to be a reason for that. Let's not get bogged down in arguing about the lack of variation in setlists - that has been a DM thing since God knows when. Ok, Black Celebration was an astounding, era defining record, but have a peek at the setlist on that tour. Try and find a Cure like variation of tunes. It doesn't happen. World Violation? A tour viewed as THE Depeche Mode tour universally. EVERY gig was the same bar Martin's acoustic rotation. Why we should expect the band to be playing setlist A one night, then a mix of b-sides including the Pre -Deportation Mix of Flexible the next night I don't know.

So what is the reason people like me, Claudia, Thomas and many, many more people see Depeche Mode multiple times on each tour? It's highly likely that as a reader of this blog you know why. You buy the records, get the t-shirts, buy the Golden Circle tickets - you know what you like and you know that you will get what you like when you see the gigs. What keeps us going is the power and beauty of the music. There's something unique about Depeche Mode, a thing that has outlasted their peers. The Smiths had the poetry of Morissey and the genius of Marr, New Order the chemistry of their main players constantly at odds with themselves, but both bands burned brightly and either faded out relatively poetically or did what New Order did and became a messy shadow of themselves. Depeche have a mystery about them, a mystery borne of 7 albums (excluding compilations and live albums) in 9 years, 7 albums that defined electronic music and were released so close to each other that we never had the time to ask why or what each one meant. They delivered a catalogue most bands would kill for in that spell, and that first part of their discography is their bedrock, the tie that binds us all to them.

"Yeah fine you massive dullard, we're reading this seemingly endless run of reviews so that we can read about the current tour. What about that?"

You make a good point.



I'd wanted to see Depeche in Paris ever since I bought my first bootleg from Rage Mail Order, a double cassette of the first World Violation gig at Bercy. It's always talked of as being a home from home for Depeche Mode and a venue that has a special atmosphere whenever they play there. And here's the thing - that is absolutely right.

From the off tonight, the crowd were on fire. The support act Re-Tros were wonderfully received and rightly so. Their mix of Neu meets LCD Soundsystem was a joy and I'd recommend them to you all. Do check them out on this tour. The usual advert for DM's charity work followed Re-Tros and that was greeted with the sort of cheer usually reserved for last minute winners in a cup final. At that point it was clear that this was going to be a special gig.



I was at the gig with my wife Pam tonight. She likes Depeche Mode but not in the way I do which is perfectly understandable. I wanted to stand near the back of the floor tonight which she was fine with as it meant we could avoid the high percentage of oddly tall Depeche fans one finds at shows. She thought tonight was the best she had seen Depeche play and that says it all for me. People who have seen them multiple times on this tour have said the band are on the form of their lives and I agree. When we hear casual fans say the same however, it's worth paying attention. Depeche Mode are playing in a way they've not played for years and that really is worth celebrating.

I won't run through the gig song by song as there's nothing I can tell you that you probably won't already know. Going Backwards remains their best opener since Higher Love, So Much Love is much missed but It's No Good has found its natural home at number 2 on the set and Cover Me is a late period classic that deserves to be considered as one of the band's finest. Dave is on sensational form, gurning, preening, chicken dancing and twirling as if he was 20 years' younger; a man who surely MUST be considered one the Britain's, if not the world's finest frontmen. Martin still looks anxious despite the love the Parisian crowd bombards him with as he skips around waving his arms in that unique shooing away a wasp whilst hopping way only Gore can do. And Fletch remains Fletch - which is just what you want, arms raising and waving in that Fletch way, almost regal, safe in the knowledge that he is a member of Depeche Mode and you and I are not. 



Tonight, the Bercy crowd demanded the best from Depeche Mode and that is what they got. I struggle to recall a more powerful Never Let Me Down Again and I know I've never seen a livelier  A Question Of Time. Dave stuck his tongue out at Fletch at the end of a stunning It's No Good and Andy himself grooved like a madman during Barrel Of A Gun. The terrace like chant at the end of Enjoy The Silence  as the crowd sang the sampled vocal line of Martin's from the original back at the band was stunning and they were just the highlights I recall as I type this now, There was no lull tonight, no "this is the toilet/bar break song," no let up in the power and intensity of the set. I saw people much older than I am (and I'm old) having a whale of a time and I saw kids no more than 5 years old on their parents' shoulders, bouncing along to Enjoy The Silence. This was a special, special gig and I feel honoured to have been there.

How do you do it Depeche Mode? How do you make people like me, Claudia, Thomas and even Pam, this was her 5th DM gig after all, come back again for more and more?

"Why do you go and see them so many times?"

Because they are Depeche Mode.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, SAP ARENA, MANNHEIM, 30 NOVEMBER 2017

Back in June, long time friend of this blog Niggels Uhlenbruch wrote a special review of both nights in Hannover (click) which is one of my favourite reviews of this project. Niggels has helped fill some gaps for me too by seeking reviewers on depechemode.de  home of the hardcore German fanbase, so I was really pleased when he said he'd write another review and here it is. As you'd expect it's a great read and marks this blog's first mention of Wolverhampton. Thanks very much Niggels and, you've guessed it, thanks very much too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group for all pictures.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group


I'm taking a ride - in Mannheim!
Depeche Mode - Global Spirit in Mannheim, Germany - November 30th, 2017

There's something special about Mannheim when it comes to Depeche Mode shows. Which is surprising, as Mannheim isn't exactly Berlin or London. Rather like Wolverhampton, Bradford or Luton. You really wonder why Mannheim, out of all places? But in 2001 DM played the final show of the Exciter tour here, and ole Martin did World Full of Nothing for the first time since 1990 as an extra encore song - extra as in "one more song", not just replacing another one! Mannheim 2001 was in general a marvelous gig with a brilliant, die-hard crowd. The Touring The Angel stop here was great too, and in 2009 Mannheim was the place where World In My Eyes and Sister Of Night made their tour debuts and the rare Dressed In Black came on top of that. Pretty exciting stuff! At least for nerdy, trainspotting DM maniacs like me - and you! Since you're reading this blog you must also suffer from at least a mild form of Depeche Mode mania, right? So just admit it! ;-)

So what would be the specials or little surprises we would get in Mannheim this tour? A significant set list change? Even another rare cut making its tour debut? Dave doing a brand new chicken dance move? Gordeno eventually getting rid of the mad cat which apparently walks over his keyboard during the middle part of  Enjoy The Silence? Or Fletch tripping over a cable because he didn't get the balance right?

Soon we would know but first were a few pre-show beers with some friends, and then some more beers with more friends. A pretty cool thing about the SAP Arena in Mannheim is that it has a restaurant inside the same building, which even has a separate doorway directly to the arena. No queuing in the cold and in the rain, and although the restaurant has a bit the vibe of a staff canteen, it is still a great place to meet friends and have a few drinks. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
When the doors of the arena opened we rushed to get some Front Of Stage wristbands but to our surprise there was no separated Front of Stage area! We got a yellow wristband to enter and exit the general admission floor as we like but that was kinda pointless. The last few times Mannheim definitely had an FOS area segregated by barriers, even though there were no FOS tickets to purchase. It was a "first come, first served" principle, that's why we were so eager to enter the arena asap. But since there was no FOS and we didn't feel like standing for another 90 minutes we simply went back to the restaurant to have another beer. Or two. ;-)

We went downstairs again when the support act Re-TROS from China [sic!] had started their show. I really like them, they remind me of a mix between Underworld and Krautrock with some Indie Rock flavour. It seemed like I was almost the only one who actually cared for them, the rest of the audience was busy chatting with friends, buying merch or drinks and people gave a polite but reluctant applause between songs. There were not many chances to applaud, as Re-TROS' songs tend to be pretty long and easily hit the 10-minute mark, so they just performed three songs. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
Much earlier than expected (that is, not the usual 8:45 p.m.!) Revolution by the Beatles rang out and the lights were dimmed. So it all began again, my sixth show of the tour and my 88th DM show in total. After the intro the colorful backdrop appeared on the screen and black & red clad Dave appeared in front of the screen. I am sure you are all familiar with the proceedings, Going Backwards kicked off the show followed by a powerful It's No Good. I still don't understand why they dropped So Much Love, next to Cover Me the best live song from Spirit, and it always got a good reception at the shows I attended. Oh my! However, Dave simply sounded fantastic and was absolutely into it, it makes you really wonder how he manages to do that night after night over months! 

With the indoor shows of the winter leg the big side screens are gone now, which is a pity. On the other hand the video crew makes much more use of the split screen behind the band, most obviously with new cover artwork stills during Home and World In My Eyes (which Dave surprisingly dedicated to Mr Andy Fletcher in Mannheim) but also by displaying live footage of the band more often and for a weird but cool cascading, endless frame-in-frame effect during Everything Counts. This, in particular, looked damn gorgeous! It is nice to see the show evolving and the light and video crew adding new ideas!

"Cheers Dave" -  Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

As I mentioned above, Mannheim has always been a curious place for little surprises in Depeche's shows, and when Martin stepped forward for his mid-show solo spot he delivered! The piano version of Sister Of Night resounded, the first time since Hollywood Bowl for the band and for me the first time in about eight years. Definitely one of the night's highlights, probably the highlight, although for me personally it was unfortunately a little ruined by someone who simply couldn't stop talking and babbling. Just shut up when Gore sings! ;-) Home'followed, of course, and the Mannheim crowd remembered that it has a reputation to lose and delivered a sweet, long singalong after the song was finished.

In Your Room was next, and it became quickly clear that the new spot in the set list does a lot of favors to this song. When the band played it in the first half of the set last summer it somehow disrupted the flow of the set. Now it is where it belongs and the song seemed to be much more intense than before and was a great build-up for the second, hit-filled half of the show. I would have loved to hear Halo as another surprise now, just like they did in Dublin. It is a mystery why they performed it only once this tour. Come on, boys, bring it back! In Mannheim they did Stripped again instead, and since it is one of my all-time faves (and just sounded great!) I don't habe too much to complain about. Anyway, give Halo another chance, PLEASE! Simply drop the tedious Precious in favor of it, as we've heard Precious umpteen times already, anyway.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

The run of show-stoppers from Everything Counts to Never Let me Down Again, whose "aggro" part seemed almost to shatter the building, raised the party level to maximum, and then Martin presented us another treat as the first song of the encore: Judas! Another sweet live rendition, although the crowd singalong at the end only worked after Dave prompted it. 

Walking In My Shoes is one of my all-time favorite live songs, and even though the version they do this tour with the new intro is brilliant, the Mannheim gig reminded me that the pleasure is kinda tainted because of yet another crappy Corbijn video. Back in the day the crowds always went nuts when the signature piano riff kicked in, this tour too many people are just silently staring at the screen, paralyzed by the filmic equivalent of a car accident you can't stop staring at. I've said it many times and will say it again: I like the idea behind it but this little flick is simply not well done! It looks as if Corbijn filmed it with his crappy iPhone, the editing is lacklustre, it is too bright and, most importantly, it is waaaayyy too distracting! It's like trying to watch the classic 'Death in Venice' and next to the screen is a juggling clown under a bright spotlight - ruins the experience a little, right? ;-)

Or maybe that's just me.

While I'm sure that Told You So would be an awesome build-up for Personal Jesus (hehe), A QuestionOof Time' does the trick perfectly, too. Aside from being a great uptempo song anyway, AQOT has another advantage this tour: IT'S NOT BLOODY I FEEL YOU! *g* As you may know, AQOT replaced IFY with the start of the 3rd leg of this tour, and the vast majority of the fan base seems to hail and revel in this most welcome move! I Feel You or not, AQOT definitely rocked the house and gave the encores some extra energy. Great addition to the setlist! As usual, Personal Jesus finished the show and gave everyone a last chance to scream and sing at the top of their lungs.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

At the end of the day it was a great show with a band still into it and enjoying what they do seven months into the tour. The crowd would have made any other city proud, although it might have been even louder and wilder during the band's earlier stops here. In the end the night kept all promises, in general I just don't get why Depeche Mode dropped So Much Love, Wrong and the Bowie cover "Heroes", which were all key songs of the previous legs. A bit more Spirit material and less songs we hear every tour anyway would do the set favors and I'm sure also the more casual fans would love it, too. And bring back Halo please - just in case I didn't mention that yet! ;-)

Setlist:
Going Backwards
It's No Good
Barrel Of A Gun
A Pain That I'm Used To
Useless
Precious
World In My Eyes
Cover Me
Sister Of Night* (acoustic)
Home*
In Your Room
Where's The Revolution
Everything Counts
Stripped
Enjoy The Silence
Never Let Me Down Again
Judas* (acoustic)
Walking In My Shoes
A Question of Time
Personal Jesus

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Thanks very much Niggels. Check out his DJ page on Facebook by the way - https://www.facebook.com/dj.niggels/





Wednesday, 29 November 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, ARENA BIRMINGHAM, BIRMINGHAM, 19 NOVEMBER 2017 - PART 2

Part two of the Birmingham special is this blog by Robbie Sargent, a second time reviewer having previously covered the Olympic Stadium show in Munich last June (click). The Birmingham gig experience for Robbie was somewhat different from yesterday's reporter Shaun's. Unusally for Robbie he was seated rather than standing and his daughter Holly was with him, set to experience her first Global Spirit Tour gig. Did they enjoy it? Read on to find out. Thanks very much Robbie and thanks too to, yes that's right, Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group for all pics bar one.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

My first Depeche Show was on 23 January 1988 at the Bournemouth International Centre. I was a spotty faced 15 year old, whose biggest vice was turning the Akai Midi Hifi stereo up to 10 and getting a telling off from mum. That was a big night for me, not only my first Depeche gig, but my first ever concert (apart from the Black and White Minstrels at the Bournemouth Pavilion a few years earlier for a friend’s birthday - please don’t judge me!). I vividly remember the Black Swarm dressed to impress, and the anticipation of getting to see my first concert. I don’t think it was necessarily the anticipation of seeing the four boys from Basildon, which I see as a bit of a crime nowadays. Anyway, the concert blew me away, the opening of Behind the Wheel, the curtain falling to reveal the band, and the array of incredible sounds coming from stage. And a band with identity. That night has never left me and was the defining two hours of my musical education.

My daughter's first show wasn’t quite the same for her. We had taken the opportunity to mix meeting friends, watching an F1 GP and seeing Depeche in Abu Dhabi on the Delta Machine tour. I saw 7 shows on that tour (pretty amateurish by comparison to some) and having seen at least two shows on every tour since Music For The Masses in 1988, I rank this as the worst Depeche gig I’ve ever seen.

My daughter (6 at the time) was caught up in a maelstrom of jet lag and general all round tiredness and likely agreed with me - she fell asleep half way through the set, and ended up right at the back of the open air venue asleep in my wife’s arms. To say she was underwhelmed by her first Depeche experience is probably an understatement. But, I wasn’t going to leave her DM acquaintance here, so was determined to get her to a show on the Spirit tour - hence we found ourselves in a cold Birmingham city centre in November.

To be fair, my daughter (Holly), seemed right up for the show and dead excited. Depeche had a lot to live up to in her eyes - we’d seen Coldplay at the Millenium Stadium earlier this summer, and for all of their nondescript, banal and ‘nice’ pretty music (I’m not a fan, can’t you tell?), they do put on one hell of a show (for 10 year olds anyway). I tried to play down her expectations of fireworks, confetti displays and four stages for Depeche but she was still excited to get to another concert.

Holly ready for the Revolution

Our entry into the venue led to a t—shirt purchase for Holly. Now, she’s 10 and pretty slim and athletic, but she needed a women’s medium size tee to fit. What on earth is going on with women’s clothing sizes? A total nonsense. Anyway, £30 later and we hit our seats. My wife and I have stood at every Depeche show since the Singles tour so this was a bit different. I was a bit apprehensive that we couldn’t dance, but that wasn’t my main concern at the start - it was about how bloody hot the venue was. It was almost unbearable in the seats - I dread to think what it was like on the floor. The hottest show I’ve ever been too.

We get a pretty appalling support act (nothing like Hard Corps at Bournemouth, with the anticipation that the female singer might go topless). My daughter shows first signs of ‘why have you dragged me here dad?’. Not to worry, they are off pretty quickly and Holly is enthralled by the growing crowd and it’s wildly different demographics.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Then Revolution. Then the Mode. As I mentioned in my review of the Munich show, Going Backwards is a pretty good opener and then we’re in to the standard European winter leg set list. I won't bore you with a review of each song, suffice to say I’m still not a fan of Barrel Of A Gun live and although I love Useless, I wasn't entirely sure it worked on this night - nevertheless, it was great to hear a different song live and see the setlist shaken up from the summer shows. The band perform a storming World In My Eyes and things begin to kick up from here - even taking into account Martin’s two songs (Insight and Home) which enthrall the audience. 

We get a masterful In Your Room, albeit the screen then fails and we lose Anton’s visuals. No matter, this band is more than good enough to let their music do the talking, which they have to do throughout the next four or 5 songs before the screen kicks in to life again. I wonder, exactly, what Holly would have thought of Coldplay if they were just a band performing their music without the visuals and LED wrist bands - not much I reckon. Anyway, my little Modette ignores the loss of screen, and continues her dancing through Everything Counts and Enjoy The Silence (although she took a little break during Stripped to cool down a little!).

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

I’ve stated my love for Enjoy The Silence many times. It is THE perfect pop song, and gives me goose bumps every time I hear it live. I cannot tell you how proud I felt to be watching the greatest band on the planet perform the greatest song of all time, with my daughter next to me, both of us dancing our backsides off. It almost felt like I’d come full circle from that night in Bournemouth 30 years ago, my life in some strange way felt complete. Sod her getting her exam results, sod her getting married, sod her having kids*, THIS meant everything to me and I was the proudest fella in that arena at this particular time.

The main set list predictably ends with Never Let Me Down Again. Now, I was quite fearful of the arm waving tonight. Remember I said it was hot, well I reckon the body odour should have knocked everyone in that arena sideways when the arms lifted. But, thankfully it seems Depeche fans are a hygienic lot who like their Rightguard. Crisis averted.

The encore has dropped "Heroes" after the US leg, which disappoints me a little - I love it. If you haven’t seen it, check out the Youtube Highline sessions of the song - Dave’s vocals are immense. I Feel You disappears too after the summer shows, which is fine with me. Instead, it's a welcome return for A Question Of Time (but with no quick hand clap at the end). And then we end with Personal Jesus. Enough said.





Another great performance from the band - it’s clear they are loving their work at the moment. The crowd weren’t so great - maybe because I was seated, but I just didn't think the atmosphere was up there with London Stadium, Munich or the O2 a few days later. That's it for me for this tour and although I’ve only done four shows, I reckon I saw some of the best band performances for many years - likely going back to the Devotional shows (which were on another level altogether).

So, here's to 2021 - SEE YOU NEXT TIME!

* Regarding my daughter having kids. I probably didn't mean that. I reckon that will trump this, but you know what I mean!!!!

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Thanks Robbie. And thanks to Holly too for letting me use her picture.




Tuesday, 28 November 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, ARENA BIRMINGHAM, BIRMINGHAM, 19 NOVEMBER 2017 - PART 1

This review is the first of two reviews of the Birmingham show from 19 November. It's by Shaun Coward, a long time Depeche fan and a man uniquely placed to write about the Birmingham gig. Shaun's review takes us all the way from his formative Depeche experiences, through many gigs in Birmingham and all the way up to a mojito fueled Global Spirit gig on the 19th of November. It's a superb, hilarious read, crammed with historical Mode chat and pics and I know you're all going to love it. Thanks Shaun. Pictures are all Shaun's unless otherwise credited If you want to abuse him having read the review, his Twitter name is @TonmeisterJones

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

March 1986. I am eleven years old. My Depeche Mode obsession is now really kicking in and I have nailed my colours to the mast: this is My Favourite Band. The posters are going up. The exercise books are getting covered in whatever logos I can hamfistedly sketch. The Singles 81→85 has cemented my relationship with this band, who will go on to help shape my adolescence and even adulthood. (Admittedly, there was some confusion caused by Martin’s exposed chest on the cover of that record, but we will not dwell on that here.)

We have some family friends, whose son Chris is a good six years older than me and a huge Depeche fan that’s already seen them play live half a dozen times. (He also, infuriatingly, has countless anecdotes of bumping into Fletch at Erasure gigs, being backstage with the Human League and so on. What an utter bastard.) We happen to be at their house on the day that he buys Black Celebration (on CD, the first one I think I’d seen). There is a listening session in his bedroom. Not much is said. I feel like I’m going to burst, but with the exception of A Question of Time, Chris is unmoved. He thinks the album is too slow, too downbeat. Too dark? I am not about to start disagreeing with him, so I keep my thoughts to myself. It is perfect. 

Wednesday April 9th, 1986. Depeche Mode are playing at the NEC Arena in Birmingham, about thirty miles north of where I live. It’s their first gig at the still relatively new venue, much larger than the Odeon in town where they had become a fixture. My older sister is going, with a few of her friends. She is also a fan, although even then I had doubts as to how anyone could simultaneously enjoy the music of Depeche Mode and Bon Jovi. If you ask me, she’s only going because she has a crush on Dave. But I don’t really care; all that matters to me is that I will be able to tag along.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
Of course my parents say no. Devastation.

Friday January 15th, 1988. I’m almost thirteen years old and now in the grips of full blown Depeche Mode infatuation. On the German exchange, I buy the European version of Music For The Masses on cassette, with the four extra tracks on the b-side. (I already own the album on vinyl, obviously.) During coach journeys, I take to moodily standing on the steps by the toilet with the curtain wrapped around me, watching the landscape slip by with the album playing on my Walkman constantly. I don’t speak to anyone for hours at a time, and am fairly sure that this will not only impress my schoolmates, but also impart to me some kind of unknowable cool. As opposed to looking like a dickhead stood outside a chemical toilet on the autobahn.

By this point, Depeche Mode are MY band. I think of them as my band in the same way that I would think of my girlfriend as being my girlfriend, if I’d had one. I graciously allow a select number of friends to like them as well, on the strict understanding that it is impossible that they could ever like them as much as me. (This was blown to fucking smithereens the following year when they released 101, at which point seemingly everyone in my entire school became a fan overnight. This is probably the most traumatic period of my childhood, if not life.)

They are coming back to the NEC. I have this information before my sister, and ponder how I should broach the subject with my parents. Critically, I hesitate. The moment has passed and the tickets are bought. I am once again denied the single thing I want more than anything in the world. It hurts. I swear it hurts almost PHYSICALLY. The sense of injustice threatens to overwhelm me. There is something about being thirteen that amplifies even the most petty of grievances to the level of world ending nuclear armageddon, and I’m feeling it. 

Friday January 15th, 1988. The day of the show. Off goes my sister, collected by a friend’s dad. I sulk in my bedroom, of course. My dad has agreed to collect them after the gig, and at about 8.30pm he shouts up the stairs. With every fibre of my being, I want to ignore him. But due mainly to the fact that my dad really isn’t the kind of person you either can or should ignore, I morosely shuffle to the landing and say ‘what’ as quietly as I can.

Martin onstage 15 January 1988 - Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group (picture taken by Wayne Kisbee)


He asks me if I want to go with him to collect my sister and her friends. At first I can’t see the point, and I don’t even understand why he thinks I’d want to come. But then he says something about being able to hear the last few songs from outside, and I’m already in the car. 

And so that’s how, at the age of nearly thirteen, the best experience of my life to date was standing in the foyer of the NEC in Birmingham listening to Depeche Mode play their full encore. You might imagine that it was like a form of torture, being able to hear but not to see. But it wasn’t. It was incredible. It almost didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was in the same building as Depeche Mode. What mattered was being able to hear Dave Gahan, DAVE FUCKING GAHAN, whip the crowd into a frenzy. What mattered was hearing Everything Counts. The sheer joy that you feel when the music bypasses all logical thought and drills straight into your soul. Here it is. 

Ah, Birmingham. The often-mocked second city. The accents. The, er… Well, to tell you the truth there is a lot to like about Birmingham. Just ask Telly Savalas. Walking around the city centre these days and you could be forgiven for the thinking you were in a different place. It’s certainly a lot smarter now, but I think it’s lost something. The old Bull Ring wasn’t much to look at, but I preferred it to the orgy of glass and chrome that sits in its place now. In 1990, Birmingham was vibrant, loud and grubby. (Not unlike my teenage self, minus the ‘vibrant’ part.) The train stopped at Moor Street, from where we would generally head for the closer of the two (two!) HMV’s on New Street, in one of which my sister met the band and got her copy of 101 signed. Because yes, in those days, Depeche Mode did record signings. In Birmingham.

I never really understood why HMV had two stores a few hundred yards apart. The larger one could generally be guaranteed to stock all the latest Depeche Mode 12” records, whereas the smaller store often contained things we didn’t even know existed until we found them: the FrontDepNitz and On U-Sound Megamixes, to name a couple. From there it was up to Virgin Megastore, which was pretty vast. It was between these three places that I bought 90% of my Depeche Mode vinyl. There was never any need to find some cool little independent record shop, because the Mode were everywhere back then.

(To be honest, it was nothing compared to record shops in Germany, which seemed to exist solely for the purpose of shifting as many Depeche Mode records as possible. I can recall feeling absolute disbelief at seeing the sheer volume of DM vinyl in a record shop in Wuppertal, which was surpassed only by the anguish that I couldn’t afford to buy it all.)

Violator was on the way. Personal Jesus had already changed my life, in the same way dozens of other DM songs already had. A tour, a tour that I would actually be able to attend, was within touching distance. Information was sketchy in the pre-internet age. I didn’t subscribe to Bong, so it was left to either the NME or Melody Maker to break the news. I can’t remember how we actually found out about the first Birmingham date. All I remember is that it was in the school holidays, and I was at my mate’s house. I phoned my mum in a panic and asked her to call and buy tickets, we’d give her the cash. She said something like, ‘I’ve just got to finish this ironing’, which elicited from me a sound like a pig being throttled. She got the point. I rang off, and we waited an agonising five minutes for her to call the box office. (Because that’s right kids, back in the olden days we could just call the venue and buy tickets. We could even just go there and buy them from a human.)

She called back. The tickets were secured. There then followed a delirious minute or two of me and my two friends jumping up and down whilst whacking the keys of an upright piano and shrieking. You made your own entertainment back then.

Dave onstage 22 November 1990 - Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Thursday the 22nd of November, 1990. It was fucking freezing. We got into the NEC early, and spent a glorious hour or so just wandering round the concourse and soaking it up. So much leather and hair gel. I don’t know if I can adequately describe the anticipation I was feeling. I was so excited, it felt like the culmination of a life’s ambition. Which it was. We took our seats to the left of the stage, near the front. Thanks mum. 24 years later, I would sit with one of the same friends and my daughter in almost exactly the same spot.

Electribe 101 were great, although in the tradition of Depeche Mode’s supporting bands, largely ignored by the audience. Off they went. By the time Kaleid started up, the crowd were going absolutely fucking mental. I’m sitting here now in my office at home, writing this with the dog at my feet and the When Worlds Mix version playing. I swear if someone asked me a question right now, my voice would stick in my throat. It’s all there; those memories are so strong. By the time World in my Eyes started, I am finally understanding what what was going on when I watched The Rock’n’Roll Years with my parents, and all those women would be screaming at The Beatles. I’m not screaming, exactly; I’m bellowing. I feel like the top of my head is coming off and my heart is about to explode. 

And when Dave runs on, I can’t breathe.

Can’t. Fucking. Breathe. 

I’m paralysed, rooted to the spot for a good ten seconds. I finally manage to get a hold of myself and the concert is, obviously, like heaven on earth. Five days later we’d be back for the final gig of that tour, standing a couple of rows from the front on a night that somehow topped the untoppable. At the end of that final show, as the lights came up after Behind The Wheel/Route 66, we spotted a guy who was a couple of years ahead of us at school. I remember just looking at him with my mouth hanging open, as he did the same. It was, and always will be, the best gig I’ve ever been to. Suddenly, the fact I’d missed the two previous tours didn’t matter, because this was it. This was the BEST. (That feeling didn’t last by the way, I went back to being pissed off about it within a week.)

Martin onstage 27 November 1990 - Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

I’d love to be able to provide a proper review of that gig, but it was a long time ago. The main thing I loved about it, and the reason why World Violation is for me their strongest tour is that they still had a foot in that Music For The Masses show. To hear a full version of Shake The Disease is a wonderful thing. To hear Dave do some of the same shouts and ‘ALRIGHTS’ between lines as he did on 101 made me feel as if I’d been there after all. Three sold-out nights: Birmingham loved Depeche Mode. I felt a mixture of euphoria and slight bewilderment. If you’d have asked me then when I thought I’d be back there for a Depeche Mode concert, I’d have said two years, three year tops. It would be ten years, and the experience would prove very different. 

So let’s skip past the Devotional Tour. I was at Crystal Palace and Sheffield for that one, and perhaps I’ll write something about those shows and foist it onto David in the future. I missed the Singles Tour, because it came at a time when my head had been surgically positioned up my own arse, making it difficult to hear about new gigs and albums. I was living in Brighton at the time, and was flailing about in a sort of drum & bass vortex, although I still listened to DM daily. I had loved Ultra, but wasn’t even aware they’d released a new singles compilation until my mum put it on in the car. (I remain suitably embarrassed about my mum being more up to speed on DM releases than me.)

To be honest, even if I’d know about the Singles Tour, I may not have gone. Alan leaving the band was A Very Big Deal to me and I was (am) a petulant bastard. I know almost nothing about that tour so let’s move onto 2001, which I think really kicked off phase two of my thing for Depeche Mode. 

Exciter was the first album that had a few songs that I didn’t like. Consider that. From Speak & Spell through to Ultra, I would not have told you that there was a single song I didn’t like. Still wouldn’t. You can throw anything at me. I can remember singing A Photograph of You when I was a little boy. I can remember being eleven and lying in bed reading 2000AD and singing along to What’s Your Name. It doesn’t matter to me that they aren’t considered to be “great” songs, or even good songs; what matters is how they resonated with me at a certain point in my life.

But I still listened to Exciter an awful lot, and I know all the words to each song - which is either an indicator of quality or my rabidness as a fan. I was excited (HAHA) as ever to be back at the NEC in 2001, standing in more or less the same spot and feeling the same anticipation as I had a decade previously. 

All I can really say is that this was my period of adjustment. This was the concert when I realised that Depeche Mode were not quite the same as before, that I was watching a band that were coming at things slightly differently, living their lives on the road slightly differently. (Or very differently, depending on who you’re thinking about.) It wasn’t bad, it was just… Different. I wasn’t prepared for it. I don’t want to appear to be down on them, and the Birmingham crowd was in good voice, but I had naively thought that I’d have essentially the same experience as I’d had at my last Depeche Mode concert, in Sheffield in 93. Having missed the Singles Tour, it was all a bit jarring. I came away disappointed, but not really disappointed with the band. I was disappointed that I’d lost touch, that I hadn’t realised that the band had moved on. I needed to move on with them. 

The next three tours, Touring The Angel, Tour of the Universe and The Delta Machine Tour would see me (and the same friends) attend multiple concerts across the UK, but always in Birmingham. Over that time, the NEC got a much needed facelift. I’d adjusted to this new iteration of Depeche Mode, and whilst there may have been aspects I didn’t care for (STILL NO FUCKING ALAN), a choice between a different live show and no show is an easy choice to make.

Birmingham NEC Walking In My Shoes 31 March 2006 by me

The Delta Machine Tour at Birmingham was a memorable night for me, as it was my daughter’s first concert. She was eight at the time and, well… It was a moment. But I remember noting that the NEC (or whatever it was now called) wasn’t full. This was new to me. It didn’t have a detrimental effect on the gig, in fact it was one of the most enjoyable shows I’d seen for a while. The band appeared to be having a blast, but what had happened to the Birmingham audience? From three sold-out nights in 1990 to this? Various members of the band have criticised Birmingham shows in the past, which I thought was unfair. Some of the least vocal crowds I’ve ever been a part of were in London, although not so much these days. But would the Global Spirit Tour be the moment that Depeche Mode finally gave up on Brum? 

Of course not, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, would I? You bloody idiot. 

And so, again, to Birmingham. Only this time, it’s not the NEC. (Sorry marketing tossers, it will always be the NEC. Not the Genting Monstrosity. Not the LG Eyesore. The NEC.) A word of thanks here to Adele Mitchell who informed me, via the Twitters that you have nowadays, that this gig was being held at the NIA (OR WHATEVER IT’S CALLED NOW). I had managed to look up the show and purchase my ticket without actually noticing this, and would have absolutely turned up at the NEC with a confused look on my face. 

The NIA then. Hmm. Well, it’s in the city centre, which is good. The area around it is stuffed with bars and good places to eat, which is also good. Despite the fact that I’ve been there a few times and seen it with my own eyes, I’d always assumed it had a smaller capacity than the NEC. But it turns out to be slightly larger by a few hundred. So that’s also good. But the sound is terrible. It always has been. It was terrible when I saw Prince there in the early 90s and it’s terrible now. Okay, it’s not quite as terrible as the almost impressively terrible Wembley Arena, but it’s still pretty terrible. 

Anyway, after a solid five hours of drinking mojitos in a bar where the staff were all younger, better dressed and better looking than me, we staggered into the venue. Bought a beer and headed into the standing section. And then headed straight back out again. Yes, that’s right: the support band was playing. I say ‘playing’. It was difficult to tell what was going on, as the sound from the stage was like a couple of donkeys trapped in a well and being pelted with cymbals. They were called ‘Re-TROS’, it says here. In fairness to them, it can’t have been all their fault. And it may have sounded better down the front; at the back of the venue it was frightening. But in that great tradition of Depeche Mode warm up acts, they left the stage and the mood brightened considerably.



We pushed our way towards to the front. Please don’t misunderstand - I am unfailingly polite. I’m the kind of person who will apologise to a stranger for having the temerity to put my arse in the way of their foot. So I’m not one of those people who just barges through. I slither through, slowly. Like a devious black-clad worm. We found a decent enough spot with perfect timing. Lights down, show starts. 

Going Backwards is a perfectly fine song. Not my favourite song on Spirit, but I like it. Like so much of what they do, it’s not a song you could imagine any other band putting out. With the best will in the world, it is not a great way to open a concert. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think it does justice to the anticipation levels in the crowd. It was the same with Welcome To My World last time around. As Roger Taylor (the Queen one, not the one out of the most overrated band in the universe, Duran Duran) put it, the object of the first few songs is to blow the audience’s bollocks off. I presume that’s a metaphor, although I wouldn’t have put it past Queen to use a bit of live ordnance in their sets.

So not only do we kick things off with Going Backwards, we then get It’s No Good and Barrel Of A Gun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad start per se. The first three songs all sound great, although I’ve never really cared for Barrel Of A Gun live. It’s fine. But that’s all it is. Fine. My bollocks remained intact. They continued to remain intact through A Pain That I’m Used To, even more so considering it’s the Jacques Lu Cont version. Almost as much of an aberration as Butch Vig’s In Your Room atrocity. But hey. It’s fine. It’s FINE.



Don’t panic. This is not a bad review. (It is a badly written review, but that’s different. I’ve been paid for my services in the form of a small piece of cardboard, so stop moaning.) I thought the London show in the summer suffered from the same thing - a bit of a lacklustre first 15-20 minutes. So let’s put it behind us and talk about my bollocks again. 

Useless and Precious, and they are now starting to twitch. But full ball bag detonation does not occur until World In My Eyes. It’s a belting version, and whilst I appreciate they can’t really start the set with it THEY BLOODY SHOULD. From this point onwards, they do not put a foot wrong. Cover Me (my favourite from the album) is wondrous, special. A brilliant song presented and performed brilliantly. And then they’re coming thick and fast and bloody hell. Bloody HELL. 

Cast your mind back to a few months ago when I was talking about the excitement of seeing Depeche Mode. It’s still there. Okay, so tonight it took me a little time to warm up, and I’m not sure anything is quite as exciting to a fat, jaded 42-year-old as it is to a 16-year-old, but still. I’m grinning like a mental. This is it, this is why I still love Depeche Mode. Much later that evening, I tweeted about how pointless it is to make comparisons between DM now and DM of past decades. They’re here in the same room as me, and I’m having a brilliant time.

A brief note about farting. Do not fart at concerts. Don’t do it. Don’t be that absolute beast. I don’t know who it was, but Christ almighty. Someone in my vicinity was dropping the most eye-wateringly vile guffs, and I would have happily kicked him to death if I could have. (Because let’s face it, it was a him.) I can’t really link this passage to anything that was happening on stage, but I needed to get it off my chest. Don’t. Fart. At. Concerts. Back to the show.



Insight and Home are both lovely, although the miserable bastard in me could live without the ‘spontaneous’ crowd singalong after Home now. (Marvel at my hypocrisy in a couple of paragraphs when I laud the Everything Counts crowd singalong.) In Your Room is great, and I was one of the many happy people to see the proper version restored for this tour. It’s a great example of how unfathomable it is to me how some songs work incredibly well live, and some don’t. In Your Room could easily be a difficult live track. It’s fairly slow, but it builds and builds… For me it acts as an homage to Devotional-era Depeche Mode, and it’s all the better for it. An interesting thing happened when In Your Room started. There was a young couple near me, perhaps in their early 20s. When the song started, they conferred briefly and decided that now would be a good time to go to the bar. He actually offered to go by himself, but it turned out she didn’t like it much either. Jesus wept. This happened on a previous tour as well. Perfectly turned out hipster fucked off to the bar when Stripped started. I ask you.

Right, I’ll be honest. I was pretty hammered by this point. Lost both my friends. I was getting text messages from one of them saying that he’d found a kindly security guard who was letting him smoke a fag indoors, but he was so drunk that he couldn’t remember where I was. The other one was AWOL. So perhaps I was a bit preoccupied/bladdered, but I didn’t even notice that the screen was buggered for Where’s The Revolution. At some point during the evening it came back on, but with one panel missing. Shout out to all my OCD brothers and sisters who spent the next 35-40 minutes staring at it. 

The last four songs in the regular set were blinding. Everything Counts (with the obligatory and amazing crowd singalong, told you) is stunning. Stripped, Enjoy The Silence, Never Let Me Down Again… It seems almost pointless to try and use words to describe the brilliance of that particular quartet, particularly when I’m almost certainly preaching to the converted. In my opinion, that’s a stronger four songs than those in the encore. The end of Never Let Me Down Again should be the end of every gig, ever. Even ones by different bands. It’s the perfect ending. It ended the regular set but I think they should swap it with Personal Jesus. And because I effectively pay their wages, I demand that they listen to me.



After a refreshing break of about 35 seconds, Martin returned to give us an acoustic version of Strangelove. It was nice, but I selfishly wished it had been a full performance. Walking In My Shoes was as majestic as ever, but I think it’s better employed earlier in the set. I missed most of A Question of Time as I was on WhatsApp trying to track down the more errant of my two friends. Some sample messages from him: 

‘i just egging’

‘The last thing i ever wanted to do is make you lie to me’

‘Don’t try and hide’

‘Kismet’

‘How can I help you?’

Most of my messages in between followed a common format: 

‘WHERE ARE YOU YOU FUCKING BELL END’

This is what I’m up against. 


But we’ve almost made it. Personal Jesus might be the best song Depeche Mode have ever released. (It isn’t, that’s World In My Eyes. But you might think it is.) It’s a worthy ending to the show, but again, I’d personally prefer it a little earlier. But no complaints, they could probably belt it out whilst in a drug-induced coma (as Fletch appeared to be for much of the evening), but it’s still an awesome sight. And, er, sound. 

So let’s wrap it up with some words about the guys themselves. There was a point, a few tours back, when I used my finely honed abilities in reading body language to infer that Martin wasn’t enjoying himself much. These days he barely stops smiling, the smug bastard. Dave too, he looks like he’s having the time of his life. Because I’m an arsehole, I like to study them both in the hope that I’ll see some cracks in the facade. That maybe Martin’s smile will briefly fade and he’ll do the wanker sign behind Dave’s back. Or Dave will appear from the wings during Martin’s solo stint and pretend to throttle himself in the background. Hasn’t happened yet. I can only conclude that they’re having a ball. Makes you sick. 

Fletch. Fletch. I love Fletch. I once organised a friend’s stag weekend so that I could be in Barcelona when he was DJing there. Stood resolutely by the decks all night, fighting off smaller, less English and less aggressively drunk people for my spot. Stood there for hours and was rewarded with a few words and a handshake. He’s brilliant, and I suspect he’d be a good laugh to have a pint with. So this isn’t a criticism, but when Dave and Martin look so happy on stage, why does Fletch look like someone’s just pissed in his pocket? Give us a smile and get down the front to shake someone’s hand, see if you can still make people faint with the power of touch. Even better, kick Dave in the knackers and sing Mouldy Old Dough during the finale. 

Anyway, the lights came up and I eventually managed to locate my missing friends. We made our way back to my mate’s house, whereupon we spent the next six hours in his studio playing with Alan Wilder’s EMAX sounds and making lots of appreciative ‘oof’ noises. A fine end to a great evening. At around 5am, it occurred to me that I’d told David I’d cobble a review together, at which point I began to sweat. So David, I’m sorry I wasn’t a bit more thorough about the gig itself. Those mojitos were a bit moreish.

Well, if you got this far then thank you for reading. It looks like my mission to get tickets for the tour finale in Berlin is down the toilet, so that’s it for a few years at least. I fucking love Depeche Mode. Over and out.

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Thanks Shaun!