Monday, 22 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, STADION PASIENKY, BRATISLAVA, 20 MAY 2017

Today's review is the first of a two part Rachel Blackman (@g0disadj) special as she's covering Budapest for the blog too. Rachel is a long term blog supporter so I was really chuffed that she volunteered to do the reviews. It's not often that I'll allow a Manchester United fan anywhere near here ;) As you'll see, Rachel had quite an adventure in Bratislava. Enjoy.

Rachel on the right

Hello fellow fans! I suppose I'm a recent convert to travelling overseas to see my favourite band - 1st time was Munich Olympic stadium in 2009 & it was a good tactic for encouraging my partner Jill to 'get on board'. We had a great trip to Berlin on the last tour & that's where I met devotees that were to become friends & social media pals. In the 4 year cycle of tours I've become friends with so many more. And that's what I look forward to - going to a new city, DM t shirt spotting, meeting friends & enjoying the collaborative experience of the gig! So, this time around 2017 brings Bratislava, Budapest & London... maybe more? 

Bratislava had been bathed in glorious sunshine for days leading up to the gig. We met up with Chris (who I've 'known' on twitter for the last few years) for breakfast & set up our plans. A drink in the brewery next to our hotel & then a 50min walk to the stadium (with a couple more stops for cheap beers), with conversations of 'was it going to rain? What time was it going to rain?' Once at the stadium it was fan shirt spotting time, Dave Gahan lookalikes, guessing nationalities & glancing at the merchandise stall - €35 for a t-shirt/€25 for a beanie! What got me most was 2 posters of same size - one for the tour at €7 & one for specific city €25 - cynical exploitation. 



The Stadion Pasienky is not banked very high around the sides like other football stadiums & Bratislava is generally very flat. The wind was picking up & you could see the stage curtains blowing & I felt sorry for the 2 guys high above the mixing desk on the spotlights with very little protection from the elements. Chris left us to have a mooch & find his own spot for sound recording the gig. It's a hobby of his & he trades recordings with other nerds (his own words) around the World. We caught most of F.O.X (apparently from Essex) & thought they were pretty good - quite catchy songs bit Florence & the machine? Bit Euro-pop? Bit Siouxsie soux? We missed The Raveonettes queuing for a non existent hot dog & were starting to feel a bit chilly. I've wrenched my shoulder somehow & my immediate thought is 'oh no! I'm not going to be able to do the arm wave'

Back into the crowd (we were in general standing) to warm up & hearing John Lennon's voice with Revolution & we were off. I've not been hooked by the new album but what I will say is that they've chosen the best songs from it for the setlist. First sight of Dave & he's all Italian Mafioso meanness, strutting about. Glittery jacket, glittery boots & possibly some shimmering glitter on his chest? Going Backwards brings out Dave's strong vocal performance that continues through the night, with maybe just Barrel Of A Gun sounding too wordy (but oh what great thumping noises coming from the speakers for that!). Crystal clear sound & great visuals - Depeche are back and I'm loving it! 



Black clouds & rain have started around BOAG & by Martin's solos we're getting soaked to the skin. It's such a shame as Home is absolutely one of our favourites but we're now so cold, soaked & I can't see for rain streaming down my glasses, my shoulder is now very painful. To cut a long story shorter we very sadly left the stadium, abandoning the gig - we just weren't prepared for the soaking we got. I'm pleased for those that got to see the whole set because it still sounded amazing as we were walking back towards the city - the songs just kept coming. I can't believe I missed Everything Counts - I think I cried into the rain running down my face at that. The only thing that gave us hope was that we had Budapest in 2 days & the first thing we were going to buy in that city?.... a massive tourist waterproof poncho, & maybe a fleece?... out the window is 'what cool retro Depeche t shirt am I going to wear?

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As you can see from the post concert video below, this was a gig that was beyond wet. Sorry it affected your enjoyment Rachel, but thanks for soldiering on for the benefit of the blog. Budpest will be different - look froward to reading all about it.



CURATE THE ULTIMATE DEPECHE MODE SETLIST


A favourite blog of mine, and one that should be a favourite of yours, Halo - The Violator Book has come up with a clever idea ahead of Depeche Mode's much anticipated London Stadium gig on June 3rd. What 20 Depeche Mode songs would you want to hear live? What would be your ultimate setlist? Well, here's your chance to make that decision. Do you want to hear a set filled with classics? Perhaps you want The Great Outdoors to kick things off, leading neatly into A Photograph Of You before turning up the heat with Hole To Feed? (Seriously - if that is you, please don't vote). Let us know, either via the contact details in the Halo blog below, or by leaving a comment here or via Twitter - @almostprdalmosthttps://twitter.com/almostprdalmost

Thanks to Kevin May at Halo for setting this up. Good luck counting the votes!

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(first published on Halo May 16 2017 - http://halotheviolatorbook.com/ultimate-depeche-mode-set-list/ )

By their own admission, Depeche Mode have a thorough and reasonably democratic process that they go through to create a tour set list.

And, yet, as the catalogue gets bigger with each new album, this mechanism presumably gets harder every time.

But fear not, gents.

In conjunction with the London Stadium, where the band play on Saturday 3 June, we thought instead it would be fun (and intriguing!) to get the fanbase to help out the boys with their dilemma instead.

Obviously, the Global Spirit Tour is already underway and the set list locked down – but ahead of what will be a landmark gig in the UK for Depeche, let’s find out what the masses would love to hear if the band had a clean slate again… just for the homecoming show.

Here on the HALO website and elsewhere, such as the Almost Predictable. Almost blog, we’ll be collecting the TWENTY songs you want to hear.

The full Depeche Mode catalogue is listed below for reference 

Remember, this isn’t necessarily a list of your own favourite songs (though it may well be), but the TWENTY songs that you think should be on the ultimate Depeche Mode set list – tracks that would help create the best gig ever.

You can leave your list of TWENTY in the comments below, on the HALO Facebook page or via email.

The results will be posted on the London Stadium website and other participating sites in the days before the gig.

With many thanks in advance for your suggestions 

The full discography is listed below.

PIC (APA: at top of this page): Paris promo gig set list via Depeche Mode Live Wiki.



New Life
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Puppets
Boys Say Go!
Nodisco
What’s Your Name?
Photographic
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Big Muff
Any Second Now (Voices)
Just Can’t Get Enough
Dreaming Of Me
Ice Machine
Shout
Any Second Now

Leave In Silence
My Secret Garden
Monument
Nothing To Fear
See You
Satellite
The Meaning Of Love
A Photograph Of You
Shouldn’t Have Done That
The Sun & The Rainfall
Now, This Is Fun
Oberkorn (It’s A Small Town)

Love, In Itself
More Than A Party
Pipeline
Everything Counts
Two Minute Warning
Shame
The Landscape Is Changing
Told You So
And Then…
Get The Balance Right
The Great Outdoors
Work Hard
Fools

Something To Do
Lie To Me
People Are People
It Doesn’t Matter
Stories Of Old
Somebody
Master And Servant
If You Want
Blasphemous Rumours
In Your Memory
(Set Me Free) Remotivate Me

Shake The Disease
It’s Called A Heart
Flexible

Black Celebration
Fly On The Windscreen
A Question Of Lust
Sometimes
It Doesn’t Matter Two
A Question Of Time
Stripped
Here Is The House
World Full Of Nothing
Dressed In Black
New Dress
But Not Tonight
Breathing In Fumes
Black Day
Christmas Island

Never Let Me Down Again
The Things You Said
Strangelove
Sacred
Little 15
Behind The Wheel
I Want You Now
To Have And To Hold
Nothing
Pimpf
Agent Orange
Fpmip
Pleasure, Little Treasure
Route 66
Stjarna
Sonata No. 14 in C#m (Moonlight Sonata)

World In My Eyes
Sweetest Perfection
Personal Jesus
Halo
Waiting For The Night
Enjoy The Silence
Policy Of Truth
Blue Dress
Clean
Dangerous
Memphisto
Sibeling
Kaleid
Happiest Girl
Sea Of Sin

Death’s Door

I Feel You
Walking In My Shoes
Condemnation
Mercy In You
Judas
In Your Room
Get Right With Me
Rush
One Caress
Higher Love
My Joy

Barrel Of A Gun
The Love Thieves
Home
It’s No Good
Uselink
Useless
Sister Of Night
Jazz Thieves
Freestate
The Bottom Line
Insight
Painkiller
Slowblow

Only When I Lose Myself
Surrender
Headstar

Dream On
Shine
The Sweetest Condition
When The Body Speaks
The Dead Of Night
Lovetheme
Freelove
Comatose
I Feel Loved
Breathe
Easy Tiger
I Am You
Goodnight Lovers
Dirt
Zenstation

A Pain That I’m Used To
John The Revelator
Suffer Well
The Sinner In Me
Precious
Macro
I Want It All
Nothing’s Impossible
Introspectre
Damaged People
Lilian
The Darkest Star
Free
Newborn
Better Days

Martyr

In Chains
Hole To Feed
Wrong
Fragile Tension
Little Soul
In Sympathy
Peace
Come Back
Spacewalker
Perfect
Miles Away\The Truth Is
Jezebel
Corrupt
Light
The Sun And The Moon And The Stars
Ghost
Esque
Oh Well

Welcome To My World
Angel
Heaven
Secret To The End
My Little Universe
Slow
Broken
The Child Inside
Soft Touch\Raw Nerve
Should Be Higher
Alone
Soothe My Soul
Goodbye
Long Time Lie
Happens All The Time
Always
All That’s Mine

Going Backwards
Where’s The Revolution
The Worst Crime
Scum
You Move
Cover Me
Eternal
Poison Heart
So Much Love
Poorman
No More (This Is The Last Time)
Fail

Saturday, 20 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, TERRA VIBE PARK, ATHENS, GREECE, 17 MAY 2017

This review comes courtesy of a good friend of the blog, Panos Sialakas. Panos has contributed on here before during the Month Long Period Of Rejoicing where he wrote wonderfully about Black Celebration and, in a more general sense, as unpaid fact checker and unofficial editor. Panos is a huge Depeche Mode brain and he's kept me right on many occasions. Enjoy this great review of the Athens gig (and his photos) and remember to check out his blog at http://www.pop-mart.tk/





Terra Vibe is difficult place for gigs. It’s about 40 km north of Athens, there’s no decent transportation and when there’s a bad weather, it’s really bad.

So for the last couple of days the question was simple: will the Depeche gig go on as scheduled or will it be cancelled. You see there were a series of weather projections about a rainstorm in that particular area in late afternoon, early evening. Around the time of the gig that is.

Considering the fact that the Greek crowd had experienced the last minute cancellation in 2009, you can easily understand why there was such tension this time around.

The promoter was insisting that things would go as planned and the band would be on stage at around 9.30 pm. OK then, anxious about what will happen I arrived at that difficult place at about 7 pm. The rain had stopped for an hour and the sky seemed ok, cloudy but not that heavily. There was mud though.

Still, happy to see some of my friends there…The Raveonettes did their set, some like it, I didn’t.

9.35 pm…Revolution by The Beatles, now that was a nice surprise for an intro. A minute later the band was on stage and the show started… and it was just brilliant.



Now I’ve read quite a few posts on forums and social media about the first part of the show being slow. OK, Going Backwards is not as powerful as it is on the record and Barrel Of A Gun lacks the dramatic tone of the original but the rest was just fine, particularly So Much Love, Corrupt, In Your Room (finally in its original glory) and World In My Eyes (best version since 1993).

Two days of rest were quite evident in Dave’s vocals and Mart seemed a bit more active than usual in his own set, although doing his singles only was a bit of let down. At least this time we managed to hear Home based on the original version.

Funny thing about the second part of the show, first there were the lowest moments with Poison Heart (what the hell was that?) and Where’s the Revolution (it doesn’t really go anywhere) followed by the highest moments of Wrong and Everything Counts, new intros and rhythms making old people like me wanting to jump around and sing as loud as they can.

And then there were the anthems – Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again. Some others and I might be critical of the fact that they’re the same old versions, but the Athens crowd – and I’m pretty sure most casual fans – really didn’t care about that, or the rain drops that were falling around that time.

The encore would be perfect if there wasn’t I Feel You, the same boring “rock on” version. Walking In My Shoes sounded as powerful as ever; the tribute to Bowie with "Heroes" was appropriate, no sentimental crap there. And no more slow bluesy crap in Personal Jesus, just reach out and touch faith!



That was it…the tension had been transformed to excitement. And when the gig finished I was hearing nothing but words of excitement and joy from people in the audience. Some were saying that was the best Athens gig. 

Probably. The stage is too small for the show standards, there’s minimum interaction between band members, some songs sound the same like in the last few tours. Again, for the hardcore fans those can be huge things. For the about 15,000 fans that attended the Athens gig in difficult conditions, there are just minor details that they probably didn’t pay attention to. They “just” enjoyed a brilliant Depeche Mode show.


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Thanks very much Panos.

Friday, 19 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, STADE CHARLES-EHRMANN, NICE 12 MAY 2017

This review has been written by Carsten Drees, a German Devotee and a man who I've been lucky enough to meet twice on this tour already. Carsten has written a wonderful review that basically sums up both the experience of being at a Depeche gig and the experience of meeting Carsten himself! Check out his tech blog http://www.mobilegeeks.de/ and keep an eye out for Carsten at Depeche gigs throughout the summer. Thanks Carsten! 


The experience of listening to new Depeche Mode songs hasn't change that much over the years: It's just me, the new album, something to drink (non-alcohol) and some chocolate. This setup works for me since those well-known lads from Basildon published their The Singles 81-85 compilation back in 1985.

I was 14 years old and will never forget this moment, when I first took a look at this grey vinyl record and seconds later listened to all those great tracks. Fast forward: 32 years later and there still is the magic of the moment, when I sit down and listen to the new tracks. But something changed completely: In 1985 and the following years I was in some kind of bubble – there were just very few people to talk to about the new songs. Today, there are millions, when you take a short look at the internet. And loads of them are saying the same things – I don't like their new material, I want Alan back, SOFAD/Ultra was the last cool depeche-album/song since the band published Exciter etc etc.

You want to know why I'm talking about all those things instead of talking about the gig in Nice, France? Because something has changed: In my opinion, Spirit is an outstanding album and absolutely worthy of the name Depeche Mode - no doubt about it. But this time I have the feeling that most of the long-time-supporters are quite happy with Spirit, too. Sure – there always will be lots of haters around, but in general the fanbase seems to be very pleased by the new songs.

And this – finally- brings me to the tour and the concert in Nice: Which songs should be part of the setlist? To me, their selection is a very good one and Going Backwards is maybe the strongest opener in this millenium! I had the luck to see those guys in Berlin and Glasgow and attended the official start of the tour in Stockholm, Sweden, so I already knew that Going Backwards was the first song of the gig.

It was a warm spring day in lovely Nice and after a day with loads of drinks and delicious food we made it to the Stade Charles Ehrmann. Many other German friends made it to Nice, too and so it was – again – a big happening of the same old crazy depeche-family. First surprise: the stadium was pretty small and the stage took place in the hall right next to the arena – pretty strange. The stage seemed to be right in the butt of the hall, where Depeche Mode played their warm-up gig in 2013!


Next surprise: There were just three beer stands and just two places with mobile toilets. Very poor in my opinion, but there still was another nasty surprise: 10 or even 11 Euros for a single beer (deposit inclusive)! The good news: finally the very popular cups with Depeche Mode on it were introduced. I am not quite sure how many there are – there are two or three different ones.


When The Raveonettes started to play their support gig, we continued our own black celebration with pricey but beautiful cups of beer. The band sounds quite okay, but to me it's just a nice background music while you're waiting for DM. Then finally it was time for Depeche! The intro was a combination of two songs: First we listened to Revolution - an old Beatles classic, before the DM-intro started - a short instrumental version of Cover Me.

Then our heroes entered the stage including Jingling-Bernd (Gordeno) and Drumming-Clown (Eigner). If you're interested: In our language we call those two guys Klimper-Bernd und Trommel-Kasper! Okay, we're making fun of it, but in general it's okay to us, that they are part of the Depeche-experience on stage. But hey – there is one guy missing, isn't it? Yeah, that's right – Mr. Gahan himself was the last one to enter the stage and he did it in the back of the band on the second, upper stage.(Spoiler-Alert: He spent to less time up there at the concert).

Going Backwards – I already mentioned it: It's a great opener – on the album and live, too. If you want to get an idea of the mood of the current tour just watch this single track. It's Depeche Mode 2017 in a nutshell: There is passion and loads of energy and some lads who are enjoying what they are doing there.

Then it's time for another energetic track, So Much Love, or as we call it A Question Of Time 2. To be honest before their first concert, I had the vision that they could do a mash-up with this two powerful songs. By the way, the weather was still pretty fine and it felt like the first real summer-gig of this Spirit-tour.

But I'm still a little disappointed when it comes to the French crowd. Were you guys still sleeping? The Swedish crowd wasn't too enthusiastic, but the French one seemed to be even quieter in this early part of the concert. Maybe they already had an idea what was coming up: Barrel Of A Gun, A Pain That I'm Used To (featuring Klimper-Bernd on bass-guitar) and Corrupt. Sorry guys, I quite like these tracks, but it's a pretty lame combination and believe me, the fans will talk of this part as the „I will go for a pee and buy some beer“ section of the concert.

Don't get me wrong: I love Barrel Of A Gun, Corrupt is one of the greatest non-single-tracks in recent band history and APTIUT is a kinda party track which made the crowd finally start to clap, sing along and enjoy the concert. But to me personally it's a wasted chance, because their back catalogue offers so much more than this.

But then to me it's the real kickoff of the concert - In Your Room! The version is pretty much the one from the album which I really appreciate hearing live again. The crowd seemed to share my enthusiasm and now it is the party I was looking forward to.

I should mention the screening on the big L.E.D. wall in the back. Corbijn's idea for this song isa dancing couple – yes, the screening was as boring as it sounds. But anyway – I really enjoyed this short trip to the year 1993 and was waiting for some more. Next stop: 1990! There are three songs from Violator in the setlist - World In My Eyes is the first one and boy, I really love this awesome new intro!

Now everyone was enjoying the concert, including those five dudes on stage and even if I hoped for a little more enthusiasm like at the German concerts, it was a pretty cool party right now. Glad, you're finally awake, France! :D

Then there was time to slow things a little down with the most beautiful track on the current album - Cover Me. I can remember that there were some German guys aged 40-something in Glasgow who started crying at this part of the concert ;) Now we're kinda used to it and maybe a little more laid-back, but anyway, this is one of the highlights of the whole concert! It's such a brilliant and beautiful melody, I love the lyrics and Dave is performing so cautiously and delicately.

I pictured us in another life - Where we’re all super stars

After this sentence the faster Kraftwerk-esque part starts and it felt like the band now was giving the audience a fairy kiss to wake us all up from a beautiful dream. Every one starts clapping along. Also - it wasn't a dream that Dave Gahan was wearing an astronaut suit, but another backing film from Anton Corbijn. I really like this one – one of the best videos in the whole concert.

Okay, we're in a chilling mode now – best time for Dave to leave the stage and for Mart to enter the limelight: Time for another „Oh, I cried in Glasgow“-moment. Martin decided not to sing his new stuff (thank you for that, Mr. Gore) and instead performed Home and again it was the version which features the full band and not just the piano of Jingling-Bernd.

I really enjoy Home so much, every time I listen to it, especially live. I love the mood of the song and the singalong part at the end. Oh, you should have a look at the video (below) I made in Bratislava at the last tour – please listen to it carefully, 'cause Mart is singing a totally different song after it. If you ever saw a Depeche Mode concert before, you know that Martin is always singing two songs in the middle of the concert. And the second song – now played just as a acoustic version – took us back to 1986: A Question Of Lust!




It's one of my very fave Gore-songs – it always reminds me to my teenage years: my first girlfriend, first kisses... And still this song is so magical to me and always put me in a trance. Thank you so much for this selection of songs! Ah, Dave is back and ready to bring us the last two Spirit songs of this night: Poison Heart and Where's The Revolution. I already mentioned it: I really like the selection of this five songs from the current album – even if I'm missing Scum very badly.

Poison Heart worked very well as a reminder to the crowd, that the ballad time was nearly over and we're now entering the party-section. Where's the Revolution is such a great live song – I especially like the last part of it when Dave wants us to sing along and you hear nothing but Christian's drums.

Now we're entering the last part of the concert – 10 more songs are to come and believe me: Depeche Mode wants as to sing and clap and scream and sweat – this upcoming part of the setlist is proof of that. It starts with Wrong - performed in a fantastic new version with an sensational intro. By the way: Here you can see that the light show isn't as shitty as we thought after the first concert in Stockholm. If you're close to the stage – most times we're „front of stage“ - you are not able to see, how beautiful it looks. If you have the chance to see more than just one concert, take the chance to watch from the distance – it's definitely worth it, no doubt about it.

Next song: The music starts and you can see it in the eyes of the most people around us – they have no idea what this could be. But then all of the sudden there was the iconic intro-sound of Everything Counts and the whole audience immediately went nuts. Right now it feels like the good old times when we used to get the chance to listen to live songs from their early years. The version played on this tour is basically not far from the album but with this all new intro it's really close to perfect.

But the classic time is not over yet – suddenly we‘re listening to the opening sounds of Stripped. This is the song which started this whole Depeche Mode-madness to me. I was 14 years old back then and a Depeche Mode fan since 1982, but with Stripped, everything changed. I decided then that I have to go to my very first concert – the rest is history.

But there are some classics still missing - Enjoy The Silence for example and that comes next. I bet they will never play just one single regular concert without this one. The version is quite okay, but not that special. It's like: „Okay, they have to play it and I have to party“. Basically there is nothing more to say about it, but there was this strange, strange screening in the back. I still have no idea what is happening there and it really left us helpless when we saw it for the first time in Stockholm. Try to imagine that you are watching „Farmer wants a wife“ on LSD while you're listening to Old MacDonald had a Farm!

There are lots of different animals on the screen, all in very strange colours. When the first animal was shown I immediately started to shout „Hase, Hase“ (which translates to „rabbit, rabbit“) and all my german friends joined me fortunately. So a unspectacular Depeche-classic and a strange video mutated to a big party with many mid-40s shouting the names of animals.


(Picture by the lovely Daniela Vorndran from www.black-cat-net.de)

After it (and after we finally figured out how to stop laughing) we got that for many years marked the end of the concert - Never Let Me Down Again. ETS and NLMDA – what a great combo to end the regular set. The people were going crazy and so were we. After some minutes and exhaustive arm-waving in the typical NLMDA-way it was time to wave our guys goodbye for the first time.

It's not a very sad goodbye, because every one knew that the guys will return soon for some more songs. After some minutes it was Martin who stands in front of us to perform another classic Depeche song: Somebody from Some Great Reward! There is once again a film on thebig screen in the back, but there is not much going on – just the word „Somebody“, which could be the proof, that Depeche Mode is not going to change this part of the setlist.

Just to recall it: Home, A Question of Lust and Somebody - Martin Gore is performing three of his very best songs! Thanks for that, Mart!

There are four more songs to come – and the first one is from 1993: Walking In My Shoes - again with a new intro and basically in a slightly different version than 2013. There is something going on in the background: we can see another video by Anton Corbijn and unlike the strange Enjoy The Silence clip, this is a very strong one! We can see a man who is dressing as a woman – I bet, it's not that easy to walk in his shoes - not in the proper sense and not in the figurative one.

Now – finally – it's time for something, that was probably the most moving and touching moment of the whole night. A big, black flag in the background, „Klimper-Bernd“ picked the bass guitar again and a programmed drum beat kicked in. Martin and his guitar cuts in and then Dave started singing:

I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes just for one day

When I first listened to this amazing interpretation of this great David Bowie song in Stockholm, I immediately started crying like a child. There are my personal „Heroes“  just in front of me performing such a stunning version of of song by another hero who died way to soon. I felt so sad and so touched at the same time, feeling embraced by those beautiful sounds. The Depeche Mode version of „Heroes“ isn't a complete different one – the band managed to perform it as a homage to one of the greatest musicians of all time and added just a little electronic spice to it. Believe it or not, just by writing down these lines and recalling the moment, I feel like I could cry again. Thank you for so many magic moments in my life, Depeche Mode – and thank you for adding such a special one with this cover version.

After a performance, that left me breathless, David returned to the party mode with the inevitable I Feel You. I really love the song, but I prefer listening to it at home – maybe I listened to it way too much in the 90s ;) But anyway: Great version, absolutely on point and a very vibrant performance of good ol' Dave.

Now there was just one last song missing and I bet, the most people in the audience already had an idea what was coming up: Sure – it's Personal Jesus. I am not quite sure what to think about putting this tune at the very end of the concert – why not Everything Counts guys? I looked around: Happy, singing, clapping faces everywhere! Okay, Depeche Mode – maybe it's the right decision to end the concert with Personal Jesus. Maybe you’re right.



Once more we were able to see how much fun those five guys had on stage. And this thing makes me very happy – they are enjoying the concerts in 2017! They laugh, they talk to each other and even Fletch is involved – back in 2013 it sometimes looked as if there was some kind of ice age between Dave and Andy.

After Personal Jesus, our personal heroes waved to the audience for a last time and then disappeared into the night.  Thanks for a very good and entertaining evening, Depeche Mode. And hey – thank you, Nice for letting us walk all the way back to the beach, because there was just a handful of busses shuttling. It was a quite unusual location – with a band in a very good mood, a (in my opinion) pretty cool setlist (okay, it's exactly the same one as the played the previous nights), with too few toilets and beer stands and to pricey drinks. Did I miss something? Oh, of course: It was way to silent, especially in the beginning of the concert. Pump up the volume, guys ;)

Carsten - 2nd from right

In the end it was a very special night with the band who are responsible for the soundtrack of my life and with some of my very best friends. Nice, France – we'll return, I promise! Or as Dave Gahan would probably say: See You Next Time!!




Wednesday, 17 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, DVORANA (HALL) STOZICE, LJUBLJANA, 14 MAY 2017

This review has been submitted by Nikola Pokupec and it is a wonderful read which I know you'll love. It's as passionate a review as you'll read of any gig on the tour and it makes you feel like you're right there at the gig. Thanks very much Nikola. Also, a quick note for you all - the Nice review from 12 May has been delayed for a technical reason or two so this jumps the queue. That review will be up as soon as I can.



*WARNING: This review is blatantly subjective and includes many details that probably don’t interest the casual fan, but it’s not that many casuals read this wonderful blog. Just wanted to let you know that. I tried to be honest in my criticism and praise for the band along with trying to describe the general mood and flow of the whole day of the concert. Also, I’m not a native English speaker, so incredibly long sentences and some weird formulations or phrases might ensue. Enjoy!*

Even though it was already the fifth concert of the Global Spirit Tour, the Depeche Mode concert in Ljubljana was only my second ever by the band, which seems a bit weird. Why is that? They’ve been part of my life ever since my dad introduced me to his pirated 101 cassette some 16-17 years ago. My first concert was in Zagreb, 4 years ago during the Delta Machine Tour so this review will more or less be a comparison to that one and the shows we all know from their official live recordings, be it the exquisite Devotional from 1993 (actually out in 1994, but you know that, don’t you?), the wonderful One Night In Paris from 2002, the crazy Live In Milan from 2006 or the lethargic, but still passable TOTU: Live in Barcelona from 2010.

My Sunday morning started with a tedious two-and-a-half-hour train trip from my home-town in Croatia (Čakovec, but it’s not like anyone knows where that is) to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, where the concert would take part at the small but wonderful Arena Stožice and where, incidentally, I’ve been spending most of my time for the last four years due to college (the city, not the arena).



The mentioned trip was made bearable by blasting Live In Berlin and the Live In Glasgow soundtracks through my headphones, hyping myself for the gig, which I would attend with my girlfriend who is a huge fan and - surprise, surprise - that’s how we met each other, thanks to our common interest in the wonderfully weird and salacious (thank you, James Ford) world of Depeche Mode.

Fast forward to 5PM that day, we arrived at the venue in a public transport bus, more than half full of people dressed in (at least) something black, from many different countries (I heard English, French and Italian, but there were also Croatians – us two at least) whereas the rest (the minority) was looking at us stumped at our weird-ish fashion sense and choice of apparel. Depeche have always taken pride at being different and doing things the alternative way, so be it.

The gate for the Golden Circle ticket holders was easy to locate, but a bit harder to see, due to a huge group of even more hardcore fans than us occupying the entrance, some of which have already arrived there at 10AM (rumours, but totally credible). We were given improvised queuing numbers (written on our hands with a permanent marker) but this order totally fell apart when the security open the doors, because we were let in a bit later than expected (doors opening was scheduled for 18.30) so everyone was very nervous and eager to get the best spots possible.


We managed to get a pretty good spot, even though we weren’t running for it like some others did – we ended up in the 6th or 7th row (you can judge by the photos, I thought the view was quite good). After settling in with a couple of overpriced beers in our hands, the long, almost three hour wait for the main act could begin. The Raveonettes started at roughly 19.45 and though I was impressed at first with the sound of the venue and the strong bass, I soon realised it was a bit overwhelming and that niggle would eventually last for the whole concert, which instantly made it less enjoyable than my previous Zagreb gig – additionally, the loudness levels were somehow just not high enough, which meant the sound wasn’t as immersive. That’s gripes out of the way, let’s get to the good bits e.g. the actual concert.


As you might already know, between the support act and the main gig, there’s a little techno set which is supposedly curated by none other than Mr. Gore himself, which was nice for passing the time, but once again - a little louder, please! After this set ends, there’s a snippet of Revolution by The Beatles (thank you, Shazam) and the lights go down – act one, begins.

The intro to the concert is good enough, though they’ve certainly done better (Plastikman’s Painkiller mix on The Singles Tour) or at least more dramatic in the past (curtains at Devotional or 101). What it is, is a modified version of Cover Me (Alt Out) from the deluxe version of Spirit with a background of the animated funny cartoon-y legs from the album cover, slowly zooming in which makes for some trippy viewing. Towards the end all members except Dave enter the stage to the sound of screaming girls and/or women in the crowd, with me and sporadic other male attendees included. I wasn’t reduced to tears as in Zagreb, because now I’m cool y’know, it’s not the first time I’m seeing the band live, but there was still that lump-in-the-throat feeling because you don’t see your heroes every day from up close as this, except on your computer screen. The set started with Going Backwards, with Mr. Gahan appearing discreetly at the second level of the stage (between the two projection screens), looking as cool as ever in one of his beloved suits and some sunglasses in front of colourful backdrops by their resident live projection creator and visual director for pretty much the last 30 years, Anton Corbijn (a detail which will certainly make for some stunning photos or shots of Mr. Gahan in the nowadays mandatory live recording some time later during the tour). I haven’t got much to say about the song except that, like pretty much all the songs from Spirit, it has lost a bit of its electronic edge live and the fact it’s brought down a key doesn’t help the energy levels at the start of the gig. A pleasant, if a bit meandering opener.


Next up was So Much Love, one of the songs I don’t like that much on record because it’s a bit too fuzzy and cluttered, whereas live it was one of the tracks from Spirit that benefited from simplification and the drumming really brought out the lovely beat (here’s hoping it will be a single and it gets a proper single mix with enhanced percussion). It got the crowd going a bit more than the opener, but still we were far from the unified participants as in the second part of the show. The projection on this song is a bit baffling, because it shows the band performing, so it’s a bit confusing choosing what to watch, because I found the visuals stunning.

Barrel Of A Gun was next, one of my all-time favourites which I thoroughly enjoyed, during which I belted out lyrics so loud I almost couldn’t hear Dave sing (which is good, because he uses a weird vocal melody that’s far from the album version and it just sounds wrong). This was the first song that I sensed the crowd got going a bit, it was a bit of an old hit, but still, we’re far from the culmination of this gig. A Pain That I’m Used To followed, which was, as well as BOAG, part of the tracks resurrected from the Delta Machine tour, which I found a bit lazy, but APTIUT worked so well in getting the crowd going and clapping a bit, so they obviously know what they’re doing. I love that version they’re performing, too (the Jacques Lu Cont Remix by Stuart Price). I found it a bit cringey the last time, seeing Peter Gordeno on bass guitar, but I loved it this time and you could really see how they feed off each other’s energy and how they love performing this song.

Corrupt was next up – I still can’t believe they’re performing this song live. It is my absolute favourite non-single from Sounds Of The Universe and one of my favourites from the Hillier years in general. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed it because it gave off an even sleazier and dirtier vibe than the album version – I’ve always loved the sleazy side of Depeche.


In Your Room is finally performed in the proper album version – when I say proper – as proper as you can expect from the Depeche of late, who don’t particularly pay attention to details when it comes to live sound (I sorely missed the toms after the third verse, but hey at least there was no Zephyr Mix). The backing projections were very interesting and this was the first proper chorus we could sing along to, the atmosphere was beginning to really heat up.

The opening riff of World In My Eyes brought catharsis upon some in the crowd (judging by the sounds they were making) and it was the first proper stomper of the night, which brought along the deserved reaction from the crowd – the band had begun to perform with even more confidence, as far as I could tell. Dave brought back his trademark spin and the ladies went nuts for his hip shaking and other sensual (or should I say sexual?) moves he likes to do. The backing vocals from Martin were beautiful, especially the prolonged ooh and aahs at the end, making for a great segue into the next song, which is one of my favourites on the new record.

Cover Me worked well for the first ballad in the set and though many in the crowd just took their phones out and started recording instead of enjoying, Dave didn’t seem that bothered with it. He fully nailed the performance and got us properly going for the latter, instrumental half of the song. One thing I missed here is a more prominent sound of the sequencer, which makes this part of the song so beautiful, but the sound quality was mediocre throughout the show. That didn't lessen the experience though.


After Cover Me, it was time for Dave to get some rest backstage and for the resident songwriter to take the stage. Martin stunned the crowd with an exceptional, full on, album version performance of home, with Christian on drums and Fletch and Peter on synth, himself being on guitar and producing some beautiful vocals. He was all gleaming at the end of the song, he even got onto the catwalk to spur on the traditional cheers, which mimic the closing guitar riff. He then performed a lovely piano only version of A Question Of Lust and it was the first time since the intro and the band entering the stage, that I got the lump in the throat, maybe because I was so happy to be standing some 5 metres away from Martin Gore, singing beautiful love songs to me and my loved one.

Dave introduced himself back to the stage with a hearty performance of Poison Heart, a track which I thought would be a proper downer live, judging by the videos I’ve seen of the previous Spirit Tour performances, but it was not to be. Again, that might be due to the fact it’s one of my favourites from Spirit, but the performance was crisp, powerful and the vocals were stunningly emotional. It was followed by Where’s The Revolution, a track that I still can’t form a proper opinion about. It’s like John The Revelator for me, some days I love it, some days I just plain hate it and it gets on my nerves, it mainly has to do with the mood I’m in (it only really works when I’m a bit angry or have some other negative feelings bothering me). The visuals for Where's The Revolution were the cream of the crop for me at the concert, all very much in the style of the Spirit era, animated protest fists, marching legs, flags – pleasantly colourful, but powerful and performance-enhancing.

Where's The Revolution was the breaking point of the concert somehow, even though the sing-along didn’t work all that well as I saw it in some other cities, it marked a spike in the mood of the crowd and the event in general and what was to follow, was one of the best experiences I could imagine.

Wrong was the first song the crowd seemed to know word by word and was also one of those I thought I’d never see/hear live, as I missed on the Zagreb TOTU gig by a narrow margin. The song starts with the lovely synth riff, which is actually the Wrong (Reprise) which is a “hidden” track on SOTU, appearing some two or three minutes after the album closer, Corrupt, finishes. The performance was energetic and inspired, whereas the projections were reminiscent of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album covers, albeit brought into the digital age.


Everything Counts was next, a song we’ve known they would perform for quite some time now, as Dave stated in many of the interviews after the Milan press conference, he would like to see it return to the setlist, because of its political undertone which goes well with the overall thematic of Spirit. It had a lovely prolonged bass line intro, but no-one really knew what it was until the first screeching sounds appeared and then, with the drums and the main synth riff kicking in, the roof was fu*king off. The party could properly begin. Word by word, the crowd sang the lyrics as loud as they could, probably even outsinging Dave on some occasions, but the highlight was the lovely 101-style sing-along at the end.

Everything Counts was followed by a subdued performance of Stripped, which, in my opinion, could benefit from some stronger drums (it seems to have got a similar treatment as Black Celebration for the Delta tour, so it’s not all that explosive as we might know it from the 80s or 90s tours). The crowd participation was still on point, though many were rather recording it with their phones once again, instead of just enjoying Dave singing the chorus, which is a pretty rare occurrence on the 21st century renditions of the song.

The following two songs that closed the main set were Enjoy The Silence and Never Let Me Down Again, and their performance can be summed by quoting their respective lyrics – words were very unnecessary and they didn’t let me down, at all. The crowd was properly “flying high” – hands were in the air at all times and the hand waving was as scintillating as ever.


What followed was a break for the band, but not for the crowd, which continued on cheering as loud as can be, clapping and hoping for them to return for the encore, which by now had consisted of five songs, which was also the case in Ljubljana.

Martin returned for another one of his piano numbers. Though I was expecting some rotation (and was virtually crossing my fingers for The Things You Said), Martin performed Somebody as on the previous four dates and it didn’t prove to be a mistake. On the contrary, it was another lump in the throat moment for me, but not the final one. The projection was very simple but powerful, a flag with the lettering S O M E B O D Y, which is probably one of the reasons why we shouldn’t really get our hopes up for Martin changing this one any time soon, AQOL is more likely because it isn’t tied to what is shown in the background.

Walking In My Shoes was next up and it was as strong as ever. It’s a slight variation of the Delta performance, but enough to make you enjoy it anew and is coupled with a video that sends out a strong message. The video is done in a similar style as the In Your Room projection, so it’s nice to see Anton visually connected the SOFAD songs in the setlist. As Dave once said, that he could never get tired of performing this song, I think the same stands for the fans – it’s one of their strongest songs in the catalogue and I can never get tired of listening to it. Great lyrics, flow, arrangements, instrumentation, many moments to participate if you’re part of the crowd – it just work great live, as it does on the album.

What came next, was the incredible homage to the late David Bowie, "Heroes". If someone asked me to single out one or two highlights of this gig, it would be this (coupled with Everything Counts for some good no strings attached fun, much preferred to JCGE). The song is performed in front of a simple, yet effective waving black flag projection and it starts with a lovely drum-machine-only beat. Christian then joins the action at some two minutes in, to enhance the ethereal feel and make it breathe just a tad more, which makes the last verse all the more effective, with Dave pouring his heart out. They just nail it and perform it with respect to Bowie’s original, while spicing it up with a bit of that Depeche Mode touch, a sequencer break here, drum machine there and most importantly, Dave’s lovely vocals. Martin even introduces an oh oh ooh at the end. Effortless, but beautiful.


Second to last is I Feel You, which compared to WIMS, sounds like the band going through the motions a bit, though that riff can never let me down. They could play that riff for six minutes instead of performing the actual song and I’d still be pleased, it’s one of those great ones which get in your ear and stay with you forever. Though Dave’s vocals aren’t as powerful as on Devotional, when he had a proper God-like growly voice, he still delivers his lines with vigor but there’s just that special something missing from this performance and it might as well be my least favourite of the whole set (that’s not to say it’s bad, we’re talking about Depeche Mode here).

The set ends on a powerful, compact and shortened version of Personal Jesus (thankfully dropping the drawn out intro of the Delta tour) and it showcased the band in great spirits, with Dave showing almost no signs of his age (he turned 55 five days before this concert). The party piece was, as usual, the extended techno outro of the song, with the crowd jumping like crazy, singing every last word, being particularly mind-blowingly loud during the five sacred words for every DM fan, mentioned in the next sentence.

With REACH OUT AND TOUCH FAITH echoing through the venue, a feeling of sadness started to slowly creep behind the corner, but this time, in comparison to Zagreb four years ago, I already have another ticket in my pocket, so I can go home happy knowing there is at least one more gig waiting for me. Though a shortened setlist awaits us in Lisbon, at the NOS Alive festival on July 8th I can’t help but feel extremely impatient for the gig. I’ll do no relays for HOME, probably won’t be taking any pictures, will just be taking up the atmosphere and enjoy every moment of it. After all, seeing Depeche Mode, on a beautiful beach, at night, what’s not to love? The festival crowd maybe, but who cares. The Slovenian crowd wasn’t that good too, but all is forgiven for the fiery atmosphere in the second half of the show.



So to wrap up (finally, huh?) – this gig, although I preferred the setlist to the Delta tour, felt a bit weird live due to the sound, but looking back on the videos and photos I managed to snap I’m just beginning to realize I witnessed another life-changing event, it’s just that I was a bit star-struck during the concert and tired of the events of the day, that’s all. Carried by the crowd, especially in the second half, the band delivered a great performance in the end, just adding to the sea of great gigs in their longstanding career and - to end on a positive note - I completely agree with Mr. Gore’s opinions about the state of the band in a recent interview (or was it Fletch?). It really is the best time now to be in Depeche Mode, for they’re healthy, going strong, enjoying what they’re doing more than ever due to the sobriety and actually “being there”, whereas the technology is opening up new possibilities that weren’t possible even as close as 5 years back, so they can give back to us fans more with every new record. To be a fan, then? Even better Mart, even better.

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Thanks very much Niokla.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, SPORTPALEIS, ANTWERP 9 MAY 2017

The next guest reviewer is Linda Meijer who is an Assistant from DM TV Archives, the wonderful site that gathers and preserves all Depeche Mode's TV and radio appearances for us all to enjoy. Linda specialises in finding all sorts of Depeche goodness and, as well as the Archives site, she also uploads interviews to DM Live Wiki, is a co-moderator of Depeche-Mode.nl and a co-admin of Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos on Facebook. Essentially, Linda is a godsend for Depeche fans. I was delighted when she volunteered to review the Antwerp gig.  I know you're going to love this.




Writing a review of a concert can be hard enough in itself, but when also you have attended another concert two days prior by the same artist which is still fresh in your memory, it is hard to go about writing without comparing the two concerts together. I've been thinking about writing this review without mentioning the concert in Amsterdam whatsoever, but it is impossible for me to so, so unfortunately I will have to make do...

I must admit that my overall experience is a bit spoilt since I had bought Early Entry tickets for both Amsterdam and Antwerp. For those wondering just how relaxed Early Entry is, I will say that it can vary, depending on both the crowd as well as the organisers. In Amsterdam, the people waiting in the Early Entry line were a lot more anxious, and once you start feeling a level of tension in others, it's hard for a group to take it down a notch. By the time we were almost left in, there was some pushing, stepping on people's feet, arguing about who gets to stand in front of whom. It's all a bit silly, of course, when you consider the fact that everyone will get a decent spot anyway. Once inside, we had to form a tight formation which no one was allowed to move away from, and the guards warned us that anyone who starts running will go back outside. So by the time we were at the stage barriers, there was a whole lot of adrenaline going on. In Antwerp, the fans were a lot more relaxed. Our line was supposed to be in the shades, but since we had all written numbers on our hands, we walked about in the sunlight. Once we were let in, we were allowed to walk around and go to the bathrooms or put our stuff in lockers or buy drinks. People respected the numbers on each other's hands a lot more, and so by the time we were front of stage, everyone was feeling amicably with one another.

This amicable feeling, along with the fact that it was my second concert of the tour which meant that I no longer had that typical teenage-ish fangirl "OMG they are back!" sensation that I had in Amsterdam, meant that I could enjoy the concert in Antwerp with a relatively clear mind without needing to shout at the top of my lungs every minute. The fans around me seemed quite relaxed also, which was kind of a bummer for The Raveonettes, since hardly one seemed to be excited about seeing a support act. The crowd was a lot more quiet during their set in Antwerp than in Amsterdam. Or maybe it had more to do with the fact that many of the faces who attended the Antwerp gig were also in Amsterdam where they played the same setlist, and thus they already knew their tricks.



I had landed in the middle part before the stage between Dave and Martin's spots, with only a short girl in front of me, so I had a pretty good spot. The stage actually seemed lower and smaller in the Sportpaleis than in Ziggo Dome, so there was a good view of the entire stage. As usual, the bass comes in pretty strong when you're front row, punching you in the stomach with every beat, so I'm not really able give a proper assessment of the sound quality in the rest of the venue, unfortunately.

Having Going Backwards as the opener was a good decision. It's no intro à la A Pain That I'm Used To, but at least it starts with more of a groove than In Chains and Welcome To My World. Although I feel that Anton's creations are a matter of hit and miss, I think that the colour-splashing backdrop that emerges from the dark really appeals the eye, especially once Dave arrives on the platform, thus forming a black apparition. This time around, Dave showed up in sunglasses, which he took off once he stepped down from the platform. Naturally, he received a warm welcome.

It being Dave Gahan's birthday (55 years old, a "significant birthday"), there were a few fans who thought of celebrating Dave's senior citizen status: apparently a group of fans wore birthday cake-shaped hats which you can see here:




A German woman named Annett had brought some white and red heart balloons with her as well as 4 red balloon letters that spelled "DAVE". She asked us to hold them up while the band was playing So Much Love, going along with the theme of the song. I myself had brought couple of "Happy Birthday" balloons which I had let spread around, as well as two silver balloons for myself that had the shape of number 5, thus forming 55. Since Annett and I were standing second row at the front of the stage, there is a considerable chance that the band saw the balloons... But all of that did not matter much because we were trumped by a French guy who goes by the name "Dave Spirit" who surprisingly managed to spread eight friggin' thousand LED-containing "Happy Birthday Dave Gahan" balloons among a 20.000 sized crowd which were meant to be activated right after So Much Love, thus not only obliterating my and Annett's tiny balloons but also leaving the band visibly in awe as they saw nothing but thousands of red and blue waving lights. Many fans continued to wave the balloons throughout the gig, but it became spectacular again when Peter Gordeno began playing the "Happy Birthday" song on his piano after Martin had performed A Question Of Lust, which cued the audience once again to wave about frantically with their balloons, on which Dave commented "a big party". You can see it here on this video from YouTube (which also shows my mediocre "55" balloon):




All this along with the birthday cake that a bakery delivered to Dave at the venue around twelve-ish, along with skull shaped Belgian chocolates that I had indeed seen in Dave's car as they left their hotel the following day, makes it clear that his birthday certainly wasn't forgotten.

It's hard to gauge the liveliness of the overall crowd when you're pretty much front row, because it can be said that the people at the front are far more active than those in the back. I thought the crowd was quite active: what they lacked in jumping and arm waving in comparison to the crowd in Amsterdam, they made up in singing along to every lyric of every song. Or so it appeared in my vicinity, because although I could hear plenty of people singing along to the chorus of Everything Counts, Dave Gahan was visibly underwhelmed, and at one point started laughing at us and looked at Martin and mouthed something to the effect of "it's not working". Apparently, no matter how many times Dave did the "come on then" hand gesture, the crowd simply wasn't singing loudly enough. But from what I could see of the crowd, everybody was tagging along. It was also clear that many people had not looked at the new setlist yet, because at the start of quite a few songs, noticeably Home, Everything Counts, Somebody and "Heroes", people would only start "woo"-ing once the first lyric had been sung, as a way of saying "Hey I recognise this song!" I do not mean that as critique: it's just one of those things of which you easily forget that not every fan reads every detail about a band every single day until there are no more surprises left. Overall the reception of most slower songs like In Your Room and Martin's solo songs went relatively well, although the classic showstoppers like Personal Jesus and Never Let Me Down Again were of course received best. Even Wrong, of which I don't exactly remember it getting a good reception eight years ago, went down quite well with the crowd. But, understandably, the new Spirit songs Cover Me and Poison Heart, which are very slow songs to boot, did not exactly entice everyone up in the nosebleed sections. But hey, you can't have everything. I was also pleased to see that the amount of smartphones/cameras around me wasn't too obtrusive, meaning that most people seemed to prefer actually seeing the band with their own two eyes rather than through a camera lens, something that Dave has commented on recently (http://www.t-online.de/unterhaltung/musik/id_80664426/musik-dave-gahan-findet-handys-bei-konzerten-nervig.html)



Most eyes were focused on Dave anyway, since Martin did not appear to be particularly attentive to the crowd so far during this tour. The only eye contacts and smiles he makes are during the few moments when Dave is looking at him for eye contact, or when Dave hugs him like he did before Walking In My Shoes. He did smile when he steps on the catwalk during his solo bit, but it had a bit of a "Hey were go again" twang to it. But maybe he has other things on his mind still, like his two newborn children with whom he won't be spending any proper quality time until a year from now. Oh well, at least he was wearing body glitter for the first time this tour, hopefully that will activate his tour-mode soon enough.

Kevin May was also correct in his review of the Amsterdam gig about the crowd's delay in managing to spot Dave up on the higher platform. Not only did it take me a while to find Dave on there, but I could hear the crowd having trouble seeing him on there immediately too. A light on the man there would indeed be best. Speaking of lights, I really like all the lights that shine down on the stage. They especially wowed me during Everything Counts: the light blue lights that swirl on the band sort of reminds me of sunlight that can be seen underwater. As for the screen projections, the aforementioned backdrop for Going Backwards but also the ones for Cover Me and "Heroes" work really well, I think. But, personally speaking, I think the projections for Where's The Revolution and Martin's solo songs are too simplistic and the one for In Your Room is too bright.



I would say that the concert in Amsterdam was slightly better simply than the one on Antwerp because of Dave Gahan's enormous energy that he exuded during the former. Still, it should be said that comparing Dave's different levels of energy between two gigs is like comparing Mercedes and Ferraris - one might score better on one test, but the other one is still hella good. All the hip shaking, the ball grabbing, the finger pointing, the smiling, overall engaging with the crowd... He could never half-arse it, not even if he tried. And so it still leaves for a very memorable night. That and the eight friggin' thousand balloons.


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Thank you very much indeed Linda. 

Monday, 8 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, ZIGGO DOME, AMSTERDAM 7 MAY 2017

Welcome to the second in the series of the Global Spirit Tour reviews and the first by one of a series of guest reviewers. Kevin May is a UK based journalist who usually writes about the travel industry and technology. He is also well known to Depeche Mode fans as the author of the forthcoming book Halo from Grosvenor House examining the story behind Violator. To say that book is keenly anticipated is something of an understatement. It's going to be something every Depeche fan will want to read. Keep an eye on Kevin's Halo Facebook page for all the relevant info. Anyway, over to Kevin....

DEPECHE MODE ARE ROLLING BACK THE YEARS - IN FORM AND FULL OF ENERGY




I remember reading an article a while ago that analysed how the opening night of a tour is never the one that causes the most anxiety.

It is always the second show, and perhaps the two or three after that.

Sure, debut nights have very high stress levels - the months of preparation across every area of putting a band in the road need to come together and work seamlessly for two hours.

Staging, AV, merchandising, ticketing, VIPs, press, etc. Not forgetting, of course, the weeks of rehearsing and trying to make the live sound as good as possible.

There must be a huge sense of relief when it does all work - or appear to - on the opening night.

The reaction (here on David's blog and social media) to the Stockholm gig, the first of Depeche Mode's new Spirit Tour, had been extremely good.

Yet it is said that the second night can often show the frailties of taking a massive production on the road - getting the stage, lighting, screens, computers, etc packed away and then back in place in a new venue, in a new city, within a day or so.

The first airing of new set list can also cause headaches - poor reaction from the crowd (let's face it, reasonably unlikely in the case of Depeche), realising that some of the arrangements or the video backdrops need to be tweaked, concerns over the running order and countless other creative elements of putting on a two-hour gig.

Still, it appears that - as Depeche Mode roll into Amsterdam, two days after the gig in the Swedish capital, with a 14-hour drive - things are going extremely well so far.

The Amsterdam Ziggo Dome is a terrific venue - big, airy, but manages to be more intimate than some of the often soulless atmosphere of the identikit mega-arenas in Europe, such as the O2 in London.

Danish band The Raveonettes, the latest in a long line of brave souls to support Depeche, are loud, creative with how they use guitars alongside other instruments, and extremely good.

Some Devotees will moan, inevitably, but their grinding rhythms, superb close harmonies, heavy bass and wall-of-sound guitars seem to somehow capture a mood of both edginess and expectation.

They go down pretty well with the Dutch crowd (and me). Fair play to them. I'm a new fan.

The lights dim after what feels like an interminable wait to the strains of Revolution by The Beatles - cue the first of many sing-a-longs of the evening.

If the aim is to get the crowd whipped up into a frenzy, it works. 

The first strains of Martin Gore's guitar on Going Backwards ring out and it is soon very obvious that thousands of people already know the words of this and every other song from the new Spirit album, released just seven weeks ago.

It is, as has been noted in numerous forums and blogs, one of the best opening tracks from a Depeche album for a long time and, in this setting, the perfect song to kick off the gig.

This is no low-key Welcome To My World and Angel from the Delta Machine Tour - we are in full-on audience participation (and appreciation) straight away.

They stride through the first half a dozen or so songs like a well-oiled machine (including a wonderful Songs And Faith And Devotion album version of In Your Room) - the tightness of the show and the AV showing no signs of a lack-of-practice as it's still early days in the tour, or following the 1,400km drive south from Stockholm.

As mentioned in my review of the Barrowlands gig at the end of March, Depeche Mode in 2017 seem very much at ease with themselves.

It's noticeable in their confidence in the new material and their body language, especially between Martin and Dave.

There are hugs in the semi-darkness between songs (cue a huge roar from the crowd stage-left) and Dave even performs a "we-are-not-worthy" action to his band mate after a song later in the set, again triggering cheers from the masses.

Dave is in his element, as always - spinning, pouting, grimacing and grinning his way through songs.

The extended catwalk stage gets a visit on a few occasions - the soaring brilliance of Cover Me has Dave ordering the crowd participation from its very end and Martin encourages the crowd yell-a-long at the end of his perfect rendition of Home.

So what stands out? 

Wrong has a new synth-led intro and generally grinds away merrily in its own repetition. Corrupt has finally won me over - perhaps due to it getting an extremely dirty feel to it for the tour.

Everything Counts creeps up on a few people, as the famous melody is introduced quietly against a low-fi, trip hop-style beat.

Still, when the song gets going, it's pandemonium in the crowd (the second biggest cheer in the first half of the set after a rapturous World In My Eyes). It's a wonderful moment, especially with the 101-style participation from the crowd at the end.

So, here's a minor wrinkle - we're not in full Devotional-style, split-level with the stage design but Dave Gahan does use a higher platform on a number of occasions, like a preacher's pulpit (borrowing from the Where's The Revolution video) that sits about a third of the way up the giant screen behind the main playing area.

Maybe I missed it, but he's never lit fully by the spotlights, just a silhouette.

This could well be the point, of course, yet it often took a while for the crowd to notice he was actually up there ("Oh, THERE he is!! "Yeaaaaaah, Dave!"). I suspect that part of the "performance" might change as the gigs pile up.

Anton Corbijn's stage projections will polarise opinion, as always, but they're bright, often weird or surreal, but do not take anything away from the performance.

They close the main set with Enjoy The Silence and Never Let Me Down Again - such staples of the Depeche live act these days but, let's face it, it takes a heart of stone to not be moved both by their brilliance as songs and, in a live setting, how uplifting it can be having 15,000 people singing and waving along together.



Martin returns with Peter Gordeno for the encore to sing a pitch perfect version of Somebody (I hear a "I think I'm going to cry" from behind me somewhere). Walking In My Shoes, with its new intro, follows.

It's easy to forget that not every fan in the Ziggo Dome tonight would have known what the setlist was likely to be, had watched footage from the previous gig or - shock, horror - simply doesn't use social media to find out every detail about the band and the tour.

This is why, for me, perhaps one of the moments of the night is when it finally dawns on thousands of people, as Dave sings the first or second line, that Depeche Mode are indeed playing their tribute to David Bowie with a version of Heroes (Peter is also out front again on the bass guitar).

"Oh my god! Is that Heroes? Oh my god!" screams a woman behind me.

Somewhat ironically, given that you're reading this, there's something to be said for not reading this or any reviews of the Spirit Tour!

A powerful Personal Jesus ends the night (I'd love to know where the loudest "Reach out and touch faith!" is on the tour) and then it's all smiles, bows, hugs from the band (Fletch gets a huge roar when he saunters over stage-left), and they're gone.

It's still (very!) early days on the tour, but if they keep up this level of intensity, then fans are going to be in for a treat over the course of the next 12 months.

Someone asked me after the gig why I thought it was better than my experiences of the last few tours.

It's two-fold: firstly, the new songs from Spirit that sprinkle the setlist are all extremely good, meaning the overall quality of the songs is arguably higher than in previous tours. A personal view, but I think there's something to it.

Secondly, there's what appears to be a very positive and buoyant mood in the camp - the pre-tour interviews have been some of the best the band have done in years, for example - which comes through on-stage.

Depeche Mode appear to be very comfortable in their current skin - the energy both in the performance of the songs and their physical presence (especially Dave) is higher than I can remember for many years.

And, best of all, they know it and they can see what it means to the fans who are clearly lapping up what could eventually be seen as Depeche's most passionate and celebratory gigs in a very long time.

It's a good time to be seeing Depeche on the road again.
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Thanks very much to Kevin for that wonderful review. I mentioned his Facebook page earlier - make sure you check him out on Twitter (https://twitter.com/HALOBook) too.