Tuesday, 20 June 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, HDI ARENA, HANNOVER, 11 AND 12 JUNE 2017

On June 11 and 12, Depeche Mode performed a first on this tour - two gigs on consecutive nights in the same venue. A special pair of gigs were anticipated, with a focus on night two for the first setlist changes of the tour (if we ignore Martin swapping A Question Of Lust and Home around). To cover these gigs properly, a special reviewer was required - step forward Niggels Uhlenbruch, a Munster based DM fan who, among other things is a music journalist, a DJ, and a contributor to this blog. He's also the driving force behind the campaign to bring Boys Say Go! back into the live set up. Enjoy this review. I know you will.





I'm Taking A Ride With my Best Friends!
Depeche Mode - Global Spirit in Hanover - 11th & 12th June, 2017

tl;dr: Two brilliant nights with Depeche and amazing friends - 'Strangelove' must stay in the set!

Part 1 - Hannover Day 1

I'm taking a ride with my best friends - to Hanover, the capital of the federal state of Lower Saxony in the north of Germany! Depeche Mode were the reason for our journey, of course, and that Hanover was the only back to back double date during the summer leg of the 'Global Spirit' tour was the icing on the cake. Will they change the set list on the second night? Of course they will! Maybe a bit. Well, probably not at all! Germany's northerners have a reputation to be a bit reserved and withdrawn, as an audience as well as in life in general. [Hah, a DM pun!] I wasn't familiar with the HDI Arena, and being a little sceptic when it comes to open air concerts in stadiums with often rather dodgy acoustics, and with the usually good but not overly enthusiastic Hanover crowds in mind, I was a bit worried how the experience would be like.

Hannover Day 1 - all smiles before the show (Niggles on right)

Well, no beating about the bush, it was pure MADNESS in the most wonderful sense of the word! There's nothing better than going to a Depeche Mode show with some of your best friends - except going to two Depeche Mode shows in a row with them. ;-) And it was amazing to meet so many fellow devotees, some of them good friends which I unfortunately don't see as often as I'd like to, and some others you simply meet every four years (for certain reasons) and who are pretty delightful people, too. These are the folks which make the exciting spectacle of seeing DM live all the more special! [If I was a teenage girl I'd insert a couple of heart emojis here but I'd never do that! ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ Oops!]

On Sunday we arrived very early at HDI Arena and the stadium was already filling up nicely and looked quite impressive. It was a hot and humid Sunday in Hanover, and while the weather was tolerable outside the stadium the air was really close inside the big bowl. It was still more than hour to go until the support act, Algiers, due onstage, so it was time to say hello to all friends and to socialize a bit. Well, not just a bit - that were quite a lot of hugs and hellos and smiles! And beers, because you need something for all the toasts after all. Pleasantly the organization at the HDI Arena was just perfect, the ways to the bars and the bathrooms (quite important when you frequent the bar frequently) were short and there were even mobile beer vendors searching the Front Of Stage area for potential customers. They soon found out that our group meant big business for them and made sure that they don't lose eye contact with is. That is, until the FOS got so crowded that they got a little scared and left the FOS. Or maybe we just emptied their beer kegs and they called it a day. Who knows?

Hannover Day 1 - beard mode
One thing that I found outrageous, though, was that there people on seats where all they could see was the side of the stage. That is, this "shoe box" surrounding three sides of the stage to protect it from the weather. I had the chance to check out their viewpoint as I had to walk downstairs through their block when returning from the bathrooms. Horrible! Basically those people paid 80 Euros or more just to stare at black plastic tarp, cables and equipment! They couldn't even see the side screens and their only chance to see a band member at all was when Dave or Martin entered the catwalk. Whoever is responsible for selling such shitty seats should be taken to court!

Who sells seats like these!!

Algiers came onstage eventually to start their short set. The British-American band fuse Indie Rock and Post-Punk with Electronica and Gospel and add some gloominess and socially aware lyrics to the mix, and with this mix they are quite a perfect support for the mighty Mode. Unfortunately the sound was dreadful and had a multiple echo from hell. This made me really worried about the sound when they headliner was to hit the stage! However, I found Algiers enjoyable enough despite the dodgy acoustics and had, in good fun, a laugh at Algiers' overly enthusiastic, weirdly super-animated keyboarder who just couldn't stand still and preferred to jump around his keyboard instead of pressing a key for most of the time. If Fletch had a spurious son with Iggy Pop and Joe Cocker, this would be Algiers' keyboarder. But hey, I loved that he was so enthusiastic, so no offense! ;-)


We poured down a few more beers and secured a nice spot about 20 metres from Gore's spot on the stage, and anticipation rose during Gore's famous DJ set to warm up the crowd. The first Mexican waves made their round through the stadium - yep, the crowd is really up for it! Lots of DM tattoos, Dave lookalikes and tour shirts from earlier tours, even including World Violation and Devotional, were to be seen in the FOS crowd, so it was certainly a die-hard fan audience. There were even a few Gore lookalikes, including one wearing a full copy of Martin's all-white Exciter Tour outfit complete with the feathery shoulder. A bit weird, and the poor guy apparently didn't realize that he doesn't look like Gore at all.


When you read the kind of stuff such as this blog, you most probably aren't really avoiding spoilers and rather familiar with all the particulars about DM's current show, right? So I won't bore you with a detailed song-by-song review since you, in all probability, already know that Wrong comes after Where's The Revolution, that the backdrop visual for Going Backwards is very dappled and speckled, during which songs Dave enters the upper tier of the stage aka "Anton's only fancy stage design idea" and so on and so forth. The first night in Hanover was sold out and actually had a really good crowd who got involved in everything. My worries regarding a potentially reserved crowd flew out of the window when the FOS section screamed "there is soooo muuuch loooove in me" at the top of their lungs during the second song. After a few songs it began to rain a little for the first time, and that was rather a most welcome refresher than anything else.

Girls In The Rain Anonymous

As DM made their way through their set the atmosphere in the audience went from really good to really crazy, and Dave particularly seemed to be really into it and was all smiles. I mean, the guy is 55 now and his energy on stage is just amazing and puts singers half as old to shame, not to mention performers of his own age! During Barrel Of A Gun (the third song of the show, as you will certainly know) Dave was already soaked with sweat and giving it all, and he didn't stop at all until the very last sound of the show. At one point he is like a devilish Las Vegas crooner, and in the next he is the dignified elder statesman of Pop. He borrows quite a few moves from the likes of Elvis, Freddy Mercury, Mick Jagger and in his more mischievous moments he mimics Bono from U2 with the tongue firmly in his cheek. And Dave can be quite mischievous and waggish while performing, especially in his "daddy dancing" moments or when he does his already infamous chicken dance. The guy simply went through too much to take himself too seriously. I am old enough to have witnessed the "old" Dave Gahan, which was ironically the young Dave Gahan. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was cool, he was distant, almost kind of robotic - and I really loved that back then. Today he is a different personage as a live performer, and I love this, too!


In the middle of the set it was of course time for Martin to take over the lead, as usual. As the first night in Hanover got the standard set, we were treated with the piano version of A Question Of Lust and the wonderful full-band version of Home, including the long singalong afterwards which worked pretty well. Just like the one after Everything Counts, my personal highlight of the whole show. That new intro and that killer kick-arse-bassline, simply gorgeous! The second half of the show is when everyone is going bananas, anyway, and the string of classic hits is just pure bliss! The only downers, at least for me, come with the encore: As much as I love Walking In my Shoes as a live song, Corbijn's backdrop video really destroys the song for me this time. I get and appreciate the message of the film but it is simply badly executed and way, WAY too distracting from the band's performance. That the camera director decided to show that stupid film on the big side screens instead of the band didn't help much, either. I'm sure people in the back would prefer to watch a close-up of Dave instead! The other fly in the ointment is I Feel You, and it must be the fourth tour in a row where I hoped it might be dropped, eventually. At least DM should do it earlier in the set instead, if they insist on playing it, as the song isn't remotely the great singalong-friendly crowd pleaser as the band seems to think. Anyway, 'Heroes' was great and I love that they do an edited, punchy version of Personal Jesus this time. The long, boring four-minute-jam-from-hell intro from last tour is gone, thankfully!

Hannover Day 1 - "Go home NOW!"

So thanks to PJ the show ended on a high, and now it began to rain quite heavily, which wasn't so refreshing anymore. But the night wasn't over yet, so we walked 15 minutes through the rain to the Infinity club where local promoter Lorenz Macke scheduled Depeche club nights for amazing three days in a row! The aftershow was just as much a grave, dead-serious and cheerless affair as the concert, as you can see in this short undercover footage:




Part Two - Hangover In Hanover 

The next day had a slow start. There's nothing better after a long, wild party night than waking up next to a fair and beautiful woman! Unfortunately I woke up in the room next door, and while I tried to made my way to the kitchen, still feeling like I was on a rollercoaster than walking on plain ground, I encountered a long-haired person in ladies' underwear making snarky remarks about me being drunk and snoring so loud that it might have put the horns of Jericho to shame. Oh well! I just hoped there isn't a tiger in the bathroom! After sipping coffee on the balcony for a mere two hours, I felt ready enough to leave the house for some shopping, getting some food and a nice meet-up with other fans. In the end the shopping part took so long that we headed straight for the HDI Arena but anyway, here we go again! Time for the mighty Mode! 

As a side note, I'm not sure if the promoters did themselves a favour with scheduling a second show in Hanover. The second night wasn't sold out at all, and I've never seen dropping ticket prices so low on the black market. A friend of mine e.g. sold his spare Front of Stage-ticket for just 20 Euros. Only benefit of it all was that the bloody scalpers were screwed, too! Hah!

99 Red Balloons - So Much Love

We arrived at the FOS section when Algiers just started their set and it was time again to say hello to all those crazy, wonderful DM die-hards again. While the FOS section looked just a bit less crowded than the night before, there were whole blocks in the upper tiers where only a handful of people were sitting. Other blocks, however, were completely full. The second night saw a more casual crowd, and obviously more families bringing their kids. Quicker than I thought the playback of Revolution by The Beatles announced the start of the show, and while we were already singing along to it the rest of the crowd seemed to be mildly interested. Yep, there was less excitement in the air compared to last night. A few hundred heart-shaped red balloons during So Much Love, a fan campaign organized by the above-mentioned promoter Lorenz Macke, cheered things up a little, thankfully. However, it became clear that the first half of the 'Global Spirit' set isn't exactly for casual fans. Don't get me wrong, it was a good show once again and I love the set as it is anyway, but at the second night in Hanover I got why some people think that up to Martin's mid-set interlude the show is dragging on a bit. Perhaps DM should throw in another crowd-friendly classic in the first half? In any case, World In My Eyes made the place erupt, eventually, and the song is certainly one of my many highlights of the show. It's simply the best version of the song they've done since Devotional, and that's not just because of the sweet little new intro they prepared this time! The songs has one of the best, most intriguing bass lines in Pop history and while it sounded a bit flat during more recent tours, it absolutely sounds sharp and cutting this time around. Just the way it has to be!

Got one!

The big elephant in the room was of course the question of whether there would be any changes in the set list the second night! Anyone who might have hoped that, for example, Corrupt might be replaced with another song was to be disappointed,  but there's still Martin's set. And indeed he didn't disappoint! The acoustic version of Shake The Disease is probably not the boldest of choices, as we heard it numerous times at previous tours, but we welcomed the song with loud screams, anyway. Even the upper tiers woke up and gave it a "whooohooo, I know this song, whoohoo" and it was good to see that people up in the seats were actually still alive. The singalong after Home died down rather soon and  Poison Heart, another potential candidate for a set list change, went down better than I would have thought. Not that it would have gone down like a storm, as neither did Wrong and, surprisingly, Where's The Revolution, but it wasn't that bad. Everything Counts took care of the job, letting people go mad again, although good portions of the audience seemed not to know what to do with the singalong part and just screamed. It probably took a while but the atmosphere now was great and it felt like a "proper" DM experience. 

Although I'm one of those who's willing to claim that I heard songs like Enjoy The Silence and Never Let me Down Again a few times too often to find them still musically interesting, I have to admit that it was these big hits which I enjoyed the most this night. I already got a little emotional during Stripped and little more emotional during Enjoy The Silence, but hearing the line "I'm taking a ride with my best friend..." absolutely floored me! Simply because I was there with some of my best friends, and while we all have had our individual hardships in life recently, I all the more felt an immense gratefulness to spend these two nights with them in Hanover. There was a little tear of joy in my eyes, admittedly, and I just turned around to give them a big bear hug of love. Unfortunately I almost crushed them!

So what on earth could top this intense, exuberant rush of sappy emotions? Martin doing STRANGELOVE! I'm sure you all know by now Martin's wonderful choice for the first song of the encore, and I can assure you that the piano version of this 1987 classic was pure bliss when you were there in person. That Martin and Peter had to restart the song because Mr Gore mixed up the lyrics just added to the charm of the performance, and Martin apologetically remarked with his typical laughter, that they rehearsed the song only twice. That's one time more than I would have guessed! I can only hope that the guys will give Strangelove another chance, it just sounded great and made people go bonkers in the most wonderful way!



Unfortunately there was also a big downer for us in store: The dropping of 'Heroes'! I was shocked when Walking in My Shoes was directly followed by I Feel You, and everyone around me was! We all wondered after show if 'Heroes' was now discarded for good, which wouldn't have been good at all. Just a few weeks into the tour, 'Heroes' feels like an integral part of the 'Global Spirit', and after all it's not the songs they always play which create the specific feel and character of a tour, it's the new songs and the old ones which they haven't done in a while. Or a cover version which we never got to hear before and which fits perfectly the spirit of the new songs!

Two amazing nights with amazing friends and an amazing band - you couldn't ask for more! Well, apart from doing it all over again - Berlin, here we come! :-D

On a final note you simply have to check out these two links with Dani's brilliant pics from both Hanover shows. She's one of Germany's best concert photographers, her works have been already featured in a number of releases and music magazines, and while she didn't have a photo accreditation for the Hanover gigs and could only bring a small camera, her pictures are still bloody amazing:

Depeche Mode & Algiers live in Hanover, Day 1, by Dani Vorndran:
https://www.black-cat-net.de/galerie/musiklive/konzerte/2672-live-depeche-mode-hannover-11-06-2017

Depeche Mode & Algiers live in Hanover, Day 2, by Dani Vorndran:
https://www.black-cat-net.de/galerie/musiklive/konzerte/2673-live-depeche-mode-hannover-12-06-2017

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Thanks so much Niggels - that's a superb review. It sums up what this tour is about perfectly - a great gig by a great band and hanging out with DM friends from all over the world. I hope everyone loved it.



3 comments:

  1. I live in Hannover and i was at the first gig on Sunday. The director of the screens should be slapped! They had 3 screens there and he chose to show stupid videos on all of them at once for very long whiles. At least the inner or outer screens should be focused on the band ffs! You couldn't see much from the far ranks so why did we have to sit trough boring stuff like that transvestite video which has nothing to do with anything? It really annoyed us! And I'm glad to hear that they dropped that Heroes cover on the 2nd day, it really sucked and was the downer of the first show. The only good thing about it was that you could go for a piss during it without missing anything!

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    1. I agree regarding the video screens and disagree regarding Heroes. :D

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