A huge indoor Depeche show in Germany is only ever going to be a good thing and the Veltins Arena is a place made for a gig on the Global Spirit Tour. Mark Henderson is today's guest reviewer and he's written a wonderful blog - make sure you go and tell him how much you loved in on Twitter where you'll find him hiding as @MNH1974 . It seems that Mark's trip was destined to be a good one the second he checked into a rather special hotel room. Thanks very much Mark.
|Photo courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos Facebook group|
By way of a very short introduction, I’ve been a DM fan since 1990, with my first show being the band’s final performance of World Violation on 27 Nov 1990 at Birmingham. I’ve seen on every tour since, but only on the Delta Machine Tour did I finally manage to a) see them in mainland Europe (at Stade de France), and b) see them more than once on a tour. That’s something I was determined to repeat on the current tour.
The (bad) planning
My wife isn’t a fan, so last October I asked my usual “gig partner” if he fancied a DM Euro trip. Despite him not being a DM fan, or even knowing many songs, he kindly agreed, and we settled on Paris as our destination (easy to get to, somewhere he hadn’t been before). Having booked tickets and flights, he then realised he couldn’t attend the show after all! However, he still wanted to go somewhere, so I booked tickets for Gelsenkirchen - the show after Paris. Lucky me, two shows instead of one - it would entail a rather busier few days than I’d planned, but so what, it’s Depeche Mode, right...?
Having returned from Paris (amazing show) on the Sunday night, we flew out to Dusseldorf on Monday evening. Being given Room 101 at our hotel was certainly a positive start!
After a moderately quiet evening, we then took the train to Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday lunchtime, arriving there early afternoon. Following a relaxing couple of beers in our hotel terrace garden, we set off to find a bar in town to sink a few more before show time. Gelsenkirchen has bars and restaurants, but (with the greatest of respect) it isn’t exactly in the league of Dusseldorf (aka “the longest bar in the world”). However, within 5 minutes, we noticed a small bar up a side street near the main train station...and much to my excitement, there were DM fans standing outside. We made straight for it. I think this bar is called “Rosi” and is situated on the corner of Weberstrasse; it’s quite small but cool, and they were playing DM songs continuously. We ordered beers and soaked up the atmosphere as more fans arrived. One or two had specially-made t-shirts (e.g. “Schalke04 101”) and the excitement was palpable. About an hour had passed when one fan told me “nice shirt”, in reference to my 1993 Devotional t-shirt; thankfully, he spoke excellent English and we had a nice chat. Tom (or Thom?) was originally from Gelsenkirchen and was justifiably pleased that DM were finally performing in his home town.
|Mark on right|
After a few more drinks, we made our way to the stadium (which was easy - on the 302 service, and our hotel even gave us free transport passes). We arrived at the Veltins Arena at round 7pm. I was a little surprised that there weren’t many pop-up bars outside, and had to queue for quite some time to get drinks. However, the access through security etc. was very smooth, and we took our places in the general standing area at around 8pm. I liked this stadium – it’s big but had quite an intimate feel, and having a roof helped with the lightshow. I’ve also noticed that there seems to be more thought going into how well fans can see the stage – so there were certain seating sections not being used at the back (also the case in Paris).
The floor area was filling up nicely (we were further back than in Paris, slight shame but no big deal). Algiers had already begun performing – maybe it was our distance from the stage but they didn’t seem to connect quite as well as in Paris. I liked them, though – very confident performers and the singer has a powerful voice.
The stadium continued to fill up, and the Charity Water / Hublot video appeared; the cheers went up. I was then asked again about my t-shirt, by a nice lady who enquired what year it was from (I always thought Dave’s long hair gives a good clue..?) Then the techno songs helped to build up the crowd to fever pitch until round 8:50pm, when the Beatles Revolution kicked in (when I first heard this song was being used, I had misgivings, but I actually enjoyed it – if anything, it acts like a “last call” for any fans not yet in the arena).
|Mark and that t-shirt - left|
I doubt I could ever truly do justice to what may have been the best concert I have ever been to. The show itself wasn’t necessarily any better than Paris, but the crowd here were like none I’ve ever experienced before. From the opening beats of the intro, it seemed like the whole crowd were on their feet – at some other gigs you might see the fans in seats dancing after, maybe, the halfway point, but here they were up from the start and just never sat down! There were even girls sitting on friends’ shoulders near us. My dream of experiencing a German crowd had come true and they definitely did not disappoint!
Much has already been written about the setlist, songs, etc, so at the risk of repeating anything, here are some brief thoughts:-
· Intro: the beats, then the bass kicks in....just perfect – simple but so effective.
· Going Backwards: I love how Dave pops up on his balcony. Proper showmanship. This is such a good opener, their best in years I think.
· So Much Love: good choice from the album, which keeps the momentum going.
· Barrel Of A Gun: an example of how confident they are in what (I think) is a pretty great setlist – it ebbs and flows, with faster and slower songs. Same goes for Wrong and.....
· ....Corrupt: such a curveball, in a way. Putting the final album track from 2 records ago into a new set? Hell, why not, it’s a great tune
· In Your Room: at last, the best version, hurray!
· World In My Eyes: love the new intro and the whole song sounds better, more “electronic” than on the last couple of tours.
· Cover Me: love the album version, but takes on a whole new vibe in the live arena. One of those songs where, towards the climax, you feel something really magical is happening, like the whole crowd is “going” somewhere, if that makes sense....
· A Question Of Lust/Home: lovely versions, the crowd sang every word and the usual post-Home chant was tremendous.
· Poison Heart: nice but also short enough to ensure there isn’t too much of “lull” at this stge.
· Where’s the Revolution: I do like this song, but at this point in the show it didn’t seem to quite have the “oomph” to get it going. Maybe putting it earlier in the set might be better?
· Everything Counts: brilliant. The new intro is wonderful. Crowd went NUTS for this.
· Stripped/Enjoy The Silence/Never Let me Down Again: powerful crowd-pleasers. Incredible arm-waving and the t-shirt gun came out.
· WIMS: catchy new intro is seemingly already a crowd favourite, being chanted by them after the song has finished....video quite mesmerising too.
· "Heroes": a slow-burner but a lovely performance, with Dave blowing a kiss skywards at the end.
· I Feel You: a good example (particularly for my rock-loving friend) of just how powerful a live act DM are. The bass and drums were absolutely off the scale and left the arena shaking.
·Personal Jesus: awesome finish.
|Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos Facebook Group|
After the bows and hugs, Dave left the stage with an amusing “call me on my mobile” gesture to the crowd.
The stage videos were pretty good, and I didn’t find them off-putting or anything; but I’m happier just watching the band, really.
The band is on terrific form. They seem to be playing with more purpose and intensity, for example by cutting out those previously over-long instrumental parts in certain songs. They’re clearly enjoying themselves a lot – Dave is absolutely flying, in fine voice and full of energy.
My friend thought it was the best stadium show he’d been to. Result!
Back we went into Gelsenkirchen, and to (my new favourite bar) Rosi...quite a few fans came back for what was the local after-show party; they had a good dance while we sat outside and chilled out with a few more drinks. No idea when closing time was!
On Wednesday we travelled back to Dusseldorf and kept the post-gig blues at bay by visiting some bars in the Altstadt that night (and into the next morning) – Dusseldorf is such a great city, whether you want cool and trendy or loud and silly...
We flew back to Leeds on Thursday night - which rounded off a pretty intense week for me, but one which I would happily re-live again and again.
So there you have it. This review is honest, but unashamedly positive – I’m thankful DM are still here, every gig feels special to me and I just hope there are more to come for me...
Danke Gelsenkirchen, danke Dusseldorf, und danke Depeche Mode!
Thanks very much Mark. Yet ANOTHER gig for me to add to my must do list next tour