Wednesday 29 November 2017


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

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

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

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

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

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

Holly ready for the Revolution

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

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

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

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

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

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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