The most common question I have been asked by friends and colleagues since March this year (the Barrowlands gig) is "why do you go and see them so many times?" Tonight was my 5th gig of the tour, not counting the Barras show as that was technically a warm up and not on the tour itinerary. Ok, it's on the back of the blog t-shirts, but we're now splitting hairs. My point is that I am someone who in the context of the normally sane music fan sees a specific band far too much. I consider what I do to be perfectly normal, and indeed I find myself jealous of the likes of Claudia and Thomas, reviewers for this blog past (here's Claudia on Manchester) and present (Thomas on Stuttgart to come soon), both of whom I was delighted to meet tonight and both of whom have seen Depeche Mode over 30 times on this tour alone!
Depeche Mode do this you see. They draw you in, grab you and never let you go. They rarely alter the set, yet many people go to multiple shows on every tour and there has to be a reason for that. Let's not get bogged down in arguing about the lack of variation in setlists - that has been a DM thing since God knows when. Ok, Black Celebration was an astounding, era defining record, but have a peek at the setlist on that tour. Try and find a Cure like variation of tunes. It doesn't happen. World Violation? A tour viewed as THE Depeche Mode tour universally. EVERY gig was the same bar Martin's acoustic rotation. Why we should expect the band to be playing setlist A one night, then a mix of b-sides including the Pre -Deportation Mix of Flexible the next night I don't know.
So what is the reason people like me, Claudia, Thomas and many, many more people see Depeche Mode multiple times on each tour? It's highly likely that as a reader of this blog you know why. You buy the records, get the t-shirts, buy the Golden Circle tickets - you know what you like and you know that you will get what you like when you see the gigs. What keeps us going is the power and beauty of the music. There's something unique about Depeche Mode, a thing that has outlasted their peers. The Smiths had the poetry of Morissey and the genius of Marr, New Order the chemistry of their main players constantly at odds with themselves, but both bands burned brightly and either faded out relatively poetically or did what New Order did and became a messy shadow of themselves. Depeche have a mystery about them, a mystery borne of 7 albums (excluding compilations and live albums) in 9 years, 7 albums that defined electronic music and were released so close to each other that we never had the time to ask why or what each one meant. They delivered a catalogue most bands would kill for in that spell, and that first part of their discography is their bedrock, the tie that binds us all to them.
"Yeah fine you massive dullard, we're reading this seemingly endless run of reviews so that we can read about the current tour. What about that?"
You make a good point.
I'd wanted to see Depeche in Paris ever since I bought my first bootleg from Rage Mail Order, a double cassette of the first World Violation gig at Bercy. It's always talked of as being a home from home for Depeche Mode and a venue that has a special atmosphere whenever they play there. And here's the thing - that is absolutely right.
From the off tonight, the crowd were on fire. The support act Re-Tros were wonderfully received and rightly so. Their mix of Neu meets LCD Soundsystem was a joy and I'd recommend them to you all. Do check them out on this tour. The usual advert for DM's charity work followed Re-Tros and that was greeted with the sort of cheer usually reserved for last minute winners in a cup final. At that point it was clear that this was going to be a special gig.
I was at the gig with my wife Pam tonight. She likes Depeche Mode but not in the way I do which is perfectly understandable. I wanted to stand near the back of the floor tonight which she was fine with as it meant we could avoid the high percentage of oddly tall Depeche fans one finds at shows. She thought tonight was the best she had seen Depeche play and that says it all for me. People who have seen them multiple times on this tour have said the band are on the form of their lives and I agree. When we hear casual fans say the same however, it's worth paying attention. Depeche Mode are playing in a way they've not played for years and that really is worth celebrating.
I won't run through the gig song by song as there's nothing I can tell you that you probably won't already know. Going Backwards remains their best opener since Higher Love, So Much Love is much missed but It's No Good has found its natural home at number 2 on the set and Cover Me is a late period classic that deserves to be considered as one of the band's finest. Dave is on sensational form, gurning, preening, chicken dancing and twirling as if he was 20 years' younger; a man who surely MUST be considered one the Britain's, if not the world's finest frontmen. Martin still looks anxious despite the love the Parisian crowd bombards him with as he skips around waving his arms in that unique shooing away a wasp whilst hopping way only Gore can do. And Fletch remains Fletch - which is just what you want, arms raising and waving in that Fletch way, almost regal, safe in the knowledge that he is a member of Depeche Mode and you and I are not.
Tonight, the Bercy crowd demanded the best from Depeche Mode and that is what they got. I struggle to recall a more powerful Never Let Me Down Again and I know I've never seen a livelier A Question Of Time. Dave stuck his tongue out at Fletch at the end of a stunning It's No Good and Andy himself grooved like a madman during Barrel Of A Gun. The terrace like chant at the end of Enjoy The Silence as the crowd sang the sampled vocal line of Martin's from the original back at the band was stunning and they were just the highlights I recall as I type this now, There was no lull tonight, no "this is the toilet/bar break song," no let up in the power and intensity of the set. I saw people much older than I am (and I'm old) having a whale of a time and I saw kids no more than 5 years old on their parents' shoulders, bouncing along to Enjoy The Silence. This was a special, special gig and I feel honoured to have been there.
How do you do it Depeche Mode? How do you make people like me, Claudia, Thomas and even Pam, this was her 5th DM gig after all, come back again for more and more?
"Why do you go and see them so many times?"
Because they are Depeche Mode.