Friday, 29 December 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, WIZINK CENTER, MADRID, 16 DECEMBER 2017

This review comes courtesy of Ian Morrison from Edinburgh - always good to have more Scottish reviewers on board. Ian has been a Depeche fan for years and the Madrid gig on 16 December was part of his school term permitting Global Spirit jaunt. This review is bursting with enthusiasm and encapsulates the joy of the current version of Depeche Mode live. Thanks very much Ian . In my usual way, I've nabbed the the pictures from Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

So I like to do one or two gigs each tour and I try and manage a gig in another country if I can. For Delta Machine, it was Glasgow and Madrid and logistics meant that the Madrid date is one of the few of this tour that I can make. As a teacher, it’s a bit of a pain when they announce dates for a country I’d like to see them in, to find it’s a weekday, but it’s a pain that I’m used to.

Last time they did two nights in the Palacio des Deportes and I saw the second night then, but this gig is only one night in the now-named Wizink. I already saw them in Manchester in November, but ended up with fairly rubbish seats, mainly because I was holding out for them adding a Glasgow date. I was surprised after them showing so much love for Glasgow when they played the Barrowlands, certain we’d get at least one Scottish date. So, sitting up in the gods at the side in Manchester with the speakers obscuring the screens, I was really only able to watch the band themselves and in a way it strangely focused me on watching their every moves, something I’ve not been able to do for years.



Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group





Anyway, I digress. I’m hear to talk about last nights Madrid gig. 

All poised for the pre-sale, I was aiming to buy first tier seats (this is where I was previously in Madrid, plus I figured I’d be doing my dancing in Glasgow!), but each time I selected seats, they got snapped up, so in a bit of a panic, I opted to select the golden circle actually thinking these would be the first to go. Best decision I inadvertently made. 

I was there with my pal Pamela, someone I met off the DMTV boards about 12 years ago. Funny, this is also where I first made contact with this fine blog’s chief, David. We were a wee group of people that didn’t quite subscribe to the ‘everything-DM-are-doing-is-great-and-I-won’t-hear-a-thing-said-against-them’ brigade and some firm friendships were formed. Anyway, I’m saying that as I was really happy to be there with Pamela, our friendship goes way beyond Depeche Mode and she’s a right laugh. 

We got there in plenty of time and made our way to the golden circle. We had to pass the section that gets cordoned off for the pre-show meet and greet and the image of some guy dressed as Dave as the King (in Enjoy The Silence, not Elvis!) dancing about didn’t make me wish I was in there. And I’ve decided that if there’s a golden circle option in future, this is the one I’m going to opt for. I’m past trying to get to the front at gigs these days, but this is still a good view, relatively near the front (even at the back of that section) without being squashed up against anyone’s armpit. Huzzah’s all round. 

The support act Pumarosa came on and I had to check their name as I was expecting Re-Tros. I’d missed them at Manc due to reserved seating apathy (so much so, I had assumed they’d dropped the Beatles’ Revolution intro!) :o 

So Pumarosa are fairly standard indie fayre - guitars, drums and - shock! - a saxophone! The female singer (sorry, not bothering to google names here, i had to go and look for the band’s name, be thankful I did that. Otherwise I’d be referring to them as Re-Tros!) obviously loved her billowing, silver dress and clearly wanted to show in its best light, she didn’t quite master the Dave spin as effortlessly as he does, but points for effort. Stayed for a couple of songs, but it became an opportunity to go to the bar and grab a bite too. Interest remained firmly un-piqued. 

As we waited for Depeche Mode, the atmosphere was building nicely. If someone knows what tracks are played pre-DM, please post them here. Took some photos of some guys who’d asked for them to be taken, each handing me their phone to capture the same one individually. Then we got one of them to take a picture of us. Happy times indeed. In this run up, we spotted two Dave lookalikes. I say lookalikes in the loosest term. One of them was dressed almost like current Dave, black trousers with a red stripe and a black and red waistcoat. The other one was mixing his eras: from the neck down he was in white denim and white shirt à la Violation Dave, but then he had the long hair and choker from Devotional Dave from the neck up (imagination in large amounts was required for this one!). There’s a bit of me salutes these people for their commitment, but my inner curmudgeon thinks “how do these people function in their day to day lives?” 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

9.32pm and we’ve had the Hublot advert and the Beatles’ Revolution is on with the boot graphic from the album sleeve. The tension is palpable. I realise this is the greatest I’ve anticipated the band in a long time. We were stood fairly central and had a pretty much front on view of the screens so the immersive experience was happening. No tall fuckers in front of me (my most regular gripe about any live music, and there’s some tall DM fans!). 

The band come on to loud cheers and it’s clear the Madrid crowd love them. The cheering is non-stop and then just increases when Dave appears, slinking up the steps at the side of the screen for the opening of Going Backwards. I could go on at length here about how Going Backwards is the best opener for a DM album in a long time, but with Dave up on the walkway, consumed by the splattered paint in the projection is actually immense. I got quite emotional thinking back to the Barrowlands gig and how that song opened then. It has touched me in a way DM tracks haven’t really in a long time and I’m not sure I can put into words just how. It might be my imagination, but it feels like the tempo of some songs have been slowed down. Going Backwards felt almost tribal in the way it churned on, as Dave was creeping about the stage like a cross between Nosferatu and John Waters (both compliments, by the way, before you write in!). 

Up next was It’s No Good and with the opening bars, the crowd were loving it. It is a great, almost anthemic song and I was happy to hear it again. 

Barrel Of A Gun is not a favourite of mine, particularly live and the slow tempo (as previously mentioned) doesn’t really lift it for me, but the one thing I was aware of was Dave’s vocal which is shit hot considering the length of this tour! 

I’ve had to consult depechemode.nl for the setlist for reminders, I don’t intend to write this up track by track, although I may very well change my mind! 

When A Pain That I’m Used To came on, this was like the dance number that gets people on their feet at birthday parties. The Jacques Le Cont mix is good, and no issues with tempo here. Dave doing his usual Tasmanian devil round the stage! 

Useless was up next and it has a new video. I’m not sure everyone in the audience was aware of it not being present earlier in the tour, but there was a few screams of surprise dotted near us as it started up. This is a favourite song of mine from the post-imperial Mode, but I felt this was a bit lacklustre. The video was the usual, quirky Anton schtick. Liked the wee nod to ETS, but the woman dropping the text cards in a nod to Bob Dylan is a bit overdone. Didn’t lift the song any. Now, the people that know me know I have a love/hate relationships with AC’s work. As beautifully filmed as it is, it’s lazy. That’s my opinion. Look back at what’s he’s capable of and this just feels like he’s got an assistant to come up with something. Anyway…


Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group


World In My Eyes had a few people near us confused by the ‘new’ opener, but then the original baseline started and the crowd went crazy! I’m sure this is the experience across the world with more clued-up (read: scour internet for clips after every show) and the more casual (likes them, but doesn’t devour everything!) fan. Precious was up next which is nice to hear, Fletch was employing chief clap-in-time skills, somehow not managing even that. Bless him. 


I am restraining myself from slipping into over-used superlatives for Cover Me, but fuck me, it *IS* indeed a gorgeous, pulsating song which Dave delivered well. After the vocal, he was in some hippy-trippy rain dance thing to the imagined stars on the ceiling to the second instrumental half. That man has one flexible spine and when he came out the walkway to deliver this bendy man sequence, he had the crowd in his hand. At one point, he looked lost in his own head and it was a joy to watch. Did they miss a trick not glitter-balling the entire audience. I’m writing this on my flight home while listening to the recording of the 6Music gig and Cover Me has just started. I’m listening to this and seeing Dave not 10 metres from me last night. Gorgeous.

Up next were the two Martin tracks - Insight is a gorgeous song and one of my favourites from Ultra and Martin delivers it well without too much of the vibrato he employed in more recent years. The woman in front of me was Shazam-ing this so at the end of the song I showed her it was off Ultra. Community at work. I’m not embarrassed to say I had one or two actual tears and goosebumps in Manchester and was head to toe in goosebumps last night. Quite a few reviewers have touched on the impact the band have had on their lives and I felt myself getting overcome. This is not just a band playing songs I like. Each song is now like a clip of my personal history, all or personal histories. Connections. *sigh* It’s just dust, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.


Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Suffice to say I’m happy at anytime to hear the full version of Home at any time and anywhere. 

In Your Room next. One of my least favourite songs off SOFAD (gasps at the back? Take a sip of water, you’ll be fine.), but the power of the visual to lift a song. If this was an AC directed video then it falls into the ‘love’ bit of the ‘love/hate’ cups. This might not be what fans want to hear, but for me this elevated the song. Dave did well to pretty much stand and sing it flawlessly and let the dancers do the visuals. I can sometimes be a tad critical of the band, particularly Dave leaving out bits of the chorus or hitting a duff note, but I found myself humbled by his vocal. Thinking about the beast that is Dave Gahan and how he loves singing In Your Room (sure I’ve read that somewhere), who’s to care whether anyone likes it, he can fucking go for it! 

(I understand that perhaps I’m getting a bit totes emosh).



Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group



Where’s The Revolution? Where’s the songs from Spirit? I re-christened this the Global Ultra Tour in Manchester. WTR is a good song, but at this stage in the setlist lost a bit of it’s might. 

Everything Counts, again with a fancy new intro was a joy to hear. Like welcoming an old friend, actually like an old auntie you haven’t seen for years onto the dance floor at your cousins second wedding. The arena went wild when the familiar opening bars started. What a song. 

I realise I said I wasn’t going to go from track to track, but I’m now doing it. This version of Stripped might be the best I’ve heard in years. It was no-nonsense and punched all its weight onto you. It’s one of their best songs and let us know it. The crowd loved it. I loved it. 

For years I’ve been like “can we please *drop* Enjoy The Silence?” like a moaning teenager, but you know what, thank fuck they don’t really listen to fans. Like Stripped it’s a song that spans lifetimes. All of our lifetimes. Christ, some of the fans seeing them weren’t born when that song was released and they deliver it with power and gusto like it’s a new release. I know I’ve moaned over the years about Dave not singing the chorus and too many drum solos (we CAN actually do without them), but this bit has been added on during my edit and I’ve played back past live versions over the years and i stand by the fact that they have delivered a strong version this tour. Although, I am mentally blocking out the drum solos. We don’t need them. No one does. ;-) 

I’m about to sound like a broken record, but this version of NLMDA is probably the best I’ve heard it. I know. Vocally it can’t be bettered by the MFTM or VIolation tour and I still scrunch my nose up at “aaaaahhmm takin a raaaaad with ma bes fren!”, but the sound of the guitar intro and then the opening bars taking us to that first line was amazing. The loudest I think I’ve heard them. I thought that in Manc, but then wondered if I was hearing things so high up, but very pleased to know it’s something that everyone is experiencing. Dave’s vocal is what it is now. He’s not going to go back to singing in that 20-something geezer style that made NLMDA a classic. I’ve griped over the years about how weak the opening has been, but not tonight (last night, obvs.) I loved it. And as before with the drum solos in ETS, we do not, I repeat, do not need the piano fill-ins during NLMDA, Gordeno. Don’t sully the baby. 

Strangelove next by Martin and it’s lovely. Not much else to say. It’s one of my favourite tracks and it was the first time I’d heard it, so a win for me. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Walking In My Shoes is another huge fan favourite that is not high up my list. It’s another one I don’t hope they do live, but here it is and bizarrely with a distracting film. It’s like they knew I was coming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song before you start composing your comments, but *for me*, it’s not up there. It’s a gut thing, I can’t explain it. When listening to SOFAD, I don’t skip it, but I don’t actively put it on. A lot of SOFAD is like that for me and because Dave’s vocal is more, shall we say economical, it drags for me live. Absolutely pardon the pun since this video features a drag queen. :D 

A Question Of Time next and hands up who would love the return of the churning electronic bass of the 7” remix? Well, get over it, it’ll never return live. I feel AQOT has been like this since SOFAD third leg and it’s a case of putting up and shutting up. I still danced like a freak to it. I’m still in the same room as the people who created it and that goes a long way towards reconciliation for me. As a band, they’ve morphed over the years into what they now are and I don’t personally love the live set up, but like I mentioned earlier about Dave not caring if people like or dislike songs, he’s going to sing it, same goes for what they are now. They won’t suddenly change back. I have always had this theory about them as a band in a similar way visual artists develop and that means the most vital work is probably behind them. Not to say they couldn’t do something ground-breaking in the future, but the odds are just slimmer. So we either moan as fans that they’ll never do another Violator or Black Celebration and that’s pretty much impossible as they’re not the people they were back then or we get on with it. And it’s nothing to do with loving Alan vs Gordeno bashing - I’m not stupid. But in a lot of ways, Spirit excited me in ways a new Depeche album hasn’t been able to do probably since Violator. And I don’t say that lightly. I’m one of these fans that grew up with them in my formative teens when it looked like the rules were you made a new album and toured every year. My expectations of them have been so grand over the years and like anything you put on a pedestal, it will frequently disappoint. 

I’m now going over bits of this and spell-checking and it’s the 28 December. After the gig, I had a busy week at work before xmas and then I’ve been lazing on my arse for the last few days, but I promised David I’d get it to him before the new year. I’m sitting here listening through the albums and reminiscing about this to myself and thinking back 30 years to the day, getting the bus into town to buy the Behind The Wheel 7” and 12”s. Coming home and listening to every side, being blown away by this song Route 66 that sounds just like a speeded up Behind The Wheel, but just isn’t and what’s this slow bass line? where’s the far dancer album version? and isn’t this Step Pettibone mix a bit…. weak? Even as a 15 year old having devoured everything they’d done over the previous two years, my critical ear was there. I love the 7” mix of Behind The Wheel now, but it will not be bettered by the album version. I live with that and I live with so much of Depeche Mode that I love and the stuff I don’t *love*, I certainly don’t hate (ok, The Child Inside is an exception, I mean… come on!) :o 

What I’m getting at is these three men along with that fourth one that left were like my older brothers or cousins, part of my family. Part of my life. A constant. I still feel like that when I see them. I fucking love Depeche Mode! 

Oh and Personal Jesus was a great finale. Glad they dropped the longer version with the slow intro!





Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group


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Thanks Ian!


2 comments:

  1. I was there too - in the golden circle! This review is absolutely perfect. Wish I'd gotten a photo of those two Daves - had the same thought! Thank you for writing such a comprehensive account. (I spontaneously cried during Cover Me fyi)

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