One set of reviews that I've loved on this project have been those written by Michael Lyons. His take on the Depeche shows is always worth reading due to the, forgive the pun, insight he has. He and 3 friends including multi gig goers Andy Pollard and Glyn Tookey made the trip to Mexico for the two shows there on 11 and 13 March and this is the story what turned out to be an unsurprisingly excellent and adventure packed trip. I know you'll love this and, like me and indeed like Michael, you will wish you'd been passing when Dave and Morrissey had their chat. No doubt Dave was giving him a few tips. Thanks very much indeed for this great review Michael and the superb pictures too.
This is not so much of a review of the first night of the Central/South American Global Spirit Tour stop at México City, more a story of adventure and misadventure as 4 friends and long-time Depeche Mode fans depart for another Global Spirit Tour concert extravaganza.
Depeche Mode shows are always tremendous. The band do their thing with remarkable consistency and as their audiences worldwide join with them in making it all work so well, I felt compelled not to write about the concert/s as it would only be a re-hash of the previous 104 glowing reviews that make up this remarkable blogged record of the tour to date. I will of course (later) write a little on the 2 concerts we attended otherwise the trade descriptions police will be knocking on Almost Predictable’s door to arrest him and we need him to keep the content flowing all the way to 25 July.
It was back in June 2017 when three friends and I decided that the double header set in México City was too good an opportunity to turn down. Same city double header concerts have become an increasingly rare occurrence on the modern Depeche touring calendar and with the obligatory rest day in between there's a big effort required to make these trips a reality given every day work and family commitments. So behind closed doors United Nations style negotiations began in earnest with deals struck and agreements delivered for 3 of the 4 members of our touring party while the remaining devotee spent many tough days and nights in the doghouse over the summer and the winter and only secured permission to fly a week or so before departure. Vamanos!
So to aid group communication and the organisation of flights, accommodation and tickets, the 'Mexico Talk' WhatsApp group was established and all the planning and preparations took place there. Given none of us had been to Central America before to see the band, it is safe to say excitement levels were at record levels.
Our plan was to spend 5 nights and 6 days in the city and make it the trip of a lifetime for a group of long-term fans. One of our party saw the band first in 1983, two of us were baptised in 1984 meaning three of us had seen the band in concert before the remaining touring companion was born! Being a relative youngster at 32, he started life on the road with Depeche during the tour of the universe. Between the 4 of us we have seen well over 400 shows in that time. For myself these Mexican shows would be number 13 and 14 on this tour having been fortunate enough to have made it to Glasgow, Berlin, Rome, Paris, London, New York, Dublin, Manchester, Birmingham, Turin and Amsterdam. And with only Isle of Wight and the final shows in Berlin remaining on my schedule there's a realisation that we're nearing the end so everyone was determined to make the México trip a memorable one.
Our touring party took off from London Heathrow on the Friday once the two Irishmen, the Scot and the Englishman had taken connecting flights and car Journeys, boarding the plane along with a whole host of the Depeche crew and band team who were heading back to work after a couple of weeks well-earned rest. The Mexican sunshine greeted us after an 11 hour flight to the Americas and upon arriving at Benito Juarez International Airport band members, crew and fans alike stood together at the luggage carousel before making their way to various hotels in the City Centre. Our party of 4 were met by 2 Mexican based devotees who provided us with essential intelligence for our stay, everything from language interpretation to safety advice, do's and don'ts, places to visit, good bars and restaurants amongst other things. However not everything would go to plan, such as the most expensive round of drinks in Depeche Mode tour history costing (after currency conversion) £6,400 after 2 credit cards were cloned and maxed out in minutes by the criminal underworld. Our WhatsApp chat had a recurring mantra for months previous 'Mexico, what could possibly go wrong?' we weren't long in finding out! The Halifax immediately credited one cards balance but the Nat West Bank weren’t playing ball with the other and it took an intervention from The Sun newspaper on returning to England before the other one got sorted. Lessons learned.
|Another quiet night - Michael, second from right|
After dinner and beers to settle in on night 1, night 2 saw the group split up to visit friends, see football at Estadio Azteca and watch Phil Collins in concert. We reconvened in the City for the first of a few Depeche fan parties that were planned for the Mexican dates. Upon arriving at the club the party was in full swing and it wasn’t long before we realised how devoted the Mexican fans were. The atmosphere at the party was eclectic and if this was anything to go by we were in for a treat!
So to Sunday and the first of the shows. We arrived at Estadio Foro Sol at around 5pm and were greeted by the incredible sight of around 100 unofficial merchandise stalls selling everything from shirts and jackets, to hip flasks and underwear, all DM branded and cheap as chips. So a good hour was spent browsing and buying before we picked up our tickets from box office and headed into the stadium. The walk in took us down the starting grid and past the spectator stands on the famous Formula 1 racing circuit.
The first thing that struck me on entering was the sheer size of the place. It was enormous. I’ve been to shows in Europe where the crowd numbers were 60-70,000 but this looked much bigger. The sun was starting to set as we headed to hospitality for a drink. Upon returning to the floor around 30 minutes before showtime, darkness had set in and the stadium had filled, and how. It was jammed. The golden circle area was the biggest I’d ever seen and they were packed in like sardines with no wiggle room at all. Looking up to the back of the stadium, where normally you’d see some empty seats was an indication that while the official capacity may have been 65,000 with every seat taken (and I mean every seat, even high up at the back) it was clear the promoter had grossly oversold this show. Some DM staff we spoke to suggested it looked more like 80,000 and comparing it to other European shows I’d seen I’d say that was a conservative estimate.
We were fortunate to have VIP accreditation and were led to a raised section next to the mixing desk where we had plenty of space, a staffed complimentary bar complete with portaloo. They really do think of everything eh? There were around 30 guests for night 1, most of whom stepped up onto the mixing desk to watch the show from there, we preferred to stay on the platform below where there was more space and an unobstructed view of the stage. The side screens were back and they were BIG. They helped frame the stage and I think the visual presentation works really well with them in place.
My experience of DM shows is that within the first 30 seconds you can tell what kind of concert you’re in for. The roar of the crowd and clarity of the opening vocals are big things for me. While the Mexican crowd did not let us down, the vocals were clearly not as crystal as what they could be, I suppose we do have every high expectations and standards. The by now regular setlist was delivered with all the professionalism and power that we expect from DM and the crowd were fantastic in welcoming them back to their wonderful city. It was a superb concert and feedback from the band afterwards confirmed they were delighted with it and all was good.
Our day off was spent sightseeing in the sun and soaking up the atmosphere and energy of the city. That night we didn’t fancy the fan party – they’re mad and you need to be ready for them! So we headed to Condesa where all the bars and restaurants are and started our night off sitting eating and drinking on the street restaurants watching the world go by. It wasn’t long before a friendly face went by and we called out to Robbo (Christian’s Drum Technician) who by chance was actually out looking for us, “I thought you might be in the Irish bar” he said, later that evening and after a few stops on route, that’s where we all ended up. There was a house band knocking out tunes, the place was filing up and it was clear this wasn’t going to be a quiet night! Once the band blasted out Personal Jesus the bar erupted and a full blown Depeche party began. They took a break only for the DJ to continue to crowd-please with 5 or 6 select songs from the 101 live release. The band returned and rocked out the last hour or so with some fantastic rock and pop classics including Enjoy The Silence, People Are People, A Question Of Time and Never Let Me Down Again. The bar was loving it and so were we, a great end to our day off and we went to bed knowing that we had another, slightly bigger DM party scheduled for tomorrow!
On arrival at Foro Sol, more DM shopping was completed at the unofficial stalls before we retraced our steps of a couple of nights previous. The same routine followed and we found ourselves in the VIP section next to the mixing desk. The atmosphere was electric and the darkness was interrupted by the sight of a pair of walking boots onscreen, accompanied by that thumping drumbeat and the opening bars of Going Backwards. So again the atmosphere was fantastic and the opening vocals I was not expecting. Crystal clear, loud and punchy. Such a difference from the previous concert, why is that? Were we just hearing things? Alas no, turns out night 1 was plagued with technical difficulties due to poor generator power, something that was corrected for night 2 and boy was it noticeable. Four almost predictable changes were introduced, 2 Martin vocals and 2 Dave. Out went Insight, Where's The Revolution, Strangelove and A Question Of Time, in came Judas, Policy Of Truth, Somebody and I Feel You. For us, the 2nd night was an incredible show. The sound was better, the crowd were better, as noted earlier the band are always superb that goes without saying, sometimes you just have a better night and that was the case. We all loved it and a great time was had by all.
We left the show early as Walking In My Shoes closed out in order to get a jump on the crowd getting back into the city and we arrived back at the band’s hotel around 30 seconds before they did. We did well, they had a police escort, we didn’t! We topped off the night in style at the after party which was attended by Fletch and Dave. Morrissey who was sitting outside with his band wasn’t brave enough to join in but once he went to bed his band couldn’t wait. Dave was seen chatting with him as they bumped into each other on route to and from the bathroom. Would have liked to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation! As Dave was unable to persuade the barman from keeping the bar open, we were all ushered out (residents and all!) and the party came to an end, well it was after 2am. It was a brilliant way for us to end our Mexican adventure, 2 amazing shows, 6 amazing days and a trip we’ll remember and talk about forever.
Our final day was spent outside, eating tacos, walking them off and packing for the airport. We thought all our dramas were over until a suitcase was seen being emptied onto the floor of the hotel lobby in search of a missing passport. The case was turned upside down and inside out about 6 times. No passport. The hotel didn’t have it. The room was searched. No passport. Thoughts turned to the British Embassy. How long would it take for them to issue a new one? How much will it cost for a new flight? Will his fiancé still be his fiancé whenever he does get home? Safe to say there was more than a mild form of panic setting it. The suggestion that it may be Monday before he flies and Tuesday before he gets home didn’t go down well. “I’m deed” was the only thing he could say! One more trip to the room before taxing to the airport via the Embassy. Result. Passport found. “Where was it” we asked. He replied, “When I entered the room, I suddenly remembered where I’d put it...under the mattress for safe keeping”. Safe keeping indeed. So safe it nearly meant an extended stay in México City.
There won’t be many more adventures of this nature with the Global Spirit Tour nearing completion. For those who have seen it – the numbers are in the millions, you know it has been amazing. For those of us who made the pilgrimage to Central America, it was all worth it, Dave made it even more special with a unique announcement during the shows “México City you really are the best!” And who can argue with him?
Thank you Michael!