The final leg of the Global Spirit Tour is making its way round a series of European festivals and on 28 June they stopped by the Tinderbox festival to headline the Thursday night slot. The review of that gig is by Peter Philipsen who will be better known to many of you as Peter Too, one of the Mod team at the best Depeche site there is - Home. It's great to have Peter involved in this project and it'll come as no surprise to find that his review is an absolute cracker. Thanks so much for this Peter and for the photos too.
Depeche Mode’s gig at the Tinderbox festival was a triumph. Perhaps not in and of itself, but it’s certainly a symbol of a band who, nearly 40 years into their career, is more successful than ever. Yes, ladies and lads… EVER. Not bad for an “80’s band”, right? There exists in Depeche Mode-lore this romantic notion that the band were at the zenith of their popularity in the late 80s and early 90s, back when they were living the lives of tortured artists to the max and breaking new ground; and that they’ve been “not the same”, “not as good” or “not as popular” since.
Don’t believe me? Comb through a forum or two - these ideas are actually pretty common, and it’s certainly how they are perceived by the uninitiated. And it is nonsense. Apart from “not the same” - they’re clearly not. The rest though… nonsense.
Allow me, dear fellow fan and reader, to make my rambling, scarcely thought through case.
Depeche Mode’s Tinderbox appearance was a first in more ways than one: It was their first gig in Denmark’s third largest city; it was their first gig on Denmark’s second largest island (of which we’ve got more than 1400), and it was their first festival gig in Denmark. But these things are mere trivial curiosities (I’m being generous here - none of that matters in the slightest).
No, the “first” that I really want to talk about is that this show marked the first time ever Depeche Mode amassed an attendance of more than 100.000 people during a single tour in this tiny country. Over the course of their three “Global Spirit Tour” shows in Denmark they’ve played to an estimated 102.484 people. And that - in a country of less than 6 million people - is pretty impressive. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that no other band has ever done that*.
So how does that mean they’re at their most successful ever? Well compare those numbers to the overly romanticised hey-day: Back then the band played to about 27.000 people in Copenhagen… if you add up the totals for the Music For The Masses, Violator and Songs Of Faith And Devotion tours that is. Yup… those tours combined: 27.000 people. That’s 9000 per tour**.
In fact if you combine the audience totals for the band’s shows in Denmark during the Broken Frame, Construction Time Again, Some Great Reward, Black Celebration, Music For The Masses, World Violation, Devotional, The Singles 86-98 and Exciter tours - all of their 80s, 90s and one of the noughties shows - then it works out at roughly the same attendance in Denmark as during the three “Global Spirit Tour” shows here.
So at least from the perspective of our wonderful little duck pond of a country, Depeche Mode are bigger and more successful than ever. And even if Tinderbox in itself wasn’t all that special (and it wasn’t, but we’re getting to that), I think that’s still cause for celebration.
So let’s talk about the show. This was the first time I’ve seen this revamped, abbreviated festival set. It seems it’s still a work in progress, and the band are still adjusting it, but from what I saw at Tinderbox they have found a very effective festival formula.
Compared to the previous legs the festival set lacked surprises and it was much shorter - especially compared to the first leg of the tour. Every song - all 15 of them - were singles… and most of them hits to boot.
For me personally that’s not necessarily a good thing. I like the odd album track and surprise here and there, and this gig offered none of that. I was especially disappointed we didn’t get The Things You Said. On the plus side for me was the re-shuffling of tracks towards the end of the gig. Closing the main set with Personal Jesus and Never Let Me Down Again worked really well, and finishing the encore with Enjoy The Silence and Just Can’t Get Enough”was absolutely ace.
So for me personally the setlist was a bit of a mixed bag. For a festival audience however this was just what the doctor ordered. It simply worked.
And the band looked and sounded great - and put in one helluva performance. The live video production seems to have been given the once over, and comes across far better than earlier in the tour, and the absence of the elaborate staging didn’t really take anything away the performance. And the band’s energy was spot on - which I think is impressive 100+ shows into the tour.
*) I’ve got no maths or stats to back that up - and I’m hoping someone out there will check up on this.
**) Did actually do the math on that one. 27.000 divided by 3… wasn’t hard.