Wednesday 11 July 2018


Today's review comes from Stephen Lawson from Richmond, North Yorkshire. Stephen has been a long time supporter of this blog from its initial days as something I rambled about on Twitter, so it's really cool to have him review a gig for the Project, following on from his mini review of London Stadium, a gig that seems at least 3 lifetimes ago. As part of his mini tour of Depeche's slightly bigger tour of France, Stephen went to Arras and here's what he thought. A really enjoyable read Stephen - thanks. Thanks too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group for the pictures. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

For my first overseas DM show (I’m English), I headed to Arras in France. Not last weekend, but way back on 29th 2006 on the Touring the Angel tour.

I have fabulous memories of that gig. The amazing Goldfrapp were support, the small city was gridlocked and it took hours to crawl from the motorway to the city. And it was very hot and sunny.

I think there was a danger that such a great show could perhaps not be repeated 12 years later. It turned out that show wasn’t repeated, and I’m pleased it wasn’t. This was the same city, the same band, but a different experience. The weather was hot again, the traffic was pleasantly far better organised and there was no support as such as this was festival time. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
The venue had changed. In 2006 the show was right in the city setting in the ACTUAL Main Square, surrounded by arcaded Flemish style architecture. That had a really magical feel. This time the festival, which has outgrown single shows in the city, is set a little out of the centre in the picturesque area around the citadel. The crowds were big but for once I wasn’t doing that really fast walk/run to get as near to the front as I could. Why? Because there was a World Cup Quarter Final game to watch! Without going into too much detail, it wasn’t hard to find bars showing the game and lots of people were gathered to watch before heading off to the show. For once, that all went rather well and relatively stress free. So my feet were already bouncing as I headed into the festival.

It was a fairly large area and the crowd was big. I couldn’t get that close but was comfortable to have a bit of room, especially in the heat. The other acts were ok and came and went. Even got a few Oasis tracks from Liam which I enjoyed and which got the crowd singing along. On to Depeche Mode. Like most or us, if not all, I would prefer a normal show to a festival but for this leg that’s what we’ve got. The familiar sound of The Beatles announced the imminent arrival onto the festival stage (not the same set up as the previous legs but what appeared a generic festival set up). Now I know this is still Global Spirit, but I don’t think Going Backwards is the right opener for a festival crowd. It’s not recognised and it’s not a song that you “get” on first listen. Having said that, Dave gave it his usual gusto and strutted on with all the familiar moves.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
The set list followed what is now familiar and the boys certainly seemed bouncy and energetic. It’s clear they are still enjoying performing even after well over 100 shows! Maybe the football result had something to do with that?

The audience was pretty good for a festival, a bit patchy, but large sections of Devotees were probably in the majority. For the casual fans, there was enough in the performance to entertain and enough familiar tracks. Cover Me is a great song and holds its place well, Somebody is a beautiful track but not what this setlist really needed and it sapped the energy a bit.

The first half of this particular set list isn’t packed with the biggest of hits and for the crowd to really get going the combination of the darkening sky as night settled in, and the opening notes of Everything Counts were the triggers. For me, Everything Counts has been ‘the’ track of this tour, sounding fresh and relevant and getting audiences at every show to bounce up and down and sing along. From then on the audience was carried along and sections of Devotees were not so easy to spot now amongst the crowd. Personal Jesus rocked the arena and the hands were swaying in the familiar field of corn wave as Dave orchestrated the mass participation as Never Let Me Down Again closed the main set. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
The encore is pretty punchy for festival goers with the epic Walking in My Shoes and the masterpiece Enjoy the Silence. By now, the band had the audience just where they wanted them and Dave was doing what he does best, getting us to respond to his every command like a puppet master expertly controlling his puppet show. The final track was Just Can't Get Enough, not one I particularly enjoy, but it really does go down well with the festival crowd. I’m not ashamed to admit I was singing along, and whatever the band really think of this song, they certainly performed it like they believed in it. That done, I hauled my sweaty (recently turned 50-year-old) body back to a waiting bed. It was worth the journey - it always is.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Is it a perfect festival setlist? For me a 15 or 16 song set should have packed in some more big hitters and especially in the first half of the set. If the band can throw in Just Can't Get Enough, then surely they can stick in something like Strangelove or Master & Servant early on. But that’s being picky I guess. From Everything Counts on, the set is so energetic and carries the festival crowd along on a wave of collective euphoria when the Devotee numbers swell for an hour or so to include most of the obviously happy crowd. For me, next stop Lollapalooza Paris and I can’t wait to see the best band in the world again as I know just how lucky I am to still be able to enjoy these spiritually lifting experiences, having been a fan since way way back from the time of A Broken Frame.


Thank you Stephen.

No comments:

Post a Comment