Monday 31 July 2023


Today is the 30th anniversary of the first time I saw Depeche Mode live. 

I'd become a Depeche Mode fan upon hearing Enjoy The Silence and, since I heard it, had been obsessed with them. I didn't get the chance to see World Violation due to a combination of exams and Depeche forgetting Scotland existed from 1986 to 2009 so, once that tour ended, I wasn't thinking of seeing them live. Instead I spent a lot of time focussed on devouring their back catalogue.

I went from Castle Douglas to Aberdeen in 1993 and, when Melody Maker announced a new tour and album (I still remember (a) the report that they were to play 180 dates and (b) boring everyone I knew with this), I knew my time had come. I would finally see Depeche Mode live.

I'm writing this as the band tour Memento Mori and last night played in Prague. I know this, not only because I am odd that way, but because a world tour these days involves live relays of gigs, photos and videos appearing online and a huge internet ticket scrum whenever tickets go on sale. In 1993, you either queued at a record shop or ticket outlet or did as I did - ask your Dad to write a cheque for the ticket, send it off and patiently await the return envelope with the hallowed piece of paper.

The ticket duly arrived in Castle Douglas and during my next call home from Aberdeen, the news was broken to me. It was happening. I was going to see Depeche Mode. If you are reading this, the chances are that you even you get exasperated with the seemingly endless stream of "content" I generate. All I can say is, none of that compares to the amount I spoke about the ticket news to anyone who would or wouldn't listen.

In those days, you actually got tickets. This one came in its own Songs Of Faith And Devotion card envelope (see above). I've placed these on the Devotional concert programme cover by the way - they're not stuck on it in case people are currently screaming at this post.

The ticket itself features a classic Devotional era picture of the band with Martin staring off into the distance. One thing to note about the ticket is the price - £18.50. Compare that to the price of the tickets for the current tour - my word. £18.50!

Once the ticket was in hand, one problem arose - how was I going to get to London on my own and where would I stay? At the time, I was a hugely shy, worldly unwise chap so I was not going to sleep in a railway station as many people ended up doing. Happily, Alex Small, one of the students in my halls (hi Alex), lived near enough to the stadium and his parents generously put me up. What they must have thought of a mumbling Scottish boy, dressed in black and acting oddly because he was off to see DM I dread to think. They were so kind though and even gave me lunch on the Sunday before I got the train back up the road. 

Having (1) been driven from Castle Douglas to Dumfries station (2) got the train from Dumfries to Carlisle and (3) got the train from Carlisle to London, I headed to Alex's house, chatted to his parents and then made for the stadium. I think Alex's Dad gave me a lift though I can't recall. Once inside, I was immediately terrified. How many people are here and why does everyone seem older than me, more confident and to know exactly what they're doing? London seemed like a mad place.

I headed for the merchandise stall and got the goodies you can see above, all of which came in a Songs Of Faith And Devotion bag. The programme was in there too and I seem to recall the whole lot costing about £20 but that can't be right. The new tour dates on the flyer were a pain as there was no Scottish gig. I mentioned that to a group of people standing beside me. they ignored me. To be fair, I would have done too. There was a Mute badge and sticker with the bag  too, both with the same bespoke logo on the front of the cassette. The sticker was stuck to a folder and the badge stuck onto a pencil case I used. I have no idea where they are. The t-shirt is cool - Devotional live action on the front and the date of the gig on the back.

The support acts were Marxman, Dub Syndicate and Sisters Of Mercy. I was only familiar with the Sisters so was quite pleased when I could get fairly far forward on the pitch to see their set. As it ended, I saw a boy who lived in my street in Castle Douglas. Unusually, his hair was all backcombed. I went to say hello and he blanked me as I clearly wasn't cool enough. I'd actually forgotten about this until I started writing this bit. Hello Richard if you're reading - you really should have stuck around for the main act or "puppet show" as Andrew Eldritch elegantly put it.

The standing area started to fill up with the confident people I mentioned earlier after Sisters ended, so I walked back a bit, passing a Sisters fan in full wedding dress which was quite a sight.

What of the Depeche gig itself? I don't really a great deal sadly. Not because I was drinking - strictly water all day for me then - but because it was all a blur. I remember Higher Love and the thunder and lightning start; Walking In My Shoes and the video screens; Stripped because, well, it's Stripped and Enjoy The Silence which nearly made my brain explode. Here it was - that song and that band were playing it live right in front of me.

I waited right until the end the headed back to Mr and Mrs Small's place. Not that they wanted me to I imagine, but I filled them in the next day, had lunch and then headed back to the station to repeat the journey of the day before in reverse. My head was the clouds for days afterwards. In many ways, it's never quite fully removed itself.

I'd seen Depeche Mode live. That was a very good thing.

You know the rest.....

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