Monday, 3 September 2018

NEW SOUNDS ALL AROUND - THE DEPECHE MODE 12" SINGLES BOXSETS

My 12" boxsets

Last Friday, Depeche Mode released the first two of what will be a series of boxsets of 12" singles. As you might expect, the first two contained the Speak & Spell and A Broken Frame 12" singles with the Speak & Spell boxset containing a couple of nice surprises.

Each boxset is a numbered limited edition housed in a cardboard outer box featuring a reinterpretation of the album cover, or at least a key element of the album cover. The Speak & Spell cover is nice, but the A Broken Frame is a bit bland. Recreating that album's iconic cover would no doubt be tricky but, had I been asked, I'd have suggested that the inner sleeve of the album featuring the cover of the boxset plus a sickle, would be been better. I wasn't asked though so who cares? The covers of the 12" singles are reproductions of the originals which, at least in terms of New Life, keen eyed fans have noticed apparent differences in colour between the old and the new. I've not done this so I can't tell you what differences I see between the singles I have. 

The cost of the boxsets comes in anywhere from £40 to £50 or so depending on where you shop. That's a lot of money obviously and, the odd surprise aside both here and in future boxsets, given that everything on here is available in the 12" format already, are these essential purchases? On balance probably not, but if you're a collector like I am, they are very nice additions to the seemingly never ending pile of Depeche Mode records filling every space in your house.

Sound wise, a large amount of work has gone into these releases by depechemode.com webmaster Daniel Barassi and the results are excellent. He has taken a lot of time getting the balance right (lol etc) on the sonic side of things as you can see from the hints that he has dropped on his Fishure Price Instagram account. The 12" singles are reproduced from the original master tapes and are designed to sound identical to the original vinyl. Again, that might not seem like a selling point to some and that's perfectly understandable given the cost of the boxes.

The Speak & Spell 12" boxset

The Speak & Spell boxset is noteworthy because it contains Dreaming Of Me on 12" for the first time ever. It's nice to have that particular gap filled and any release that contains the majestic Ice Machine is impossible not to love. The New Life and Just Can't Get Enough 12" singles contain, the same tracks the original 12" singles : New Life (remix) (decent), Shout! (Rio Mix) (not only a quality piece of punnery but also a titanic remix), Just Can't Get Enough (Schizo Mix) (A glorious homage to Kraftwerk remix) and Any Second Now (Altered) (one of those really odd instrumentals the band did in the old days that you can't help but enjoy). 

There are two bonus items. Firstly, we have a reproduction of a promotional poster from the era which is fine as posters go. Secondly, and rather superbly, we also have a reproduction of the Flexipop magazine flexidisc which was originally released in September 1981. That flexidisc features two tracks: the superb King Of The Flies by the superb Fad Gadget and Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead by Depeche, a differently named and different take on the Speak & Spell album track I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead. Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead is an excellent version of the song, slightly improving on what is already on of the great early Depeche Mode tracks. Finally on the flexidisc point, because I am the sort of person that does this sort of thing, I've compared the reissue to the original and can confirm that the reissue is slightly heavier. Not in tone or sound but in weight. I have no idea why I felt I needed to share that with you.

Here's the cover of the original magazine featuring a young Dave, no doubt in the coffin because the photographer thought that was an amusing thing given the song on the flexidisc.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
As with all the other boxsets to come, this one and the A Broken Frame one come with digital downloads. You get a card inside the box that, in the U.K. at least, gives you a code to use on wearevinyl.com. With the Speak & Spell boxset, you get a digital version of Sometimes I Wish I Was Dead  which is rather nice as that's not been available before. The Fad Gadget track is not available with the downloads however. 

Finally on the Speak & Spell side of things, Sony asked 5 fans to get involved with the release by making their own unboxing videos. Along with Dicken Schrader, Michael Russell, Cristian Guttierez and Sylwia Gorajek, I was asked to take part which was naturally something I was really pleased to do. Too pleased almost as you can tell from the rather childlike was I react to things in the video.



The A Broken Frame 12" boxset

Like the Speak & Spell boxset, this one contains three 12" singles with an identical track listing to their original issues. First up we have the pure pop of See You in its Extended Version which is not that extended at all really. It has Now, This Is Fun on the b-side, again as the Extended Version. I do enjoy that track and the band played it live 79 times in 1982 and 1983 so they must have loved it too. As you can see from the photo of the master tape the band's Facebook page shared the other day, it originally had a different name - Reason For Fun



In fact, in the January 21st 1982 edition of U.K. pop magazine Smash Hits, Fletch said the b-side was called something else:

"After ‘New Life’," Andy takes over, "a lot of people thought Depeche Mode were ‘sweet’ and ‘cute’ and everything, and we wanted to show them we could be a lot of other things as well. On the new B-side, "Reason To Be", we tried to …" pause while they all burst out laughing again … "we tried to sound … really…mean! Didn’t work though," he admits.

Not that "mean" really.

Talking of mean, harsh sounding, Nine Inch Nails influencing industrial goth pop, the next 12" we find is The Meaning Of Love.  The band's weakest single of that and any other era until Hole To Feed came out (I will never let that go), the 12" features the Fairly Odd Mix of the track which lives up to its name. It's backed with a genuine titan of the Depeche b-side catalogue however with the Bowie Low era like electronic genius of Oberkorn (It's A Small Town) (Development Mix). An unmissable gem in the band's early releases that was recorded before it even had a name as another picture from the band's Facebook page recently showed us.


On the music side, the final piece of the A Broken Frame jigsaw is of course BONG1 itself, Leave In Silence with the 12" reproduced in its original textured sleeve form which is a nice touch. Leave In Silence  is a masterpiece of a song and I will not hear anything to the contrary from anyone. The Longer version we find on track one of the 12" only confirms that I am right and the Quieter version on Track 3 doesn't alter that at all. Sandwiched in between we find Further Excerpts From: My Secret Garden which is fine if you like that sort of thing. Oh, and did you know that Leave In Silence was originally called The Big Drop? Depeche Mode's Facebook page again pleasing people who are pleased by this sort of thing (you and me basically) by producing yet another master tape picture:


I bet even the Duff Mix was glorious.

Finally, there's a reproduction of a See You promo poster inside the box.

There was an unboxing video too and one of the five participants was friend of this blog, all round good guy, Mr Breathing In Fumes himself, Glen Hammarstrom. See Glen and his wall of vinyl below:





Reached Our Natural Conclusion

That then is a run through of the Depeche Mode 12" boxsets. These first two give a taste of what is to come and it will be interesting to see how future releases appear. The Violator era one for example has 9 12" singles to look at. Will the L12BONG20 appear in a gel sleeve? Will we get the Hazchemix Edit of Dangerous which appeared on the gatefold 7" of Personal Jesus? Will the Songs Of Faith And Devotion 12" boxset finally see the prices of the original 12" singles drop to something less than the price of a small car? Will we get vinyl releases of any of the American only mixes such as the Black & Blue Mix of Master & Servant?

Who knows? Well Sony probably, but I don't. I am intrigued to see how these issues are dealt with and what the price of future boxsets will be given the content they surely have to have as a minimum i.e. all the 12" singles from that album. We can judge them as we get to them. What the series will show, especially as we get up to the end of the Music For The Masses era is just how influential Depeche Mode were on the 12" single remix and that is something that should rightly be celebrated.  These two boxes are a fine way to start that off. 







Wednesday, 29 August 2018

DEPECHE MODE LIVE IN SCOTLAND PART 3: 1982

The post Global Spirit Tour Project break is over and it's back to work both in the day job and in the blogging sense. The Live In Scotland series (part 1 here and part 2 here) took a back seat because of the tour but it's now back. This episode looks at the band's three concerts in Scotland in 1982 which includes their first ever trip to my hometown Glasgow. It would not have been possible to write this without the three contributors Robert Weir, Trevor Thomson and Raymond Perry - thank you very much to each of you. Thanks you too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos for the photos (all theirs unless otherwise credited) and to DM Live Wiki for the links to the live shows. 



Depeche Mode live at Tiffany's, Glasgow, October 19, 1982
In 1982, Depeche Mode played 3 concerts in Scotland, one at the start of the year and two towards the end. For the first time, the band were touring without Vince Clarke. In his place was, of course, Alan Wilder, at that point the Peter Gordeno of his time*, playing with the band while not being a member. He would of course soon join up officially and he would remain a band member until 1995. If the internet had existed in 1982, I presume there would have been as much debate about Vince leaving as there continues to be about Alan leaving now. Anyway, post Vince, Depeche were a three piece band who turned into a four piece band for live purposes. Here is the story of how they rocked or, more accurately, synthed Scotland in 1982.

(* Please note this was a joke. Don't hound me online and send me threatening emails. For the avoidance of doubt, Alan is NOT Peter Gordeno. Peter is far more talented.**)

(**Also a joke. Although Peter is a talented musician. Anyway...enough of this nonsense. One rule of DM blogging, indeed the only rule - never mention Alan. Or joke about Alan. Ok, two rules.)



21 February 1982, Tiffany's, Glasgow

The band's first post Vince tour was known as the See You tour. In case you didn't spot the cleverly hidden reason why it was called that, the band were on the road in support of their first ever Martin Gore written single, the glorious See You. It's a song that still remains the band's biggest selling U.K. single. That's right - it even outsold Soothe My Soul.  The See You tour took in Tiffany's in Glasgow, a venue that hosted many wonderful bands including Yazoo. Around the time Depeche played there, they were in a rose in a crown of punk thorns as you can see:


Tiffany's is now a Genting casino sadly, but back in 1982 it was a much more interesting place. It started life as the Locarno Ballroom in 1926, featuring a sprung dancefloor and a revolving stage among other things. No evidence exists of whether or not that stage was used for the Depeche show. 

The Locarno in 1982
From the first ever Scottish Professional Dancing Championships in 1928 via the Glasgow gang violence of the 50's and 60's, the Locarno turned into Tiffany's and, twice in 1982, it featured Depeche Mode's own professional dancer, Fletch and, thankfully, very little violence. It closed in the late 80's, turning into the casino it still is today. As you can see, while it was open, Tiffany's very much went for a Scottish feel:


At Depeche Mode's show was Robert Weir, now resident in Toronto. I asked Robert what his recollections of the gig were.

"I remember the sound of the synths. It was my first ever concert, and the power of the sound vibrating through me just reeled me in. This was the night I fell in love with electronic music. 

Blancmange were the support and they got the crowd ready for DM. I remember the anticipation in the venue as it filled with dry ice. There were empty synths and a tape machine in the middle of the stage and then the band walked on, coming on to a long intro of Shout and the crowd went nuts. Alan, the new guy, was there. They played an unreleased song, The Meaning Of Love and, in the encore, they covered a Gerry & The Pacemakers song, I Like It - I knew that from my parents record collection.

At the end of the show, I remember not wanting to leave the venue as it had been one of the best experiences of my life. It paid off as one of the bouncers told me to go to the stairs leading up to the balcony so that I could meet the band. I was fourth in line and was star struck. I told them I thought the show was amazing. Earlier. I'd bought a programme which was basically a fold out poster with dates, lyrics and an introduction to Alan. I no longer have it, but Alan and Dave signed it. I told Alan I thought he was great to which he said "thanks" and when I told Dave how much I'd enjoyed the show he said "thanks a lot mate" in a strong Essex accent.

With that, I was ushered along and left the venue a happy man."

The setlist for the Tiffany's gig was:

Shout
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Boys Say Go!
Puppets
See You
Big Muff
Now, This Is Fun
Ice Machine
New Life
Tora! Tora! Tora!
The Meaning Of Love
Just Can't Get Enough
What's Your Name?
Photgraphic
Dreaming Of Me
I Like It

Happily, the concert was recorded for broadcast by Glasgow's Clyde FM. It's a superb recording which you can grab from the ever wonderful DM Live Wiki right here: Tiffany's Feb 82

Listen to it all obviously, but, in particular, listen to See You. The band's equipment clearly couldn't replicate the vocal sample lines, so the band sing them. It's quite wonderful.

The band then left Scotland, returning for...

Depeche Mode live at Tiffany's, Glasgow, 19 October 1982

19 October 1982, Tiffany's, Glasgow

Unlike the last gig at Tiffany's, the band had an album to support with the still brilliant A Broken Frame released on 27 September that year. This isn't an album review thing but never ignore the fact that this maligned Depeche album features genuine greats like Leave In Silence, My Secret Garden, Monument, Satellite, See You and The Sun And The Rainfall. This was songwriting far beyond the years of the then thrust into the spotlight Martin L Gore. Sublime electro goth music (See You aside) that pointed the way to the band they became.

Anyway, back to Scotland. The Depeche show at Tiffany's in the October was markedly different from the February show. The setlist was:

Oberkorn (It's A Small Town)
My Secret Garden
See You
Satellite
New Life
Boys Say Go!
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Leave In Silence
Nothing To Fear
Shouldn't Have Done That
Monument
The Meaning Of Love
Just Can't Get Enough
A Photograph Of You
The Sun And The Rainfall
Shout
Photographic
Dreaming Of Me

Firstly, what a setlist. Secondly - the pop nonsense of A Photograph Of You followed by the majesty of The Sun And The Rainfall and Shout? Bold and genius. I love this era of Depeche Mode.



Anyway, as I mentioned above about Tiffany's, look at this line up around the time this gig took place:


Good grief. I wasn't at any of those shows, let alone the Depeche one, but Robert Weir was. I asked him a few things about Tiffany's.

"On the A Broken Frame Tour at Tiffany's, the support was Matt Fretton. I  loved his song So High immediately. This tour seemed slicker. It had a great tour programme featuring with imagery from the album and pictures of the band. 

I remember the long intro of Oberkorn which was the b-side of The Meaning Of Love opening. Then they went into My Secret Garden before they came on stage with the familiar tape machine centre stage. 

Check shirts were the thing and Dave was dancing all over the stage, seeming more confident than earlier that year. Again, the show was amazing, and I remember being glad they didn't do any cover versions.

All the young dudes
Having shown Glasgow a good time, it was only logical Depeche Mode headed along the M8 to Edinburgh. That could only mean...


20 October 1982, Playhouse, Edinburgh

The Playhouse in Edinburgh is an institution. Opening in 1929, it has hosted Depeche Mode on no less than four occasions, the last being on 17 January 1988 when, oddly, the Music For The Masses tour ended up there. It capacity of 3,059 people makes it an unlikely place for a gig almost exactly five months to the day they'd play the Pasadena Rose Bowl but (1) Britain always had an odd relationship with the band and (2) Britain got Depeche Mode very wrong.

Anyway, here's the Playhouse:



I've genuinely no idea when that picture was taken, but whenever it was, the Playhouse still looks like that right now. And that's right now as in whenever you're reading this - 2018, 2019 or, if Depeche Mode are still a thing then, in 2099. The Playhouse will always look like this.

To the concert then. Interestingly, and no doubt to the fury of whatever passed for forums in those days, the band played the same set they'd played at Tiffany's at the Playhouse. Yes, even way back then, setlist rotation was not really a thing. There are no recordings of these two shows available as I write this. If you have them, please get in touch with me or Matthew at DM Live Wiki as they would be a great addition to the site. If you want to hear this setlist live, check out the superb soundboard recording from the London show on October 25 on DM Live Wiki right here - London, 25 October 1982.

Picture courtesy of Trevor Thomson

Trevor Thomson, whose recollections of the band's 1981 gigs we heard in Part 1, was at the Playhouse gig (see his ticket above). Once again I annoyed him enough to have him tell us a bit more about this gig:

"This was the only time I saw Depeche in 1982. The Playhouse is all seated so it was odd seeing DM in a venue like that however the audience weren't all seated for long. Matt Fretton was the support and was essentially twenty years ahead of his time, singing and dancing along to a backing track, engaging with the front rows of the stalls. 

As far as Depeche Mode were concerned, things had certainly moved on since I saw them in November 1981. They were now playing theatres rather than clubs so they knew they had to put on a show. This fell to Dave who was engaging the audience throughout the show. He'd seemed, if not aloof, then slightly nervous in 1981 but he was much more confident this time. 

Trevor's A Broken Frame programme - picture courtesy of Trevor Thomson

The thrust of Depeche Mode's songs had switched from what was essentially happy, up tempo pop to the more reflective and at times brooding sound of Martin's songs. The songs from A Broken Frame were darker in general, apart from The Meaning Of Love. Oberkorn was dark in an almost Low era Bowie way and even Just Can't Get Enough had a darker edge as they played the Schizo Mix live.

More success for the band meant a theatre, more space on stage, a sit down audience and much better and more impressive keyboards although I was pretty impressed by the machines I'd seen them play before then. There was definitely a change in mood from the 1981 shows. They presented themselves as a shiny pop band but that wasn't reflected in their performance. Dave was a confident broody singer.

I came away thoroughly entertained. I could tell they were already becoming bigger and bit more distant however. It's a massive leap from the front row of two club style gigs to the fifth row of a theatre. Success had put them on the album-tour commercial readmill. They were probably thinking "we have to take this while we can because we don't know how long it will last." They certainly have lasted!"

The badges Trevor bought at the gig - photo courtesy of Trevor Thomson

The show at the Playhouse was featured in the magazine Patches. The band looked tremendously fresh faced on the cover:

Awwwww

I wonder what if the Lacy Fashion section inspired Martin's clothing in 1983? There was also an article telling us a bit about the tour


With Trevor's story of the gig, we can account for one of the 3,059 people there that night. Because I aim to be as thorough as I can, we can also now hear from someone else, Raymond Perry. Raymond is life long DM fan and he and I managed to meet up before the Manchester gig last year. Here's what he recalls of the Playhouse show:

"I'd never been to a gig before as I was only 14, so I didn't know what to expect. The keyboard players appeared through the smoke to the tune of Oberkorn. Dave then appeared and turned on the reel to reel tape recorder, leading the band into the opening My Secret Garden. I thought to myself "these guys are fantastic." They blew me away.

It was a long show and I became a fan for life after it. I started buying their back catalogue including A Broken Frame. It's such a brilliant album - I still love it today.

I used to love the baggy clothes the band wore in those days. I even loved the patterned jumpers too. How times have changed!"

The band's schedule for the day


And that was that. Depeche Mode boarded their tourbus and headed for Newcastle for a gig on the 21st of October. They would return to both the Playhouse and Tiffany's in 1983 on the Construction Time Again tour and we will have a look at that next time.

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Thank you very much to Robert Weir, Trevor Thomson and Raymond Perry for their help putting this together. Thanks too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group and to DM Live Wiki

Thursday, 26 July 2018

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, WALDBUHNE, BERLIN, 25 JULY 2018

It's time for the final review of The Global Spirit Tour Project. When I started this I had no idea what it would involve, how many people want want to write blogs for it and how big it could get. At the time I type this (2pm on 26 July having just got back to Glasgow from Berlin), there have been a total of 625,463 individual views of the reviews and that frankly blows my mind. Thank you very much to every single one of the reviewers who are all absolute heroes, thanks to everyone who has helped promote the articles and thank you to you for reading. Here then is the final review. Part 135 of the Global Spirit Tour Project is a review of the last concert on the Global Spirit Tour at the Waldbuhne in Berlin and it's written by me.

Photo by Stuart Cowan

I'm back home after three days in Berlin where I saw both Depeche Mode concerts at the Waldbuhne. It seems appropriate that the band ended the tour there given their links to the city and the size of their German fanbase, so to say I was eagerly anticipating the concerts would be something of an understatement. Kevin May has covered night one already so I'll say nothing more about that gig other than to say Kevin's review is spot on. 

Onto last night then. I'd never been to the Waldbuhne before and I was amazed at how stunning a venue it is. The setting is incredible and the sound is perfect. I was travelling with my walking blog adverts Paul, Stuart and John and they were equally amazed at the venue. It is truly a magical place. We wanted to make sure of two things last night  - a good seat but, more importantly, a seat in shade. We're Scottish so the insane heat of Berlin was something very, very new to us. We survived the queue and got ourselves set up for the night to the left hand side of the stage.

L-R: Paul, me, Stuart and John. 
Every time that a Depeche Mode tour ends, the inevitable "the band are stopping after this" rumours circulate. I remember someone confidently telling me that the band were splitting up after the Tour Of The Universe for example. Was last night's concert the last time we will see Depeche Mode play live? I don't know and, beyond the band and their inner circle, no-one else knows either. The thought that this was to be their last show, a thought inspired by many more people than normal saying that was the case, was certainly on the minds of the crowd last night however. While there was certainly an air of celebration, that was flavoured with a sense of sadness in case this was it. I know I felt that way. If last night was their last ever show, then they ended on a spectacular high.

From the off the band were on top form. Going Backwards boomed across the Waldbuhne, setting the tone for the evening. While So Much Love had had a welcome return on Monday, It's No Good returned as the second track last night and absolutely thumped out of the speakers. You hear a song like that or like the titanic version of Stripped that came later in the set in this setting and you just know that this venue was made for Depeche Mode. The opening synth line of Stripped last night is possibly one of the greatest musical experiences of my life. It was breathtaking -  hearing that, watching the stage as the sun finally set and dusk fell, every single hair on every body in there standing on end, the entire crowd in a trance. 

In other words, I quite enjoyed Stripped last night.



I'm not going to labour the whole "is it over" thing, but there were points last night where the combination of that thought, the emotion of the whole event anyway and the overpriced beer in the bewildering selection of Depeche cups got me a little emotional. During World In My Eyes, the importance of that song and Depeche Mode to me dawned on me. I suddenly thought that this could be the last time I ever saw it played live and it was a really odd moment. I will admit to getting a few tears in my eyes at that point but so what? You want music to inspire emotion in you. You want it to move you. That's what Depeche Mode have always done for me as long as I have been a fan and last night was no different. I imagine 22,000 other people in the crowd felt the same at many points last night.

The setlist was interesting. I don't think anyone saw Poison Heart returning to any concert any time soon, but there it was. It does work in a huge venue with the "woah-oh-oh" part still sounding huge but it slowed things down a bit. Where's The Revolution had that affect too sadly but they are minor quibbles - everything else was spot on and the band played one of the best concerts I have ever seen them play.

Cover Me and Everything Counts were both magnificent. The singalong at the end of Everything Counts seemed like it would never end as everyone of us sung ourselves hoarse. Personal Jesus seemed to have an extra air of menace to it and Enjoy The Silence, my favourite song of all time, was just magical. The return of "Heroes" was nice too given the city we were in, and I though Dave delivered it magnificently. In London last June it transfixed the entire Olympic Stadium and it did that again last night in the Waldbuhne. Dave ended the song by saying "That one's for you Dave" pointing skyward as he did so. A lovely moment.

The version of Never Let Me Down Again last night was one of the loudest and most sinister versions I've heard on this tour. A towering electro-beast played at a volume that could flatten a city. Outrageoulsy good. During that song, I turned into one of those people that live streams gigs on Facebook. I know it's annoying but I felt I had to capture it. Suspend your disgust at the phone fuckwittery, ignore the fact my hand keeps "hilariously" appearing in the shot and enjoy the song for yourself:





Martin made my night by bringing back The Things You Said. I had never seen that song played live and it was just perfect. Again, I seemed to get something in my eye at that point. His other two tracks, Insight and I Want You Now were gorgeous too with I Want You Now having an epic singalong at the end. The absence of Home was a surprise but his three tracks were all wonderful. 

The night ended with the most recent surprise addition to the setlist, a surprisingly rousing and actually bloody enjoyable Just Can't Get Enough. There was a slight delay between the end of Personal Jesus and the start of Just Can't Get Enough and you wondered what was going to come next. At these points you always hope for Lie To Me or Rush or insert name of fan favourite, but the choice of Just Can't Get Enough was a good one. As with I Want You Now, it ended with a mass singalong, with both the band and the audience reluctant to stop. All good things must end though and Dave wrapped it up. As he did he shouted "That's all folks!" before the much analysed "We'll see you all some other time" followed. Cue speculation for the masses.

It genuinely was a stunning gig last night and it ended what has been an epic tour on a high. No-one left the venue feeling shortchanged, no-one left feeling flat. Everyone left on a high, buzzing after yet another incredible performance by this incredible band.

Depeche Mode and Waldbuhne are made for each other. See you some other time I hope - I'll keep my 2021 diary clear just in case.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

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And with that, The Global Spirit Tour Project is over. All 130 gigs have been reveiwed by fans and we've had a few specials too. The effort everyone has put into them has been incredible and I can't believe that people have given up their time to indulge this bizarre plan of mine. I have loved every second of it. To everyone who has been involved, thank you very much and I hope everyone enjoys reading and re-reading the reviews in the future.

What am I going to do with my time now?


LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, WALDBUHNE, BERLIN, 23 JULY 2018

Throughout this project I've not asked anyone to review a specific gig as I didn't want to put pressure on people or ruin the show for them by making them feel they had to take notes etc. I made an exception to that rule however for this show as I really wanted Kevin May to review it. Not only are his reviews always excellent (this is his third for this blog) but, as Kevin wrote the second review of this thing for the Amsterdam show, him covering this show would given the whole project a nice shape. I asked and much to my delight Kevin said yes. Here's his review then and I know you'll love it. Thank you very much Kevin for the review, the pictures and for saying yes.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

This review, perhaps rather cheekily, is written with the benefit of having a few days to both absorb the gig and knowing what took place at the final show in Berlin two days later (thanks, David, for the breathing space). 

It makes sense, in a way, to have waited - so much emphasis has been placed on these last two dates as some kind of overall event on the tour, so neither can be taken in isolation. 

This, therefore, is a review of the first show, with a nod towards the Wednesday night extravaganza, written by David. 

***** 

Observers of the Global Spirit Tour specifically and Depeche Mode’s career generally will know that the closing months, weeks and days of a tour is a combination of excitement and concerns. 

Excitement because it’s the last time that thousands of fans will get to see the band and, equally, concerns because it’s the last time that thousands of fans will get to these the band. See what I did there... 

The four-year period of mourning that comes with such an occurrence is only heightened with each album and tour, as the band get older and creep up, ever to closer, to their sixties. 

This time it’s more acute: the length of the tour, the celebratory nature of many of the shows, even the recent change in Dave Gahan’s farewell at the end of each gig - elements that have conspired to give many fans the idea that this is finally it. Or at least there is going to be a change to four-year cycle. 

It’s with all that conjecture in mind that I head to Berlin, unable to see both shows due to work and family commitments but with a sense of relief that I have a ticket for the first night. 

Interestingly, despite the downbeat speculation littering the forums and fan pages over the last few months, there is no sense of foreboding in the air in Berlin. 

On the contrary, in fact - perhaps a sign that the introduction and widespread use of social media has often only served to amplify the noise that surrounds a band of Depeche Mode’s size. 

There are, in other words, thousands of fans who simply love going to see their band and have little time for the speculation. 

Such a lack of doom and gloom is very welcome, feeling slightly worried before flying out that fans may treat the two nights as some kind of sad goodbye, rather than a party to commemorate a 38-year career. 

(c) Kevin May

Indeed, there is a particular feeling in the air throughout the time that I am in Berlin. 

The day before the show, Sunday, for example, after wandering through the Tiergarten and listening to the extraordinary and massive Carillon tower (it has 68 bells, each connected to a keyboard some 42 metres feet high), a man and his partner stand beside me, decked in Depeche t-shirts. 

I hear the man say: “I reckon Martin would love a go on that!” – they both chuckle to one another, see me smile, too, and then nod knowingly and say: “Enjoy the gigs!”. 

Other moments include seeing a family, with fairly young children, all clad in black, climbing out of a van with Depeche flags and other paraphernalia on it. They’re all laughing and jostling around, messing about, on the morning of the gig, clearly excited about what lay ahead. 

The vibe is everywhere – let’s have a (black) celebration, not a funeral. 

The word on the street is that “free seating” ticket holders (i.e. general entry) have a good chance of getting into the first block behind the standing area if they 1) arrive early, as there are only a limited number allowed in, and 2) head for a specific entrance gate. 

With warm wine and beer (it’s a sweltering mid-afternoon) in bags, we head to the venue and find ourselves in a queue with several hundred other fans. We’re in the heart of the so-called Black Swarm.

(c) Kevin May

Strangely enough, this brief period of waiting is when the mood turns slightly low-key – the chants that were springing up as happy fans arrived from the various u-bahn and s-bahn stations have now stopped. 

It’s not a stony silence – just a contemplative and more hushed tone in the conversations between friends and loved ones. 

Once the gates open, the high spirits and high jinks return. The chanting resumes, the venue fills extremely quickly and early (it’s still only 5.30pm), the party atmosphere returns. 

I have probably not experienced the energy from a crowd as those filling the steep sides of the Waldbuhne since the Royal Albert Hall in 2010 or the Crystal Palace gig of 1993. 

It’s an extraordinary, perhaps slightly unworldly, feeling to be a part of it – something that the naysers will snort at but deep down will know that there are very few moments when a collection of people can create such an uplifting environment. 

And this is two hours before show time. 

DAF, the support act, do a solid job in the early-evening dusk but I would suspect many members of the audience would be hard pressed to see the German band’s presence as no more than mildly tasty hors d’oeuvres ahead of the main course. 

It’s a shame, but probably to be expected. 



There are a few factors about the night that will ensure anyone who attended the gig (or Wednesday’s climax) will remember it for a long time. 

But it’s not the set-list. All but two of the songs – Strangelove and A Question Of Time – were played at the first show that I saw, in Amsterdam, in May 2017. 

It’s not particularly the interactions onstage (they still outwardly appear to be enjoying themselves and one another a lot, 15 months in), or the always strong connection between the band – in particular, Dave - and the crowd. 

Nor is it the near-perfect delivery of the material (apart from Dave’s slip-up on the opener, Going Backwards), in part probably knowing that Anton Corbijn and crew are in town to shoot the final two gigs. 

Instead, consider elements such as the Waldbuhne location - it’s extraordinary, and should be a template for outdoor venues across Europe, rather than often lifeless stadiums and arenas that change their brand name every few years. 

Also, consider the energy of the crowd – creating enough goodwill and, dare I say it, love and adoration for their band, to ensure the intensity only increases as each song comes and goes. 

This isn’t the festival crowds of the previous month or so – this is a crowd that cheers the start of each song with the same gusto as the previous one, rather than waiting for recognisable tracks. It must be a relief, somewhat, to be back in front of a “home crowd”. 

Finally, consider that the party atmosphere that has been building for days and in the hours ahead of the show’s start has continued. 

It’s almost as if the crowd suspects that this may be their last chance to experience the thrill of a Depeche Mode show, so they demand the highest standards of themselves in terms for providing an atmosphere that will then be felt by the band. 

Some (myself included) have lamented the inclusion of I Feel You since, well, 1993 – yet tonight, for some reason, it doesn’t annoy me so much, if at all. 

We forgive the boys on this one occasion. 

The crowd welcomes back the wonderfully seedy Corrupt, also the best live version of Wrong that the band have ever created.



Cover Me has become one of the strongest moments in a set for any new song in the last 20 years, and even the criminally bare version of Strangelove seems to work. 

Still, one aspect of the Depeche Mode live experience that often gets overlooked is how sometimes the predictability works in a show’s favour. 

For example, at end of Home, the entire crowd know when to sing unaccompanied (unlike in New York City a few weeks back) but they also know that this is the moment that it’s likely that Dave will lead a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the direction of the 57-year-old, Martin Gore. It starts in a section of the crowd in front of me before Dave even comes on-stage. These fans know what to do. 

It’s the familiarity with knowing that certain moves, lyrics, crowd chants, expressions, etc, are what make people feel good about themselves, which is therefore at the heart of the Depeche Mode experience. 

There is a collective jump in the crowd when the first thumping bars of World In My Eyes strike out, followed later in the song by the finger silhouettes of spectacles. 

The audience knows the exact moment when to carry on the final refrains of Everything Counts, or start the wheat field arm-waving display during Never Let Me Down Again (it is particularly jaw-dropping in a bowl-like venue like the Waldbuhne). 

These aren’t guilty pleasures, nor are they things to be scoffed at – there’s something to be said for thousands of people simply enjoying themselves, letting go and absorbing the energy that an experience can create. 

As Personal Jesus comes to a close, and the now continually cryptic “we’ll see you some other time” rings out, there is no obvious sadness still that this could be one of the band’s last ever shows. 

There is a group of four people, two rows in front of me, hugging and crying – not through sorrow but I can hear them saying (they are British) what an amazing time they’ve had. 

The crowd moves up to the top of the Waldbuhne, and many people look back down towards the bottom of the bowl, perhaps their own moment of reflection that it may be a last glimpse of a Depeche Mode stage. 

But then, as the audience drifts away to the various public transport areas, pockets of chants are heard everywhere – Home, Enjoy The Silence and, perhaps most beautifully, a gentle but long recital of the closing backing vocal of Waiting For The Night. 

Sometimes, words are very unnecessary... 

This is what Depeche Mode do/did to people. I guess we’ll find out how to end that sentence some other time. 

Footnote: 

It was somewhat (perhaps unintentionally) poetic that David asked me to review the penultimate show of the tour, with the blogmeister himself taking on the final gig – he started the ball rolling on this mammoth project at the opener in Stockholm, and then I penned the review of the second show in Amsterdam. Our respective reviews have book-ended the entire project! 

As someone who has edited newspapers, magazines and now online publications, I know about the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes to produce a body of work that readers will find valuable and enjoy reading. 

It goes without saying that without his unbounded enthusiasm for the project and passion for Depeche Mode, this series of reviews of EVERY SINGLE SHOW on the tour (just let that sink in for a moment) would have never happened. 

He’s edited every piece, been unfailingly polite with everyone who has contributed, and I’m sure has had a few hair-raising, frustrating and exhausting moments along the way. That’s what happens when you take on a project of this size. 

I am thrilled and honoured to have been involved with it. 

As this was the last review written by one of his contributors, I would like to – if my comrades will allow it – thank David on behalf of us all, for organising, hosting and connecting us, and for being an all-round top fella. 

Cheers. Kev and the Gang 

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Thank you Kevin

Sunday, 22 July 2018

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, LOLLAPALOOZA PARIS, PARIS, 21 JULY 2018

The third last review of this at one point seemingly impossible project comes from Henno Taams who I really have to thank for getting this to me less than 24 hours after the gig so that I could publish it before Berlin. Thank you for that Henno and for this great review and pictures. Given the other bands you list as being favourites of yours, I'm pretty sure we'll bump into each other at a gig in the future!




Saturday, 21 July 2018 

9:50 PM 

A 4 part review of DM's performance at Lollapalooza Paris 


So we meet again. Last time I saw Depeche Mode it was on a freezing cold winter night in January, but today it sweltering, so hot in fact you can feel the sweat running down your back, just like the first time i saw them in Lille's Stade Pierre Mauroy just over a year ago. 

With most bands that sheer sense of excitement when you see them for the first time slowly fades away, unlike Depeche Mode for me, who together with Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Rammstein and Arcade Fire make up my top 5 live bands I've ever seen, and that's well over a hundred and sixty odd of them. Unique to them is the excitement i felt the first time remains, if not becomes even more. 



Same old, same old... 


Depeche Mode, together with Rammstein are the only bands in my top 5 live bands who have, on their latest tour, stuck to roughly the same set every night. This can be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing. 

Unlike Rammstein, DM's show doesn't use so many special effects that limit any unpredictabilities in the setlist, and also given the ridiculous amount of great songs DM has written it's slightly disappointing even they don't mix them up. Personally i would love to hear some songs from Exciter, some more Playing The AngelSounds Of The Universe or heck, even Delta Machine




Almost Predictable, almost... 

However the setlist they do play, as predictable as it may be, still feels very well put together. The lack of spontaneity is completely made up by the performance these lads put on every night. Though the set is predictable, the extent to which it comes from the stage is not. 

Having read some reviews by the French press here and there about their recent stint of French festivals, I was slightly worried. Quite a few wrote about Dave sounding tired, the band being slightly disconnected from the festival crowd, which could be explained by their lack of festival performances in the last few years. 

But at their final headlining slot of the tour ap my worries slowly faded away as the band picked up steam during Going Backwards, one of my favourite tracks of the new album together with Eternal and Poison Heart. Dave voice sounded like a well oiled machine, as if it was the first show of the tour not the 128th show. 




It also struck me Dave was feeling rather talkative, addressing the crowd after almost every song, unlike Amsterdam on January 13th of this year, where he wouldn't go any further than an obligatory "Good evening Amsterdam!" a single "Well thank you very much!" and "Have a good night!" as if he really wanted us to know he loves us before the band disappearing again, for God knows how long it will be this time. 

Never Let Me Down Again... 

Festivals always feel different from their own shows in a closed setting, festivals come with a certain amount of uncertainty, as we experienced earlier in the the day with one of my favourite new, up and coming bands. 

Nothing But Thieves were the unlucky ones today. They saw their set almost cut in half due to technical difficulties out of their control. For a band like them (I love them very much) they don't deserve to have to put up with that shit. 

Now don't get me wrong, I love festivals and I try to fit as many into my jam packed travel schedule as I can. But the unpredictability of technology when 5 to 7 bands play on the same stage every day can become a real nuisance. 

Not everyone gets a sound check, resulting in quite a few shows with their audio levels all messed up. But Depeche Mode seemed not to have that problem, when I saw them for the first time in Lille I was worried about the audio, as closed roofed concrete stadiums are notorious for terrible audio, as was the case with the support that day. The Horrors sounded like horror. 




But surprisingly as soon as DM came on the audio was near perfect. As was the case last night. A near perfect mix, the bass could have been turned up a little and the drums were a bit too loud but apart from that flawless. 

Yes it was very loud but a song like Never Let Me Down Again has to be loud to transfer al the vigour and energy that it contains. Now we all know the field of wreaths gimmick that comes with it, and even after seeing it so many times it never fails to amaze me. Definitely a highlight if not my favourite moment of the show, there is a certain energy and connection between the band and the crowd during that Song that can't be explained in a mere single blog post, moreover, I need to head back to the festival again as there's plenty more good music coming up, but Depeche Mode, they never let me down. 


Just can't get enough... 

There's a reason why live music is always so invigorating that once you get to experience it, there's this instant feeling of fulfilment, but also another feeling of emptiness that needs filling. We music lovers all know it we need more, we always need more. So as the Global Spirit Tour head to its final halt in the wonderful Waldb├╝hne in Berlin, having seen Rammstein there in 2016, it's truly one of the most beautiful venues, this feeling of emptiness slowly starts to kick in. 

2 more shows until the band goes of on a well deserved holiday after what has been one of the longest tours they've ever done, they'll leave us fulfilled, but still yearning for more. As music lovers we all know, we just can't get enough, and to close out my review with another quote by Dave I'd like to say goodbye and thanks for having me. 

"Well thank you Paris, We'll see you some other time!"


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Thank you Henno

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, MUSILAC FESTIVAL, AIX-LES-BAINS, FRANCE, 12 JULY 2018

Surely Depeche Mode have set a record for the number of French festivals played by one band on one tour this year? France has done very well in terms of having Depeche concerts this summer - well done France. Our reviewers today are a father and daughter duo. Helena Wirth, who is a fellow Depeche Mode Facebook Takeoveree is acting as translator for her Dad, Jean-Francois, who attended the gig.That's a first for the Project and that is rather cool. Thank you Mr Wirth for the review and thank you Helena for translating. Thanks too to Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group for the pictures.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group


Musilac is a young and growing festival. The place is beautiful and the two stages meet the moutains near the Aix les Bains lake. Depeche Mode is the biggest name of the day on Thursday July 12th. Many people are attending, approximately 30 000 people are waiting to see the trio. After The Stranglers and the intro Revolution from The Beatles, Depeche Mode arrives. As soon as Going Backwards begins, you can no longer move in the audience (and I am 30 meters away from the stage) and when the concert ends, I feel like I have to push through the crowd to get out. 

It’s No Good starts and Dave has already taken off his jacket, he is sweaty but happy to be here. "Good evening Aix les Bains " is quite funny to hear, Dave sounds not sure of the pronounciation ! A Pain That I’m Used To comes soon after and the crowd dances a little, but it’s not the usual DM crowd. I’m singing along as loud as I can and a few people follow but not much where I am. Near the stage, the crowd is electric.

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Precious is the next song and Dave asks for hand clapping. World In My Eyes is stimulating the audience and Dave and Martin’s chemistry is heart-warming. The night falls on these mountains when Cover Me starts, a very soothing song. Then Martin sings  Somebody and I’m sad that we didn’t have The Things You Said (I've not heard that live since Paris Bercy in 1987) but the setlist is obviously much shorter because of the festival. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group
Dave returns on stage to In Your Room and its superb video. Then the audience becomes ecstatic with Everything Counts, Stripped, Personal Jesus (the whole crowds outbirst of joy to this one) and Never Let Me Down Again under the stars. It’s also noteworthy that Dave didn’t use the t-shirt shotgun this time. 

Encore comes with Walking In My Shoes and it gives more energy to the crowd. Dave has changed clothes, from the black to the red jacket. Enjoy The Silence makes the audience raise their arms. 

Picture courtesy of Depeche Mode Classic Photos & Videos Facebook Group

Just Can’t Get Enough marks its return in festivals and Dave can’t get enough of making the audience sing along with him. It’s been 14 months since the band tours and they still look happy to be here by giving us a perfect show. I wish we heard Useless, as I loved that in the winter leg. 

The next morning, the local paper Le Dauphin├ę chose Depeche Mode as their front cover…

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Thank you Helena and Mr Wirth!