Welcome back. The A Memento blog project starts here and it could start in no better way than with a review from Glen Hammarstrom, the man behind Breathing In Fumes, the only Depeche Mode podcast you will ever need. Glen attended the opening night of Depeche Mode's Memento Mori World Tour and here is his review. All pictures are Glen's.
As I sit here staring at a blank screen I am asking myself why did I offer to do this? Why did I jump up as fast as I can to be a part of this? Because David is a supportive friend and I want to be a part of anything he does. That’s why. Then the weight of the moment hit me, “I don’t think I’m the right person to capture the moment for this amazing project”. Like a lot of you, I too have devoted an immeasurable amount of mental and emotional bandwidth to this band and went on a minor mental journey as I prepared for tonight’s show in Sacramento. Not only have I never attended a tour opener, I had never attended a show without Andy Fletcher on stage..
I was watching all the TV performances, listening and reading all the interviews, consuming all the fan reactions, and all the usual stuff we fans do as the new album and tour is rolled out. Then suddenly I started thinking about, “wait, this is the tour opener” and I froze... for lack of a better term. I had slowly been distancing myself from conversations and group chats with friends who get info early and mentally accepted the fact that I want to walk into tonight's show blind. Being at the nerd level of fan that I am, I have known the set list of the shows and heard the album in advance from Devotional on. I have seen them before ’93, but had the shows spoiled from that tour on. I knew every moment, every turn, every nuance of the Global Spirit Tour before the band stepped on stage. I didn’t want that with tonight. A week ago they did a rehearsal show and fans were posting the set and luckily I didn’t see it, but I had to take a break from social media if I had any chance of reaching my spoiler free goal.
It was a surreal moment walking into the arena not knowing what was going to happen, a refreshing one at that. I know if you’re reading this, you’re not one to wait and I get it. I am the same way and probably would have done the same if I wasn’t attending tonight. At this point the album had leaked and I knew fans were listening to it, but I didn’t. I wanted to hear and soak in the new songs they picked to showcase the record live. I can listen to the album tomorrow and think about why they chose the songs they did. And I am so glad I did.
To circle back to the emotional bandwidth comment above, I was also feeling the weight of the first show without Andy. I wore my Andy Fletcher shirt in his honour. And I being the over obsessed fan that I am, I found myself thinking about the strangest things. Things that are none of my business, yet things a person this invested would think. Or at least assume they do. Like how nervous are they, how the pre show bear hug would be without Andy, walking on stage and his keyboard rig and presence would be missing, family and close friends in attendance reactions etc. I know that sounds a bit involved, I didn’t obsess on it, but these were things floating in and out my mind as today progressed.
Not that a Depeche Mode show needs anything else added to the experience, but I was able to see so many long time friends and meet online friends in person for the first time that travelled in for the show, it just made it that more special. I wish I could have seen more, but there is only so much time. We skipped Kelly Lee Owns to spend more time with family and friends, but could hear her set and it sounded good. I usually skip the openers to be honest, but I’ll probably watch one of her sets at an upcoming show. Nothing against her of course, I quite like her music.
Enough about all that, let’s get into the show. Obviously anything moving forward is going to be FILLED with spoilers, so stop reading if that’s not your thing. By the time this gets posted, everything about the show will be out there, but I’ll share some of my insights from the show. As we said our goodbyes to friends and headed to our seats, the preshow techno set started and the energy in the arena started to build. Interestingly, it wasn’t mixed, just songs played back to back. So maybe it hasn’t been recorded yet or Mart didn’t mix a set this year. Same energy, just a detail I noticed. The lights go out and I am really in a sombre state, “this is it, first show without Andy.. I hope they’re ok” which I have no reason to feel, but I do. The intro starts in the dark and they stay in this moody dark setting for My Cosmos Is Mine and it’s is AWESOME! Peter walks out and plays live bass for it as well, so that just added a different tone for the opener. I think the music combined with Anton’s amazing visuals put on a mood worthy of the Memento Mori aesthetic.
The stage reminds me of a blend between the Singles, Exciter, and Delta tours. The placement of the band is a little different, but I love the overall layout. Seems like Mart’s station might be in Dave’s way, but Dave tended to move to the back of the stage more than side to side this time. Big catwalk of course. The flow and the energy was really good. I loved the flow and pacing of the last tour, it’s very similar, so take from that what you will. One thing they did that I have never really seen them do is use arrangements that were used on previous tours. Same intros, same everything. Considering the Covid pandemic and Andy’s passing, I could care less. But I can already see fans bitching about that before the song was even finished. For example, the same intro versions for Everything Counts and Wrong were used, among others. It didn’t bother me, but I can see fans saying it’s lazy. It’s not. And who knows, maybe this is just for the small amount of dates they are playing to promote the record. They could change it for the rest of the tour.
They looked like a band that was ready to play. Dave was in full Dave form and used every space the stage offered him. It’s odd seeing him on the small stages for the tv performances, he needs the space. Also, his voice sounded as amazing as ever! How he maintains his vocal range is beyond me. Mart’s voice was beautiful as always and I am still trying to process the majesty of Soul With Me. While it was only performed acoustic with Peter, it was so moving. The album hit Spotify at midnight, so after the post gig party.. that was the first song I put on from the album and listening to it at least 10 times in a row. Just.. wow. Everything else was a traditional Depeche gig for this era of the band. Just amazing, 10 out of 10 with Sister Of Night being the one true jaw dropper of the set. I was floored. After they finished Dave said, “We’ve never played that one live… It’s a good one” or something to that effect.
Ok, the Andy moment. World In My Eyes. No intro from the last tour, but after the first few bars played, huge photos of him appeared on the backing screens. The photos moved slowly from his glasses coming on, to his eyes closing, to him covering his eye. The band knows that the fans know this was Andy’s favourite song and I am so glad they played it for him. During the set Dave motioned towards Andy a few times and bowed to him as well. When it ended, Dave said “That’s for Andy Fletcher”. No funeral, just a fitting honour to Andy. That’s all it needed... it was perfect. On a personal note, I got to meet Daniel Miller after the show. I have never met him, and I got the opportunity to thank him for all the amazing music and chat a little about a few things. Just shaking his hand after seeing a tour opener… I don’t even know how to express it, so I won’t. Simply put, it was amazing and to experience these moments with family and friends just made it that much more special.
Thanks very much Glen.
Breathing In Fumes - https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/breathinginfumespodcast