Wednesday, 24 May 2023

A MEMENTO: DEPECHE MODE, SPORTPALEIS, ANTWERP MAY 20TH 2023

 


The first review of the European leg is a special one. It is written by Paul A. Taylor who works for Mute and he is a longtime fan and friend of Depeche Mode. This marvellous review sums up what so many of us think about this tour and it's got me looking forward to my first gig of the tour in Dublin even more than I already was. With the exception of the photos above (thanks DMCPAV) and below, all pictures are Paul's. Thanks very much Paul.


there was a girl at the wrexham college i went to who was obsessed with depeche mode, particularly as a live band, when 101 came out she would constantly go on about it and talk about a previous show or be excited about when she’d see them next.

i’d liked singles, i loved black celebration, music for the masses seemed deep to my teenage mind, but this band, whom seemed to be slipping into obscurity, held no interest to me as a live spectacle, the prospect seemed dull. 

i then found myself in london, on the underground seeing these adverts instructing one to call for ‘your own personal jesus’, and of course then the single appeared, wow, this was a stop in your tracks moment, it was the sound of a band so self assured, so layered, so cool, so interesting and so fun. then the violator juggernaut started, and i found myself, by literal luck (my CV was originally put in the bin) working at mute. as such, the opportunity came to see them perform live, to see what my friend in wrexham was so obsessed by, i mean, surely it would be a decent night out. that night, that first time seeing them live, what a moment, this was a show like no other i’d seen, and at the grand age of 20, i’d seen it all! (stops to reminisce about a cocky know it all youth).

fast forward to the devotional tour, still the best live show i have ever seen, fast forward to the first shows without al, the careful but self assured steps ahead, fast forward to the years of what should of been in the wilderness, still playing one incredible stadium filled show after another, fast forward to the 02 london, nearing the end of the pandemic, watching New Order continue their climb back from the wilderness to legendary status.

“what do you think?” i ask. “well, it’s not much of a show is it, when we play, dave’s a showman, holds the audience in the palm of his hand, i can’t wait to get started again”

fast forward to arguably the most anticipated depeche mode tour ever. 

off the back of losing andy, off the back of an album that critics and fans agree is great, i concur, but this is not an album review. 

fast forward to antwerp, the 3rd show of the european leg of the tour.

i arrive in the city and instantly fall in love with the quiet, cultural beauty.

allow me to share some photos to show the city and help paint the picture:


the wonderful city of antwerp with all its fabulous architecture, restaurants, beer and chocolate.


i have to be at the show for 7pm as i have a meeting there, no one told me that the trams in antwerp have only 2 carriages, it’s now 7.45, as i chase round the venue looking for the meeting room, i find myself in a large room full of white flowers, well, looks like the promoter has gone to town with the ‘memento mori’ theme, but where is everyone? 8.15, the band are on stage at 8.45, i’ve missed the wonderful cold cave and still not had my meeting, turns out i’m in an unused room in the venue that is rarely occupied and is just generally decorated with an abundance of white (plastic...) flowers, but i eventually find everyone, the meeting is quick as the band are about to go on, considering how lost i got initially, i did not want to make the same mistake again, so i get clear instructions of how to get into the arena from where i was to take my seat, armed with 2 full glasses of wine, i head to the arena, 8.43, no problem, i can do this. 

fast forward to the opening bars of ‘my cosmos is mine’ and i’m standing directly underneath the right hand side of a giant M, bugger, i ask a tech in my best brit abroad accent, slow and loud, “how do i get into the arena?” the geordie accent comes back “fuck knows mate, we’ve been getting lost all day”

round in fast circles some more, i finally reach my seat, having missed ‘my cosmos is mine’ & ‘wagging tongues’ but in time for ‘walking in my shoes’, relax, smile, the guys are back, i love these songs, i love these people, two songs later, i’m wondering why they seem so small on the stage, dave is holding the audience in the palm of his hand (just like fletch said he would), martin sings like an angel and plays like a demon, peter and christian, as ever, don’t play a note out of place, then it hits me, just how much of a towering presence on stage that fletch was, he really filled the room, there was something he added that i really didn’t understand until now, i was expecting to miss him, but not like that, with all the hullabaloo getting to my seat, i’d forgotten he wouldn’t be there until it was clear there was a giant fletch shaped hole in my memory.

then came ‘everything counts’ and the emotions came pouring out, but not for any loss, but from the incredible film that tony made to accompany it, boom, so layered, so beautiful, so fun, here’s depeche, being po-faced and serious whilst poking fun at themselves and the world around them.

martin didn’t sing ‘home’!

for me there are 4 songs that always have to be on a depeche mode set list, ‘home’ is one of those 4. how rude of him.

the show became bigger and bigger as it went on, emotion and humour from anton, an unmatched front man performance from dave and martin, playing and smiling (and dancing) like only martin does.



‘enjoy the silence’ chimes out, then encore, no one sits down, dave and mart sing ‘waiting for the night to fall’ together, at the front, it’s beautiful. then comes a finalé to top all finalés, ‘just can’t get enough’, ‘never let me down again’ and ‘personal jesus’, which took me right back to london in 1989 when i called the number for my own personal jesus.

as the show went on, it became clear that this was a different, yet the same depeche mode, when vince left, it was a different yet the same depeche mode, when al left, it was a different, yet the same depeche mode, without andy, it’s a different depeche mode, but it’s still depeche mode. 

they look like they enjoy each other’s company and are having the time of their lives, that can’t help but make you smile in the audience.

would i have liked them to play some of my favourite tracks, some tracks i’ve never seen them perform, of course, was the show disappointing, not one bit.

dave and martin are single minded creative powerhouses who love their job, and just happen to be bloody great at it.

it’s not the end, it’s another beginning.

paul a. taylor
mute 1990 to today and hopefully a while longer



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Thank you Paul.


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