Wednesday 27 December 2023



It's been nearly thirty years since Depeche Mode played in Australia so more and more of their Australian fanbase now make lengthy pilgrimages all over the world whenever a tour is announced. Despite some initial hopes that the band would play Australia on this tour, nothing was announced so Tim Sowden from Sydney decided to head to San Diego and Los Angeles to see the band in the US for the first time. Here is Tim's story, which takes in gigs in San Diego and Los Angeles and sees him present for the inaugural Depeche Mode Day. Thanks very much for this great piece Tim. All pictures are Tim's so if you do steal them, please credit him.

Merry Christmas to all Depeche Mode fans out there, and I hope you all have a safe and happy 2024. The past 12 months have had some special moments and it’s an honour to share some with you on this blog, including reviews of three of the recent shows on the recently concluded third leg of the Memento Mori tour.

I can’t promise the scientific detail or acerbic wit of David’s usual posts but I am excited to share some insights from my backstage tours and adventures.

Indeed, ‘Depeche Mode Day’ itself was proclaimed on in LA 13 December. It was standing on those steps of Los Angeles City Hall that sunny SoCal afternoon that it dawned on me how far I had come in my DM journey.

Geographically, it had been 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometres), 15 hours by plane from the shores of Sydney, Australia, with my wife and three kids under 10 in tow.

Musically, it had been 23 years since first hearing Dream On on Top of the Pops, when I became a fan of the greatest band in the world, slowly discovering the back catalogue (including Violator, and I commend the book ‘Halo’ to you).

But being an Aussie DM fan requires a certain faith and devotion. Wearing reprinted 101-era USA 1988 T-shirts or watching the Strangelove tribute act can be peaks of fandom Down Under, with tours to our continent long rumoured but never materialising. Six years ago, I took a leap and ventured to the UK, Germany and Italy (sharing my reviews with the DM Facebook Takeover and this blog). This time, I felt a calling to be among the American fan base that had, as Martin L Gore said on those City Hall steps, been such an important part of the band’s history.

And so I went, blessed to have a US holiday based around an itinerary of three shows, each of which delivered surprises and saw Dave, Martin, Peter, Christian and sold-out arenas in rampaging form with slightly different setlists each night.

San Diego, Pechanga Arena, 8 December - Backstage Exclusives

I was lucky enough to bag a “Premium VIP Hospitality Package” for this performance, after waking at 3am Aussie time to get a ticket just as they went on sale. This included a backstage tour where we met Jez Webb, who’s been a trusted part of the DM touring machine since Devotional in 1993. 

Jez (above) was generous in opening the case to Martin’s guitar collection for the show, revealing how he came to be involved (a connection via Daryl Bamonte), his role on the night and answering all our questions. Martin’s guitars look as stunning up close as they do on stage, and apparently Gretsch is bringing out a special guitar in his honour in 2024.

Afterwards, I mentioned I had come from Australia and he all but confirmed what friends had told me: sadly, they had planned to come to our country, but were no longer. I told him there were many DM fans in Oz – which is true – and they are welcome any time. He said at one stage they were ‘nearing the end of the tour’, which I took to mean there will be no post-April dates. For what it’s worth, my theory is they will use the four unreleased Memento Mori session tracks on a new project and do one final “world” tour.

We had a quick look at the stage set-up, where Christian was doing some last-minute drum checks. The ‘hospitality’ room followed, with various DM items (see photos above and below) on show. I ate with some lovely fans from San Diego who, like many in these parts, fell for the band after hearing Policy of Truth – which explains the rapturous reception this track gets. We also got a goodie bag that I’ll reveal the contents of later.

I was front row, which was incredible. After the My Comsos Is Mine and Wagging Tongue opening silos, which start strongly enough, the show really kicked into gear with Walking In My Shoes, with the electronic outro a personal highlight that reminds me of the 1000s of times I played it on the ‘Touring The Angel’ DVD, never daring to believe I would see it live.

I adore Memento Mori and so My Favourite Stranger is, for me, a crunching, glorious highlight, even better live than Ghosts Again (I think the guitar part began slightly late here), while we were treated to Martin singing one of his classics, Shake The Disease. I’ve always loved the remixes of In Your Room and A Pain That I’m Used To which inspire the live versions on this tour, and they came across well here. Jez said his favourite moment of the show is Never Let Me Down Again, with the audience interaction, and he would have enjoyed the response in San Diego.

Picking up a copy of the setlist at the end capped off surely one of the greatest nights of my life. The fan who had Dave sing her Happy Birthday for her 50th may have been the only one who could have eclipsed it.

Los Angeles, Kia Forum, 12 December: Depeche Mode Day

The City of Angels declaring a DM Day didn’t feel tokenistic, especially for us Devotees lucky enough to be there. It felt like an early Christmas present we were, as a City, Nation and Global Fan Community, delivering to Dave and Martin. How we wish Fletch could have seen this, he would surely have loved it, and I thought the lads were genuinely humbled by it.

Arriving two hours early and the front two steps already taken, I waited with my “Love from Australia” sign, met fans from around the US and discussed how we came to be there. Singles 81-85 played over the loudspeakers, then Exciter and Memento Mori as we soaked up the sunshine.

The ceremony was brief and mainly blocked by TV cameras, and the band didn’t stay to sign autographs as we had hoped, but never mind. We had come to applaud and recognise, and left in high spirits.

The previous night’s show had laid the platform, with the inclusion of Dressed In Black to the setlist, and a particularly jaunty rendition of Just Can’t Get Enough. Personal Jesus rocked, Condemnation was beautiful, and both had country twangs that lured us in. I had followed setlists online leading into my trip, but avoided YouTube clips, so these were excellent surprises. 

And with respect to San Diego, there was a special, louder magic to these two shows. I was 10 rows back at the Forum and in the upper tier in the final performance, so had a better view of the stage. I am deeply moved by many of Anton’s visuals, and thought the backdrops to tracks like Everything Counts and I Feel You hit the mark this time. The donkeys in It’s No Good, less so (and I felt the same about the rabbits in Enjoy the Silence last tour, so maybe it’s an animals bias), but the creativity is what keeps it so vital and engaging year after year.

Los Angeles, Arena, 15 December: Everything Counts

The grabbing hands grab all they can and all that, and as any fan knows a night at a show is expensive, especially if like me you appreciate a souvenir or two.

The top tier package included in my VIP ticket had a gorgeous signed poster (only my second signed item after a signed CD single of Enjoy the Silence 04, also autographed by Linkin Park, won via the DM Facebook page), a candle, eye mask, pack of cards and toiletry-style bag. The last three of these were especially handy on the 15-hour flight home.

At the merch stands, I managed to bag an LA-exclusive T-shirt and a couple of other items including the skull tote bag, which for those going to the European leg, sold out quickly, so you may want to get there early if (like me) you want this item to show off your love of DM while purchasing groceries.

Grabbing hands also grab phones, a lot, and this concert featured a well-publicised kerfuffle that required Dave to stop singing Never Let Me Down Again to sort out a situation involving fans, security and a mobile phone. At the time, everyone just hoped nobody was hurt. Dave was all class in how he dealt with it, and in the end we got a bonus NLMDA riff following the drama, so all good.

Finally, a word on what was a highlight of this trinity of concerts: Heaven. Delivered by Martin live for the first time, it was a spiritual experience for me that brought back memories, fears, hopes and reflections on how far I had come in life and in unity with Depeche. As it ended, I turned to my eight-year old daughter, who joined me for her first ever concert, telling her and the strangers in my row just how incredible that moment was to witness.

Precious and fragile things need special handling, but we all reached the shores of Australia safely, and I’ll always be thankful to the band and my soul sisters and soul brothers in the US for shows I will always remember. 

Please follow me on Twitter @Aussie_DM and for more, listen to my thoughts on ABC Australia’s special on DM here:


Thanks very much Tim.

Sunday 10 December 2023



For those of us who still remember the video age, DVD versions of Strange and Strange Too, Depeche Mode's classic video compilations have long been in demand. The original versions, the first released in 1988 and the second in 1990, captured the band at their artistic highpoint. Strange compiled their first videos with Anton Corbijn from A Question Of Time to, curiously but brilliantly, Pimpf and Strange Too featured the six videos made for songs from Violator namely the four singles, Halo and Clean.

Finally, both are reissued on DVD in the one package just in time for Christmas.

The package is sealed in cellophane when it arrives and once opened you find one of these increasingly prevalent Japanese OBI style things wrapped around the DVD case. It's pictured at the top of the article. Once removed and set aside to inevitably be lost any day now, the cover above reveals itself. Just look at how cool they look there. This is only five years after The Meaning Of Love for goodness' sake. I won't start bleating on again about how they accomplished so much in such a short space of time but Strange really does speak to the rapid progression of Depeche Mode both musically and artistically. Anton's involvement was crucial to this artistic reinvention and the air of European cool he added to the very European sounding Music For The Masses songs fitted perfectly. At this point, Depeche were a band who had no idea they were about to become stadium gobbling megastars. The two films on this DVD catch them on either side of that precipice and, when watched together (as I have done several times already), the staggering leap they made from 1987 to 1990 is readily apparent.

I've reviewed every Depeche Mode single in worrying depth previously, so rather than go through the videos again, here is a link to each review where the videos are all discussed:

A Question Of Time: man steals baby, delivers it to Alan, Martin gets his hair pulled
Strangelove : world record for most leather in a video ever, Alan gets his horn out, the band laugh
Never Let Me Down Again : Band holiday in Denmark, Martin's Accordion, Dave's two yellow cards
Behind The Wheel : Depeche Mode's Wandering Minstrels, Dave's moustache, the number 69

The version of Never Let Me Down Again on Strange is the Split Mix version of the track so the video is longer than the single version. Unlike the remix itself which is nothing less than a Godlike act of genius, the extended video doesn't add much really. There's some animated boot action and some dancing but that's that.

Pimpf features despite not being a single. The video is great is however. Martin sits, half naked naturally, in the Depeche Mode Museo pictured on the DVD cover playing along to Pimpf on a piano while the rest of the band wander around angrily trying to find him. The three of them pause and start singing along to the OHHH EEEE bit looking like three distressed leather penguins indulging in a terrifying mating call. The discover Martin's Museo when a direction sign saying PIMPF is found, a sign that Dave very weakly kicks over. Andy, Alan and Dave then descend on the Museo either very limply hitting it (Dave and Alan) or headbutting it (Fletch naturally) all while OHHing and EEEing. The combined force of the three leather penguins sees the Museo explode and collapse. OH MY GOD THEY HAVE KILLED MARTIN! Wait...what's that? It's a fully clothed Martin. He's alive and he's rescued the Music For The Masses horn. Thank goodness for that.

Between the songs, we get the same odd videos that featured on the original release featuring Rebecca Thornton (from Strangelove), Valdemar Christensen (Never Let Me Down Again) and Ippolita Santarelli (Behind The Wheel) all of whom have a lot of quite nasty things to say about Dave.

There are some extras on the DVD in the shape of Outtake Vignettes. The Strange three show some previously unseen footage from Strangelove and Behind The Wheel, the latter in two parts, the second of which is soundtracked by the Shep Pettibone Mix of the song. It's really lovely to see these vignettes as any unseen Depeche footage is always a treat, especially these days when the internet seems to have everything you could want or not want. Look out for Dave really getting into his eyebrow raising, Terry Thomas role in the Behind The Wheel section.

The DVD package comes with a two sided fold-out leaflet with pictures on it as you can see above.

Finally, Little 15 doesn't feature on here, no doubt because it wasn't an Anton video and also because it's very bad compared to the great videos here. 

As regular readers of this blog know, along with Kevin May, I have written a book about Violator called Halo which, as well is being available via all good online retailers, is also the ideal Christmas present for any Depeche Mode fan. In addition to that, I own more copies of Violator than could be called healthy and I have bored many people for many years, talking about Violator and the fact it is the greatest work of art ever.

It won't surprise you to learn then that Strange Too is something I am very much a huge fan of. Everything the band did in 1990 was perfect and that includes the videos. I have of course droned on about the videos in earlier blogs so here are the four reviews if you really want to read them:

Personal Jesus : Cowboy Mode, Fletch's toy horse
Enjoy The Silence : Dave eats his fellow band members and heads for the North of Scotland
Policy Of Truth : Depeche Mode mocked by two women
World In My Eyes : Dave takes a date to the movies, specifically a movie that features him and his mates

In addition to the four singles, Strange Too also features videos for Halo and Clean. When writing Halo, the book not the song, Kevin and I spoke to Pam Heffler (Halo) and Angela Sheldon (Clean) about their roles in the videos. 

Of Halo which features the band dressed as clowns, Dave pretending to be strong, a donkey and much more, Pam said:

"I auditioned for the video and I suppose it was not long before we shot it. I was dancing with a choreographer named Sarah Elgart in her dance company at the time and she recommended me to the director since she was choreographing the video. I probably didn't know much about Depeche Mode.. just their name!  I believe we only shot for 1 day and 1 evening ( it could have been two but I don't remember exactly) and as I recall,  don't believe much was discussed about the concept of the video just how we would participate.  We did hang out with the band and I remember everyone being super cool. I am actually surprised by the video. I didn't know it was going to be so unusual. What we did was super goofy and pretty straight forward and the video is rather eclectic, creative and unusual in a great way!"

Clean is very much a Martin solo video and he spends most of it getting off with Angela Sheldon while World Violation video footage plays ominously on the wall of the flat he's in. Here's the Q&A with Angela that formed the basis of her section in Halo:

1. Were you a Depeche Mode fan before you starred in the Clean video? If so, how long had you been a fan?
I was most definitely a fan of DM before I got to be in the Clean video. I had been a fan since People are People and I was a huge Black Celebration fan.

2. How did you get the role in the Clean video?
I went to a massive casting call full of models. I was sitting on the floor reading a book (I think Henry Miller) and the casting director thought I stood out more than the others due to that fact and spent more time with me.

3. The video is very simple - was there much of a production set-up required?
We shot at the house in the hills for the pool and then shot on a sound stage for the sofa scene. There was more production of that required because of the video playing in the background.

4. Did you realise at the time that the location was actually the rented apartment belonging to the production team (Anton and Richard Bell) as they were in LA doing other work for the band?
I knew they were staying there but I didn't know it was their rented apartment.

5. How long did the shoot take?
I think it was two days.

6. Was Martin the only band member present?
Yes, Martin was the only band member present. He was not there during the pool scene but obviously there on the sofa.

7. What was your reaction when you were told about what the video would entail?
I was thrilled. I was actually dating an extremely jealous guy who flipped out when I told him, so I broke up with him to do the video.

8. Was it fun getting to make out with Martin for the video?
I was a huge fan of Martin Gore and was more than happy to make out with him, but we did the "Hollywood" version where you don't actually touch tongues. Believe me, I tried. He was very professional and kind.

9. It's a fairly intense video, in terms of what it is portraying, so how did it seem between yourself, Martin and the crew when the camera wasn't rolling?
Anton was wonderful and everyone was very professional and kind. It was not like the horror stories you hear. In fact, I was the one who was lamenting the fact we weren't actually making out. (I love Martin Gore)

10. Did you see the World Violation Tour at all? If so, what did you think?
I was invited to see the tour after we filmed the video and got VIP backstage passes. It was fantastic.

As with Strange, the between song films featuring Dave and a toy car, the band going to the drive-in etc are all there. The reverse side of the leaflet (above) features pictures from the era.

There are additional Outtake Vignettes with Strange Too which are a joy. The Personal Jesus section soundtracked by Personal Jesus (Acoustic) shows outtakes from the video where all four band members are having a lot of fun which is cool. That is followed by two Policy Of Truth outtakes. The first is exceptionally moving as it is entirely comprised of shots of Fletch not used in the video. It is of course really hard not to think of Andy when Depeche Mode comes up. This short film is a lovely tribute to the great man. The final outtake shows Dave driving around New York soundtracked by Policy Of Truth (Trancentral Mix).

Ultimately, this DVD is a wonderful release. It shows Depeche Mode at their creative highpoint and adds a few extra touches to make the whole package one every Depeche fan will want to have. Now all we need is a reissue of Live In Hamburg and we can finally thrown away our VCRs.