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.


  1. I travelled from Brisbane for 3 shows and dm day was so special never will I be that close to them for me the highlight concert was the 15th previously I've travelled to ny and la again to see them so I understand your frustration and passion and love for them stay depeched always

    1. Thank you for the comment, DM Day was very special. I’m so pleased for you that you could be there too. All shows were special to me in different ways. Isn’t it amazing to have something like this to live out as a passion?

  2. Speaking with some of the crew 32nd night SD was the best of the last shows

    Sometimes when you're front row you lose the full atmosphere

    LA shows we're a little disappointing for us and not a patch on wurope shows unfortunately

    That said band were great as always

    1. Thanks for the comment - interesting to hear! I actually saw Kessler giving high fives to all the band as they walked off after the second SD show. This could happen every time, I’m not sure, but they did seem pumped about that show. I agree, front row doesn’t always get the whole stadium atmosphere, which perhaps why the LA gigs gave a different impression to me. When I went to Europe I only saw stadiums - arenas were better in my opinion.