Tuesday 9 April 2024



Photo by Stuart Cowan

Normally, when I write a review it's a fairly straightforward thing - there's some chat about the setlist, some gratuitous blog t-shirt photos, my own bad gig photos and that's that. This has been a hard one to plan however given the emotion involved in last night's stunning gig in Cologne. Every fan seemed to feel it and Dave certainly did. His performance, as full of energy and as captivating as ever, had an additional emotional edge to it and that edge, as far as I can tell, sensed by everyone in the arena, gave this concert an energy all of its own. It was a truly special night.

I was in Cologne with John H, John C and Stuart. We've been friends since we were 12 and have loved Depeche Mode for almost as long as we've known each other. They are one of our bands. Seeing Depeche with them is always a special thing for me as we celebrate the band that has been a connection between us for most of our lives. You can tell the strength of that connection by the fact they willingly agree to wear blog t-shirts. Our love of Depeche Mode brought us to Cologne for the final gig of the Memento Mori world tour and countless other fans there last night were there for the same reason we were; a celebration of the band that ties their friends and everyone else in the Lanxess Arena together. That sense of love for Depeche Mode was a huge contributor to the energy I mentioned earlier.

I'll stop beating around the bush. We all wonder if last night was the last Depeche Mode gig we will ever see. Nobody could blame Martin and Dave if that turns out to be the case when you consider how long they have been doing this and what they went through in the lead up to recording the album. Of course, we all want them to keep touring and, as at the end of the previous few tours, any speculation about the end of the band is just speculation and no more than that. A few things last night made me think we might be approaching the end though that might well have been down to emotion again - both mine and Dave's.

Anyway, to the show itself. The Lanxess Arena is a good venue though the policy of allowing us standing people in without providing stamps or wristbands is odd. The tickets for our group were on my phone so I had to go out and prove that John and Stuart were genuine standing punters before they got let back in. John H ended up having to show security the picture below to prove that he was in fact entitled to be down there. A small annoying point in an otherwise well-run venue.

Depeche Mode were on tremendous and tremendously loud form. My Cosmos Is Mine was so loud in fact that the vibrations from it made my phone think I was driving. That happened a few more times during the evening - definitely a first. The first of what I have over analysed as a hint this might be the last gig happened after Wagging Tongue. I was watching the screen (the average height of a German must be at least 6 feet 6 inches) and instead of his usual "GOOD EVENING INSERT NAME OF CITY," Dave paused and took a couple of breaths. He then said "Good evening Cologne" in a very subdued way. Now, Dave had just spent two songs twirling around and doing that odd vampire meets chicken dance so he might just have been knackered, but it seemed unusual. Perhaps it's just me.

From there, we got the standard first half of the show. Walking In My Shoes and It's No Good really are two godlike songs and the arena went suitably crazy for both. Everything Counts prompted the first mass singalong of the evening with nobody showing an interest in stopping it. Dave and Martin seemed to enjoy our extended version. My Favourite Stranger was incredible. The song takes on a new power when it's played live and last night's version was a thudding, crunching belter. I had hoped that Speak To Me would feature in this slot as I've still not seen that live, but that was soon forgotten when My Favourite Stranger popped up and slapped me around the chops. Superb.

Dave departed and Martin took over with gorgeous versions of Strangelove and Somebody. I think his Somebody last night was the best one I've seen. Tremendous. God knows how many times I've sung that song since I first heard it on 101. Martin still does it better.

Every time I've seen Ghosts Again on this tour, tears have sprung to my eyes and last night it happened again. Regardless of whether or not it has anything to do with his death, this song only makes me think of Fletch and that's clearly the case for many others too. As he does in the video, when Dave raises his hand at the "Everybody says goodbye" line, I always do it too as did many other fans last night. The song brings so many thoughts to mind - how long I've loved this band, how long I've known my friends, what we've all been through together, how much Fletch is missed and so much more. I know, it's only a song and all that but one of the things Martin has always done best is write music that inspires so many different emotions. Ghosts Again may well be one of his finest in that respect.

A blistering I Feel You restored me to my normal self. Good lord that was loud. Once again, my phone thought I was driving. "That's that for the crying David you silly arse," I thought as A Pain That I'm Used To reminded me that not all remixes are better than the original versions and then World In My Eyes started. Here we go again.

You know the story by now. It's a beautiful tribute to Andy.

Talking of tributes, I was happy to be able to snap Michael Lyons' Fletch tribute flag during the song. Another lovely tribute. 

Even though this was my 7th show of the tour and fourth of this leg, I still get blown away by the one-two punch of Black Celebration and Stripped. These songs are nearly 40 years old for God's sake yet they sound as fresh as anything else. Having the ability to pull songs like this out of the bag 38 years after they first appeared really is not fair on other bands. How can they be expected to compete with this?

Given that we had already had World In My Eyes, it was wonderful and a genuine surprise to hear Behind The Wheel too. That made me wonder if World In My Eyes had been played to make sure Fletch was remembered at the last ever show, but the more rational side of me then reminded me (not sure that makes sense...) that it was also the last show of this tour, a more than sensible reason for its inclusion. Us Depeche Mode fans overthinking things? Never. Enjoy The Silence wrapped up the main set and it was a riotous version. Bloody marvellous.

Before Waiting For The Night, Dave gave a little speech. The whole arena seemed to fall silent - what was he going to say? He thanked Peter, Christian and the road crew and then said "It's been a really special tour. We've had, obviously, some challenges at the beginning. We lost our friend and Martin and I decided to carry on and make this record." Cue a huge cheer. He then thanked us for "being with us for all these years," sounding genuinely moved. It was a lovely moment. The song itself was great too with another extended crowd singalong at the end.

The usual three wrapped things up. Just Can't Get Enough did what it does and then Never Let Me Down Again blew what was left of the arena's roof right off. Personal Jesus ended the night on a massive high. The band took their time leaving the stage at the end, rightly drinking in their much deserved adulation.

And that was that - the Memento Mori tour was over and it was time to head home.

Photo by Stuart Cowan

Will we ever see them again? For no reason other than me overthinking things, I don't think we will but I of course hope that I am very, very wrong about that. If they do call it a day, they are doing so on a high and against all odds too given what they went through before the album was recorded. Once again, Depeche Mode have triumphed in the face of adversity, this time of the worst kind, and if they don't know already, I'm happy to tell them here that every single one of us thanks them for everything they have done.

This is of course the last review of this tour review project. Thanks to everyone who has written reviews, shared them and talked about them. Thanks too for coming up to me and my t-shirt models to tell me/them that you love the blog. It's mad that anyone gives this nonsense the time of day and it is genuinely incredibly moving to hear that people like it.

I want to say thanks on here too to Stuart, John H, John C, Paul, Andrew and Colin for years of Depeche friendship and for being walking advertising boards. Thanks too to Emma, Heidi and Carolyn for their debut t-shirt appearances at the Glasgow gig. 

Finally, of course, thanks to my wife Pam for putting up with me disappearing around Europe several times and, well for putting up with everything Depeche related in my life! She's a fan too by the way and thinks the gigs on this tour are the best she's seen the band play.

That'll be that then. See you next time? I hope so.