Category Archives: Mutterings

Classic Album Sundays takes on Violator – a discussion with our authors

We’re back on Classic Album Sundays this weekend!

While we may not have the in-person, amazing-soundsystem-version of the event from a few years ago – those who tune in will get BOTH our co-authors talking through the Violator era and answering questions about the album via a virtual meet-up.

We hope you can join us. We’ll see you at that time! <groan>

It takes place at 8pm (UK time) on Sunday, September 26.

Here are the details via the Classic Album Sundays website:

For this month’s Album Club we have a special treat in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Depeche Mode’s Violator. We will be joined by Kevin May and David McElroy, the authors behind the forthcoming book Halo: The Story Behind Depeche Mode’s Classic Album Violator. They will relay the inside scoop behind the band’s seventh studio album- one that took the band to even greater heights.

The Album Club is open to our Patreon Members and is like a book club in which we meet up on Zoom for an in-depth exploration of our featured album. After saying hello, we tell the story behind the album and this month our guest authors will deliver the presentation. This is followed by a full, uninterrupted playback of the album in which we all listen on whichever format available to us in our respective homes. Then we reconvene on Zoom for a post-album discussion and Kevin and David will be available to answer questions. Its a great way to meet like-minded music fans and have an immersive album experience, without even leaving your home.

To join us, subscribe as a Classic Album Sundays Patreon ‘Member’ for £10 on our Patreon page. Members enjoy access to three Classic Album Sundays events each month: our Album Club, the Classic Album Pub Quiz and the Safe & Sound webinar in which we are joined by an audio expert to help demystify high end audio and give you tips on how to improve your home listening experience.

Sign up and see what you think – we think you will be surprised at how you can still connect with others through music during this time. Its also the way we are keeping Classic Album Sundays going and we really appreciate your support. We look forward to meeting you!

Uber drivers, studio visits, long Skype calls – memories from writing a Depeche Mode biography

The post below by Kevin is part of co-author David’s month-long Violator extravaganza. It originally appeared here.

+ + +

“What are your favourite things about Depeche Mode’s classic album Violator?” – it’s, inevitably, a question that I get asked quite a lot.

My answer has changed many times over three decades since its release…

For the vast majority of those 30 years, a response would probably range from the song that means the most to me (it’s always been Halo, unsurprisingly) to something about the videos or artwork or gigs or photographs from that period, 1989 to 1990.

Nowadays, since embarking on co-writing the biography of that era, such a question about Violator triggers a string of different emotions and memories – most of them being nothing to do with the album itself.

I was told fairly early in the process – by the band’s publicist in the UK and then (we journalists never give up on the first attempt) from a polite note from management itself – that Martin, Dave and Andy would not be able to contribute.

It turns out that they have never been keen on working with biographers or those wanting to dive into the background of a particular period in their history.

This might’ve been the end of the story about the creation of Halo the book.

But, thankfully, I wasn’t warned off from a project to document what I considered Depeche Mode’s crowning moment – in fact, many of those that I initially contacted about being involved, some of whom have connections to what has become over the years a fairly tight-knit inner circle, were urging me to carry on.

A few months later, after diving into the research and firing off dozens of messages, I had a growing list of people to talk to – a phase that was, without doubt, the most enjoyable part.

My day job (the editor of a publication about the travel industry) took me to Los Angeles for a conference in November of that year – a happy coincidence, it turned out, due to one of the potential interviewees living there.

Most of the interviews that had been scheduled so far were to take place over Skype or the phone. But Bruce Kirkland, the Australian but US-based architect of the infamous Wherehouse Records album-signing incident in March 1990, suggested to me because I was in the city that perhaps I’d like to go out to his office in the Silver Lake suburbs, late on a Monday afternoon, for our discussion.

kirkland, bruce 101114

I don’t believe in fate or anything that would suggest a hardened newshound can fall for the world of whimsy, but I’m always happy to marvel at how circumstances can throw up happy or poignant coincidences.

After sitting with and thoroughly enjoying the company of Kirkland for a few hours (funnily enough, in the same room that he had recorded his interviews for the bonus material that accompanied the remastered release of Violator a few years before), I found myself in the passenger seat of an Uber that was inevitably stuck in rush hour traffic as it headed back downtown to where I was staying for the rest of the week.

The driver, probably in his 60s, was telling me – as he looked for alternative routes to my hotel on his mobile phone and swigged from an enormous cup of coffee – that his daughter had been “Depeche Mode’s biggest fan” in their Playhouse neighbourhood of Pasadena.

After trying various alternatives to the clogged eastern end of Sunset Boulevard, the driver found a less congested route that took us alongside what appeared to be a large sports venue. “That’s the Dodger Stadium,” he said. “My girl saw them there.”

We then talked about the influential role of KROQ with British music in the US (“I didn’t like much of what they played!” he said) and how, not that long after the two gigs at the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dave Gahan made the city his home for a number of years, with almost tragic consequences (“the dude nearly died, right?”).

The driver knew his stuff.

This wouldn’t be the only time on that trip that a Los Angelino had a story to share about a band that clearly had an impact on many people in the region – many more than I’d ever experienced in the UK, even in Basildon where I had worked as a reporter in the early-2000s.

Despite years of being a fan, dozens of gigs in massive venues and knowing the words and musical nuances of their work, it took a conversation with an Uber driver in his 60s, stuck in Los Angeles traffic, to hit home just how genuinely big my favourite band had become.

Two weeks later, back in the UK, I’m standing by the River Thames in a leafy area of West London known as Hampton.

A few days earlier, I’d been swapping messages with Steve Lyon, the engineer brought in towards the end of the Violator studio sessions when the band had returned to London after stints at Logic in Milan and then a rural studio called Puk, in Denmark.

lyon, steve

Initially thinking I would do the interview over the phone, Lyon invited me to have our chat in-person at Panic Button Studios, his facility on an island in the middle of the river.

The temperature in Los Angeles in early-November had been perfect for a Brit already fed up with the grey and chilly autumn of home.

Back to reality In London, with the rain lashing down on the narrow footbridge that visitors must use to get over the river to Lyon’s studio – an oasis of sorts, miles away (physically and figuratively) from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

I’d worked in sound-proofed radio studios before but, similar to a wide-eyed kid on his first visit to a massive toy shop, sitting at the large desk of a recording studio and chatting over a cup of tea with an engineer involved in one of my favourite albums of all time, was a new and clearly rather surreal experience.

Lyon and I talked for over an hour (I learned that he’d earlier texted his mate Alan Wilder to make sure the former-band member was happy with us doing the interview), ahead of a session he was due to work on later that morning.

As I got ready to leave, gathering my notebook, coat and other things, I noticed on the wall a large, framed vinyl copy of Violator (and cassette!) presented to him when the album hit multi-platinum sales (2 million).

steve lyon studio 1

Similar to most of those involved in the production of Violator that I spoke with, Lyon was incredibly proud of his work on the record but, strikingly, it was just a job for a young engineer.

Over the course of speaking to many people that worked on various elements of the Violator era, I was repeatedly hit by this somewhat jarring reality, time and time again: fans consume, analyse and crave the creative output from the band but, for a key and small group of other people, helping create a masterpiece such as a Violator gives them a different feeling – professional and creative pride – that few can appreciate and none will ever replicate.

I discovered this when speaking with Violator’s mixer, Francois Kevorkian. The same again with Richard Bell, Anton Corbijn’s right-hand man behind the entire period’s visual output. And most of the other 20+ people that have contributed to HALO.

francois kevorkian halo

Every engineer or sleeve designer, publicist or producer, tour manager or fixer had the same style of feedback: we worked super-hard, we often partied hard, but everyone – band included – realised fairly early in the process that we were involved in something extremely special.

Uber rides and recording studio visits (I later met with Gareth Jones at his studio in London’s East End), very long interviews with the likes of Kevorkian and others behind the scenes, plus the goodwill and good nature of fans, have all contributed to what are, essentially, great memories of writing about the story of Violator.

gareth jones1

After getting through some dark times (a very serious mountain bike accident and job issues a few years ago) and coming out the other side with a project collaborator in David to greatly improve Halo (his enthusiasm is infectious; knowledge and curious mind both vital), has been another element of this project that will last long in the memory.

Violator is one of the very few albums of the last 30 years that is worth celebrating and documenting in such detail. I’m glad all the people involved in it and so many of the fans agree.

See below for some other random pictures from the last few years…

David and Kevin at the press screening for Spirits In The Forest:

press screening

Interviewing Logic studio engineer Pino Pischetola:

pino skype chat 2

Someone copied the book cover to create a wardrobe poster for sale on eBay (later removed!):

ebay poster

At the Barrowlands show, where David and I finally met up face-to-face:


With Christian Eigner, after the gig:


Berlin, July 2018:

depeche mode berlin 1

Depeche Mode’s Violator turns 30 this month – here’s what to expect

Our co-author David McElroy likes to put a bit of pressure on himself 🙂

As we put the finishing touches to the book, David’s Almost Predictable… Almost blog is giving itself over to a month’s worth posts devoted to, well, Violator.

Some of the posts are shorter versions of what will appear in the book, which is terrific as he’s managed to assemble a dizzying array of stories and bits and pieces about the album.

Here’s the full rundown (you’ll notice that fellow co-author Kevin has a slot on March 3, plus the final day is a special Halo-related treat ahead of Halo’s release in May:

  • March 1: The One That I Prefer – Violator Turns 30 : Introduction
  • March 2: Halo – The Story Behind Depeche Mode’s Classic Album Violator
  • March 3: Guest Article 1 – Kevin May
  • March 4: Making Us Believers – Personal Jesus
  • March 5: Personal Jesus – Reviews
  • March 6: Guest Article 2 – Michael Rose
  • March 7: All I Ever Wanted – Enjoy The Silence
  • March 8: Enjoy The Silence – Reviews
  • March 9: The Video With No Single Number 1 – Halo
  • March 10: An Assorted Collection – Violator era rarities
    March 11: Put It On – The Martin Gore Songs on Violator
  • March 12: Guest Post 3 – Glen Hammarstrom
  • March 13: Delivering The Proof – Policy Of Truth
  • March 14: Policy Of Truth – Reviews
  • March 15: Guest Article 4 – DMK
  • March 16: The Violator Artwork Part 2 – The Album
  • March 17: Guest Article 5 – Niggels Uhlenbruch
  • March 18: The Wherehouse
  • March 19: Release Day
  • March 20: Violator – The Reviews
  • March 21: Guest Article 6 – Amanda Stock
  • March 22: The World Violation Tour
  • March 23: Guest Article 7 – A DM Live Wiki Special
  • March 24: The Video With No Single Number 2 – Clean
  • March 25: Guest Article 8 – Sean Salo
  • March 26: On A Trip – World In My Eyes
  • March 27: World In My Eyes – Reviews
  • March 28: Guest Article 9 – Panos Sialakas
  • March 29: World Violation Tour Reviews
  • March 30: Guest Article 10 – a @PollicyOfTruth Special
  • March 31: As years go by, all the feelings inside – Violator’s legacy

Spirits In The Forest review – Anton Corbijn gets the balance just right with fan movie

As is customary these days with anything that Depeche Mode create, Spirits In The Forest is going polarise the fanbase – that much is guaranteed.

The 90-minute film, directed by long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn, is due to be screened “One Night Only!” on November 21, 2019, 18 months after the end of the Global Spirit Tour.

The film “captures the energy and spectacle of the band’s performance from the tour along with a deeper look into how their music and shows have been woven into the fabric of their fans’ lives,” according to the press materials circulating ahead of its launch in cinemas worldwide.

A special preview screening held in London attracted journos, critics bloggers, fans and a smattering of figures associated with the band, including live keyboard player Peter Gordeno, manager “Baron” Jonathan Kessler, their assistant through the 1980s and early-1990s Daryl Bamonte, singer Dave Gahan’s brother Phil and Corbijn, who took part in a short Q&A at the end of the film.

The first element that will inevitably irk some fans is that Spirits In The Forest is not a concert film, despite being loosely based on the band’s triumphant final gigs on the last tour in Berlin.

There is (not calculated with a watch) around 30% of the film that is solely footage from those shows. More on that later.

The film, instead, concentrates on the journey (metaphorical and actual) that six fans take to get to the gigs which took place during those blisteringly hot few days in the German capital.

We see Dicken Schrader, perhaps the best known of the group following his wonderful and hugely popular cover versions of Depeche Mode songs with two of his children, talking about his kids and their exposure to the world of viral social media.

Or Liz Dwyer, who speaks candidly about her battle with illness. And Carine, the victim of a terrible accident.

They all have stories about real life, about being a fan and how their worlds have been affected by the band that they love. It is their emotional connection to the band that is the basis for the film.

There are some genuinely moving moments in the film, it’s worth saying, illustrating how clever the filmmaker has been in managing to keep on the right side of the sentimental line (it could’ve easily bounced over it in some places).

There is a lot of powerful storytelling in Spirits but perhaps where it also excels is in the visual department.

It is beautifully framed and filmed (the deliberate graininess of the Super 8-shot Depeche videos of the late-1980s and early-1990s are a distant memory), giving it a hugely cinematic feel.

Interestingly, the concert footage is also shot in the same way, providing the viewer with a documentary-style and very unique perspective of the band’s performance.

Devotional, Live In Berlin or One Night In Paris it is not. And that is what makes the small amount of concert footage highly watchable, with very few wide shots and lots of close-ups of the band, Gahan especially.

Whether or not that editing, lighting and shooting style will be carried through to the concert-only version to be released in 2020 remains to be seen.

Spirits In The Forest is – in stark contrast to D A Pennebaker-directed 101, the 1988 Depeche Mode film that it will naturally be compared to – a poignant and thought-provoking piece of work that does not have (m)any of the laughs or moments of irony that have become associated with Corbijn’s filmmaking with the band over the years.

You won’t find Gahan fooling around backstage with the crew or Gordeno talking about his keyboard rig (this stuff is on the internet anyway these days) or Gore painting his fingernails pre-gig.

It is, clearly intentionally, a lot deeper than that.

Given the subject matter, Corbijn has managed to bring together all of the elements with both care and, arguably, a fair amount of bravery.

It is certainly his best work with the band for many years, including stage films, videos, concert DVDs, artwork and photography. And yet, the band members have no role in it other than performance. Again, a gutsy strategy as it is a Depeche Mode-fronted documentary.

No other director would have been able to convince Depeche Mode to make a film such as Spirits In The Forest – a demonstration, if one were ever needed, of the relationship that has been built since the A Question Of Time video in 1986.

It is a “movie” in all those grand and powerful senses of the word. It has a narrative and style that is fairly unique in music-related filmmaking and should be of interest to anyone who is curious about the way a band – any band, to be honest – can connect with its fan base.

The often rather cringeworthy slogan “Depeche Mode is the soundtrack to my life” is finally given some credibility and relevance in Spirits In The Forest.

Well done.

* HALO co-author David McElroy also came to the screening. Here’s his review of the evening.

Stop the tape – RIP D A Pennebaker, master director behind Depeche Mode’s 101

Documentary filmmaker D A Pennebaker died this weekend at the age of 94.

A remarkable career saw US-born Pennebaker tackle subjects as diverse as music, culture and politics – often at the same time.

Such was his eye (and ear) for understanding movements involving people and their intersection with arts and societal changes, such as the so-called Sixties Counterculture, he was able to blend them into important pieces of art in their own right.

His catalogue includes iconic pieces made with Bob Dylan (Don’t Look Back) and David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars) and the Monterey Festival as well as films documenting Bill Clinton’s presidential race in the early-1990s, animal protection, the environment and women’s rights.

For fans of Depeche Mode, Pennebaker (or “Penny”) is a pivotal figure in the history of the band, having worked alongside his wife Chris Hegedus to create the 101 movie, released in March 1989.

Recorded in the latter stages of the Music For The Masses Tour in the summer of 1988, 101 is a signature Pennebaker movie (and one of his favourites, he has said on many occasions).

He blended live performance and backstage shenanigans from a string of gigs in the US with what was essentially a cross-country road trip involving a group of fans from the East Coast.

The culmination of the trip and tour, of course, was the 101st gig at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California.

The mastery of Pennebaker, honed over the 25 years prior to 101, was his ability to capture “moments” that encompass music and extraordinary live performance with elation, stupidity, hilarity, melancholy, greed and joy in conversation and behaviour.

101 would be a brilliant gig film in its own right. Conversely, 101 would be a curious, reality movie-style look at fans of alternative music and culture in the twilight years of Reagan’s America.

Put the two together and you get something better; something perhaps more important, about both the band and it’s fans.

Much has been said over the years about the impact of 101. It means different things to different people, of course.

For a 17-year-old fan living in the UK in 1989, 101 was a snapshot of a world that I didn’t really understand,

Young people in America, smalltown America itself, corporate America, American media and, of course, just how damn big Depeche Mode had become there.

It’s become a vital piece of work and, unlike many music-related films over the years, has aged extremely well.

Fortunately for fans of Depeche Mode and general admirers of his work, Pennebaker and Hegedus have talked extensively over the years about their time working on the movie (see below) and other projects.

Depeche Mode, those that have worked with them for decades behind the scenes and fans will mourn the passing of Pennebaker this weekend.

But they and admirers of his other works will know that fans of all music and scholars of culture have benefited enormously from his time behind the camera.



Pennebaker, Hegedus and Depeche Mode talk for a BBC2 programme about 101, in 1989:

Q&A with Pennebaker, Hegedus and Andy Fletcher in London, following the re-release screening, in 2003:

Q&A with Pennebaker, Hegedus and some of the Kids On The Bus, in  2014:

Halo update – some very good news about the Violator book!

That book about Depeche Mode’s classic album Violator? It’s just a question of time… (groan).

Well, it’s been too long – far too long!

But here we are, on the 29th anniversary of Violator’s release, with a big update and some exciting developments.

A nasty bout of Real Life Stuff came along over the course of a fairly rubbish two-year period (a very bad mountain bike accident, work, home, etc), which effectively saw the book put on hold as things were sorted out.

Without getting (too) whimsical for a moment, things always happen for a reason and that pause has provided an opportunity for both a lot of reflection and a what I think a bigger and better direction for Halo.

Halo now has a co-author, a fine comrade in the world of Depeche Mode nerdism in the shape of David McElroy (here’s his post about today).

Many of you will know David from his month-long series of articles on his Almost Predictable, Almost blog about Black Celebration in 2016, as well as his stint as a Depeche Mode Facebook Page Takeoveree to follow the release of Spirit.

But he is also perhaps best known as the coordinator of the mind-bending Global Spirit Tour Project, where he collected a review from a fan for every show on the tour (I helped out here, here and here).

It was during a recent discussion about a plan that David has to replicate his Black Celebration month-long blog-fest for the 30th anniversary of Violator in 2020 that we decided to join forces and collaborate – two brains thinking too much about Violator is far better than one, right?

Halo, the book version, will feature all the original interviews, story, analysis and fan contributions, plus will now include additional elements from David and others that we’re working on together, many of which will be teased during his blog’s Violator month in March 2020.

The release of Halo in paperback, Kindle and other digital formats will come at the conclusion of Davdi’s web extravaganza – as close to March 31, 2020, as we can get it 🙂

I am truly sorry that it’s taken so long to get to this stage but with David now on-board, I think March 2020 – 30 years on from Violator‘s release – will be a perfect time to celebrate a landmark album in multiple ways.

I am personally thrilled to finally be able to update you all on some proper progress with Halo and, more importantly, share the news from David and I that the book and associated web project will be bigger and better than before!



PS – As it’s the March 19 today, here’s a previous post outlining the ten reasons to celebrate the release of Violator.

cover draft Iv

Berlin gig review: Depeche Mode bid farewell to something

BACKGROUND to this Berlin review:

David McElroy of the Almost Predictable Almost blog came up with a wonderful/crazy idea last year: to collect a review of every show on the Global Spirit Tour.

With a mixture of hard work, the generosity of fans, and good fortune in places, he’s managed to complete the 135-post project.

His enthusiasm is infectious – and he’s clearly very persuasive, given that over 100 people have written a review for him! – and I wanted to get involved, having (finally) met him at the Barrowlands show in early-2017.

At the same time as the Global Spirit Tour started, we collaborated on the Ultimate Depeche Mode Set List project for the London Stadium show. He’s one of the fanbase’s good guys – something demonstrated by how many fans have taken to wearing their Almost Predictable Almost t-shirts when attending gigs, perhaps as a calling card to other fans to come and say hello (it works, I can assure you – with a fan helping me out at a subway station after the New York show in June, when my ticket wouldn’t work!).

I’d written reviews of the Amsterdam and Paris shows for the project, during the first leg of the tour (he had kindly said that I could republish versions of them here afterwards), so was rather touched when he invited me to write some words for the penultimate gig in Berlin.

Whatever happens next for Depeche Mode, Berlin’s shows seemed to mark the end of something: touring on such a large and long scale; the “four-year cycle”; or perhaps the entire thing.

Anyone who was at the shows will agree that there was an element of change in the air.

So, below, is part 134 of the Global Spirit Tour project, first published on Almost Predictable Almost on the morning after the final show in Berlin.

= = = = = = = = = = =

depeche mode berlin crowd

David’s introduction:

“Throughout this project I’ve not asked anyone to review a specific gig as I didn’t want to put pressure on people or ruin the show for them by making them feel they had to take notes etc.

“I made an exception to that rule however for this show as I really wanted Kevin May to review it. Not only are his reviews always excellent (this is his third for this blog) but, as Kevin wrote the second review of this thing for the Amsterdam show, him covering this show would given the whole project a nice shape.

“I asked and much to my delight Kevin said yes. Here’s his review then and I know you’ll love it. Thank you very much Kevin for the review, the pictures and for saying yes.”


This review, perhaps rather cheekily, is written with the benefit of having a few days to both absorb the gig and knowing what took place at the final show in Berlin two days later (thanks, David, for the breathing space).

It makes sense, in a way, to have waited – so much emphasis has been placed on these last two dates as some kind of overall event on the tour, so neither can be taken in isolation.

This, therefore, is a review of the first show in Berlin, with a nod towards the Wednesday night extravaganza, written by David.


Observers of the Global Spirit Tour specifically and Depeche Mode’s career generally will know that the closing months, weeks and days of a tour is a combination of excitement and concerns.

Excitement because it’s the last time that thousands of fans will get to see the band and, equally, concerns because it’s the last time that thousands of fans will get to see the band. See what I did there…

The four-year period of mourning that comes with such an occurrence is only heightened with each album and tour, as the band get older and creep up, ever-closer, to their sixties.

This time it’s more acute: the length of the tour, the celebratory nature of many of the shows, even the recent change in Dave Gahan’s farewell at the end of each gig – elements that have conspired to give many fans the idea that this is finally it. Or at least there is going to be a change to the four-year cycle.

It’s with all that conjecture in mind that I head to Berlin, unable to see both shows due to work and family commitments but with a sense of relief that I have a ticket for the first night.

Interestingly, despite the downbeat speculation littering the forums and fan pages over the last few months, there is no sense of foreboding in the air in Berlin.

On the contrary, in fact – perhaps a sign that the introduction and widespread use of social media has often only served to amplify the noise that surrounds a band of Depeche Mode’s size.

There are, in other words, thousands of fans who simply love going to see their band and have little time for the speculation.

Such a lack of doom and gloom is very welcome, feeling slightly worried before flying out that fans may treat the two nights as some kind of sad goodbye, rather than a party to commemorate a 38-year career.

Indeed, there is a particular feeling in the air throughout the time that I am in Berlin.

The day before the show, Sunday, for example, after wandering through the beautiful Berlin Tiergarten and listening to the extraordinary and massive Carillon tower (it has 68 bells, each connected to a keyboard some 42 metres feet high), a man and his partner stand beside me, decked in Depeche t-shirts.

I hear the man say: “I reckon Martin would love a go on that!” – they both chuckle to one another, see me smile, too, and then nod knowingly and say: “Enjoy the gigs!”.

Other moments include seeing a family, with fairly young children, all clad in black, climbing out of a van with Depeche flags and other paraphernalia on it. They’re all laughing and jostling around, messing about, on the morning of the gig, clearly excited about what lay ahead.

The vibe is everywhere – let’s have a (black) celebration, not a funeral.

The word on the Berlin streets is that “free seating” ticket holders (i.e. general entry) have a good chance of getting into the first block behind the standing area if they 1) arrive early, as there are only a limited number allowed in, and 2) head for a specific entrance gate.

With warm wine and beer (it’s a sweltering mid-afternoon) in bags, we head to the venue and find ourselves in a queue with several hundred other fans. We’re in the heart of the so-called Black Swarm.


Strangely enough, this brief period of waiting is when the mood turns slightly low-key – the chants that were springing up as happy fans arrived from the various u-bahn and s-bahn stations have now stopped.

It’s not a stony silence – just a contemplative and more hushed tone in the conversations between friends and loved ones.

Once the gates open, the high spirits and high jinks return. The chanting resumes, the venue fills extremely quickly and early (it’s still only 5.30pm), the party atmosphere returns.

I have probably not experienced the energy from a crowd as those filling the steep sides of the Waldbuhne since the Royal Albert Hall in 2010 or the Crystal Palace gig of 1993.

It’s an extraordinary, perhaps slightly unworldly, feeling to be a part of it – something that the naysayers will snort at but deep down will know that there are very few moments when a collection of people can create such an uplifting environment.

And this is two hours before show time.

DAF, the support act, do a solid job in the Berlin early-evening dusk but I would suspect many members of the audience would be hard pressed to see the German band’s presence as no more than mildly tasty hors-d’oeuvres ahead of the main course.

It’s a shame, but probably to be expected.

There are a few factors about the night that will ensure anyone who attended the gig (or Wednesday’s climax) will remember it for a long time.

But it’s not the set-list. All but two of the songs – Strangelove and A Question Of Time – were played at the first show that I saw, in Amsterdam, in May 2017.

It’s not particularly the interactions onstage (they still outwardly appear to be enjoying themselves and one another a lot, 15 months in), or the always strong connection between the band – in particular, Dave – and the crowd.

Nor is it the near-perfect delivery of the material (apart from Dave’s slip-up on the opener, Going Backwards), in part probably knowing that Anton Corbijn and crew are in town to shoot the final two gigs.

Instead, consider elements such as the Waldbuhne location – it’s extraordinary and should be a template for outdoor venues across Europe, rather than often lifeless stadiums and arenas that change their brand name every few years.

Also, consider the energy of the crowd – creating enough goodwill and, dare I say it, love and adoration for their band, to ensure the intensity only increases as each song comes and goes.

This isn’t the festival crowds of the previous month or so – this is a crowd that cheers the start of each song with the same gusto as the previous one, rather than waiting for recognisable tracks. It must be a relief, somewhat, to be back in front of a “home crowd”.

Finally, consider that the party atmosphere that has been building for days and in the hours ahead of the show’s start has continued.

It’s almost as if the crowd suspects that this may be their last chance to experience the thrill of a Depeche Mode show, so they demand the highest standards of themselves in terms for providing an atmosphere that will then be felt by the band.

Some (myself included) have lamented the inclusion of I Feel You since, well, 1993 – yet tonight, for some reason, it doesn’t annoy me so much, if at all.

We forgive the boys on this one occasion.

A post shared by SmöreGöre (@giggles_fi) on

The crowd welcomes back the wonderfully seedy Corrupt, also the best live version of Wrong that the band have ever created.

Cover Me has become one of the strongest moments in a set for any new song in the last 20 years, and even the criminally bare version of Strangelove seems to work.

Still, one aspect of the Depeche Mode live experience that often gets overlooked is how sometimes the predictability works in a show’s favour.

For example, at end of Home, the entire crowd know when to sing unaccompanied (unlike in New York City a few weeks back) but they also know that this is the moment that it’s likely that Dave will lead a rendition of Happy Birthday in the direction of the 57-year-old, Martin Gore. It starts in a section of the crowd in front of me before Dave even comes on-stage. These fans know what to do.

It’s the familiarity with knowing that certain moves, lyrics, crowd chants, expressions, etc, are what make people feel good about themselves, which is therefore at the heart of the Depeche Mode experience.

There is a collective jump in the crowd when the first thumping bars of World In My Eyes strikeout, followed later in the song by the finger silhouettes of spectacles.

The audience knows the exact moment when to carry on the final refrains of Everything Counts, or start the wheat field arm-waving display during Never Let Me Down Again (it is particularly jaw-dropping in a bowl-like venue like the Waldbuhne).

These aren’t guilty pleasures, nor are they things to be scoffed at – there’s something to be said for thousands of people simply enjoying themselves, letting go and absorbing the energy that an experience like this can create.

A post shared by Oliverzwei (@oliverzwei2017) on

As Personal Jesus comes to a close, and the now continually cryptic “we’ll see you some other time” rings out, there is no obvious sadness still that this could be one of the band’s last ever shows.

There is a group of four people, two rows in front of me, hugging and crying – not through sorrow but I can hear them saying (they are British) what an amazing time they’ve had.

The crowd gradually climbs to the top of the Waldbuhne, and many people look back down towards the bottom of the bowl, perhaps their own moment of reflection that it may be the last glimpse of a Depeche Mode stage.

But then, as the audience drifts away to the various public transport areas, pockets of chants are heard everywhere – Home, Enjoy The Silence and, perhaps most beautifully, a gentle but long recital of the closing backing vocal of Waiting For The Night.

Sometimes, words are very unnecessary…

This is what Depeche Mode do/did to people. I guess we’ll find out how to structure that sentence properly some other time.


It was somewhat (perhaps unintentionally) poetic that David asked me to review the penultimate show of the tour in Berlin, with the blogmeister himself taking on the final gig.

He started the ball rolling on this mammoth project at the opener in Stockholm, and then I penned the review of the second show in Amsterdam. Our respective reviews have book-ended the entire project!

As someone who has edited newspapers, magazines and now online publications, I know about the tireless work that goes on behind the scenes to produce a body of work that readers will find valuable and enjoy reading.

It goes without saying that without his unbounded enthusiasm for the project and passion for Depeche Mode, this series of reviews of EVERY SINGLE SHOW on the tour (just let that sink in for a moment) would have never happened.

He’s edited every piece, been unfailingly polite with everyone who has contributed, and I’m sure has had a few hair-raising, frustrating and exhausting moments along the way. That’s what happens when you take on a project of this size.

I am thrilled and honoured to have been involved with it.

As this was the last review written by one of his contributors, I would like to – if my comrades will allow it – thank David on behalf of us all, for organising, hosting and connecting us, and for being an all-around top fella.

Cheers. Kev and the Gang

New York gig review – Depeche Mode dazzle Gahan’s home town (but one word confuses all)

Depeche Mode’s Global Spirit Tour is gradually coming to an end (honestly, it is…) – a period when attention usually turns to what might be next.

It was only after the World Violation Tour ended in November 1990 that the band took anything close to an extended break between albums. And we all know what happened then…

Nowadays, as the boys reach their late-50s, there is a well-trodden, four-year cycle to the Depeche Mode machine: record, promote, release, tour, and then a break of around two years.

Side projects, rest, whatever it is they do after two years of being together, their downtime is almost upon them.

The “what’s next?” question is always debated through the prism of age, inter-band relationships and creative energy.

Inevitably, many fans predict with complete inaccuracy that the band will hang up their synths (?!) and enjoy an early retirement.

That time is here once more, with fewer than 20 gigs to go and fans musing that the double Berlin shows coming up in late-July will be some kind of a celebratory farewell for good.

Only those within the inner circle really know – the rest can just speculate… again.

Which brings us to a show in New York – Dave Gahan’s home-town since the late-1990s.

The band’s third night on the Global Spirit Tour in New York (the first two were back in September 2017 at the Madison Square Garden) brings them to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a fairly new and large sports arena that usually hosts a basketball and an ice hockey team.

The gig is one that has come together very quickly for me – coinciding with a work trip to New York for a week and some extremely neat work on the ticket front by a colleague (thanks, thanks, thanks x !).

The usual excitement at seeing the band again (whatever the critics continue to say, Depeche will always put on a good show) is tinged with a fair amount of curiosity for a newbie in the US.

How tired will they seem after a year on the road? Will we get some jaw-dropping setlist changes? And, particularly for this show, what will the crowd will be like compared to their devotee cousins back across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe?

A post shared by How We Are (@howweareupdates) on

Let’s deal with the second question first.

The answer is, inevitably: “No”. The introduction of The Things You Said at the beginning of the latest leg in North America had certainly got the masses excited.

And rightly so – it’s a wonderful song, played in its truest form akin to the live shows of 1988, albeit without Martin Gore’s high notes at the end and with Peter Gordeno doing a solid Alan Wilder impression on backing vocal.

The rest of the set is as expected for anyone who has caught Depeche Mode over the last 12 months, building gradually to a chorus of anthems through the final half of the main set and into the encore.

No surprises, and yet no sense of disappointment from the crowd (yes, we’re getting to them shortly).

It’s remarkable, 100+ dates old, that none of the band seem in the slightest bit jaded or not enjoying themselves.

Dave Gahan’s energy (and flexibility – there’s a great advert for yoga if I ever saw one) has not diminished in any other shows that I’ve seen. In fact, perhaps as the final handful of gigs swing into view, he’s relishing every moment and strutting, lurching, crotch-grabbing, bending and gesticulating to anyone who will look – i.e. everyone – more than ever.

Gore himself is swinging his arms around wildly, conducting the audience as they sing along at the end of Everything Counts, for example.

A post shared by anthonycoombs (@anthonycoombs) on

As a group, despite Andy Fletcher sometimes looking like the last one to be picked at the school ball game alongside the others, this is arguably the most unified the entire band has ever appeared, Gordeno and Christian Eigner included.

In short: as has been evident since Amsterdam, Depeche Mode are seemingly enjoying life as Depeche Mode.

Yet the next phase for the band is thrown into sharp relief momentarily when Gahan, rather than yelling his traditional “see you next time!” as Personal Jesus ends proceedings, shouts: “We’ll see you another time.”

For the devotees who monitor every utterance, every glance between band members, every twist and turn of a set list, this is A Big Deal.

As a regular gig-goer at Depeche shows for nearly 30 years, one gets used to the crowds – how they react to certain songs, what they cheer for, where they congregate, what they wear.

This is based on, until now, all the shows having taken place in Europe.

Maybe it’s me, but over the years the crowds have got more Black Swarm-esque, hordes of devotees with their rituals and clothing. There is, whether we like it or not, a Depeche Mode style that is more prevalent than not in Europe.

Across the pond, where Depeche Mode were initially an alternative band that gigged regularly and were popular on niche radio stations, they are perhaps now more mainstream than they ever got to be in Europe, especially in the UK.

The crowd at the Barclays Center is not overwhelming clad in black, nor does it appear as riotous (not in the criminal sense, of course) or crazed or physical as a whole as perhaps many of the crowds are in Europe.

This is not a criticism, just an observation as to how different some crowds at scale can often behave.

The Barclays audience warms up properly for the first time during the wonderful opening bars of World In My Eyes – a song that sounds terrific in the vast arena and gets a wonderful response from the audience at the end.

Thereafter, they sing and dance and cheer and clap (including a lovely mobile torch moment towards the end), yet some of the small moments that many look forward to in the set elsewhere do not happen.

A couple behind me laugh and pretend to be annoyed when they realise that the traditional sing-along after the closing bars of Gore solo Home will not materialise, despite Gahan trying to encourage some action when a small section of the audience at the front, who know the drill, strike up.

Yet for all this amateur social analysis (with no solid reasons as to why there are these small differences between European and American audiences), Depeche Mode are on terrific form, igniting a widespread waving of arms during Never Let Me Down Again that sets the tone through the encore, before disappearing off stage for the final time to a huge roar of approval.

A post shared by jesse hoover (@gimme.danger) on

Another crowd heads off satisfied into the night after an excellent show – yet there is also plenty of talk (at least amongst those around me, and I suspect elsewhere given that it triggered the inevitable punditry on social media the following day) about the final few moments.

Gahan’s farewell, swapping “next” for “another”, may just be a momentary, unconscious shift in language that was seemingly forgotten immediately after by the louche, evergreen frontman as grins and waves and laps up the genuine adoration that he and the rest of the band muster at every show.

Yet the Depeche machine is so well-oiled these days, with many moves and phrases repeated every single night (“[City X], you really are the best!”) that those looking for a signal of an impending end to a near-40 year career are left thinking that they may have got it.

Before it’s perhaps too late, I’m glad that I finally got to see Depeche in the country that has embraced them perhaps more than any other British band over the last three+ decades – it was a terrific experience.

So, Gahan saying a final goodbye to his home crowd?

In a sea of constant speculation within the huge fan base, as the Global Spirit Tour enters its final phase, perhaps 2 + 2 really does equal 4 this time. Or, who knows, perhaps 4.5.

Everything counts in small amounts.

London O2 gig review – Joyous contradictions for the adoring masses

Depeche Mode’s gig at the London O2 illustrated something that fans perhaps do not often think about, as they wave their arms and sing the songs.

Musically, visually, as a group of musicians – Depeche have always been a band of contrasting elements, both strange and complicated.

And, yet, 37 years into their career, the 2017 incarnation of Depeche Mode is at peak levels of contradictions, everywhere you look.

These disparities are not to their detriment, they are what make Depeche Mode, the individuals, the band – the phenomenon, even – what they are.

They are what have lured 20,000 people to a sometimes soulless arena in South East London, again (there will be millions by the end of the Global Spirit Tour in July 2018).

They are what drive the fans to buy the reams of merchandise and the multiple formats of albums and singles.

And, most importantly, such contradictions are perhaps what continue to inspire the band to create music.

depeche mode london o2 2017 2

But why does the Spirit “era” feel different?

After five gigs this year – the London O2 show was my final one for 2017, perhaps for the entire tour – it feels as if there’s a different mood in the elements that make up the world of Depeche Mode.

It started in March this year.

After a fairly formulaic introduction to the band’s return from their traditional hiatus between long-players (a press conference a few months before, a single release for Where’s The Revolution, followed by the album release for Spirit), fans could perhaps be forgiven for thinking the Spirit segment of their history would be fairly similar to those that proceeded it.

Single-album-tour-single-tour-single-tour-single-tour, etc, sprinkled with some reasonably benign press coverage featuring the same old questions each time.

But then the album started getting some good reviews in the music press and, better still, the band’s biggest and fiercest critics (i.e. the fans) seemed to be getting behind it.

“Best work since Ultra“, “better than anything Hillier ever did with them”, “found their musical mojo again” – you get the idea.

It’s not worth debating here where Spirit ranks in the catalogue (personally, it’s the strongest album since the underrated and vastly different, in terms of tone, Exciter in 2001), but the general reaction to it perhaps triggered something in the minds of fans and the band.

The interviews to coincide with the album launch were some of the best they’ve done in years (Andy Fletcher in Ireland’s Hot Press and this terrific one-hour podcast with Dave Gahan for Nerdist are two particularly good ones) and – here’s one of those contradictions – they sounded incredibly happy about being Depeche Mode again.

Yes, despite the album’s gloomy take on the world we live in, and life in general (!), written almost in despair at times, the trio seemed to be in anything but a state of melancholy.

A few TV promos in Germany and France showed the band were in good shape (Christian Eigner and Peter Gordeno in tow for now pretty much their 20th year), and then Depeche Mode went to Glasgow.

The performance in the city’s Barrowlands venue, headlining the BBC 6Music Festival in front of barely 1,500 or so fans, will probably become a legendary gig for many reasons, not least for those that were there, but most importantly it showed the outside world (it was broadcast live and then found on YouTube within days) how good new songs such as Cover Me could sound live, how much fun Gahan seemed to be having, and a reminder how uplifting the band can be.

Eight months on from that night in Glasgow and they’re back in London for a solitary show, ending a four-night jaunt through Ireland and the UK before heading to Europe for a few more months either side of Christmas.

depeche mode london o2 2017 5

The London Stadium gig in June was an event, not a gig. For many fans, it was a landmark moment, proving to the UK music scene, press and public, that they genuinely are one of the biggest bands on the planet. It was a Rose Bowl moment, just for the locals.

But the O2 is more natural territory for Depeche Mode – indoors, dark, tight-knit crowd (although the venue is still vast), intense, controllable.

The crowd feels different tonight. There’s an overwhelming, celebratory vibe in the air, something that’s always there to some degree at gigs but not this intense.

Here comes another contradiction. By the time set opener Going Backwards is in full swing, thousands of people are gleefully singing about “piling on the misery” and “we feel nothing inside” – it’s utterly wonderful.

As Gahan laments how as a society we are “armed with new technology”, thousands of mobile cameras are in the air and he himself pouts and preens and grins for them all.

This is what makes Depeche Mode such a fascinating and joyous band – they pull in different directions, both musically and lyrically (Going Backwards, the magnificent In Your Room or Barrel Of A Gun do not feel like they’re created by the same band as the one that made, say, Precious, Strangelove or Stripped); they ignite moods and reactions in people who fail to be moved, one suspects, in similar ways by much else.

In the O2, fans are bordering on the riotous at various points.

A Pain That I’m Used To has become a brilliant live song during this tour and sees large sections of the standing area merrily bouncing around.

It also showcases the bass playing skills of the often unfairly maligned Gordeno, who follows up immediately with similarly excellent fretwork on Useless, complete with a new Subterranean Homesick Blues-style video.

The contradictions continue… and crowd loves it.

Cover Me may not make it to another tour in the future, but it’s become one of the finest moments on Spirit and on the accompanying tour.

Gahan, lest we forget, is 55 years old, yet the yoga (apparently), clean lifestyle and positive attitude to performance means he does things on stage for two hours that people half his age would struggle to do once a week, let alone three or four times in the space of seven days.

The cliches in the media are endless (“lounge lizard” seems to be a particular favourite this tour), but he defies his years with energy and a presence that are unmatched.

depeche mode london o2 2017 1

Something has happened to Martin Gore, too – he seems so much more comfortable and at ease in a sober skin than his brooding, often glum-looking younger self.

Perhaps it’s also recent fatherhood (x2) and an acknowledgement that through his songwriting it’s actually okay to have been an important part of so many people’s musical history.

The odd juxtaposition of the live show versus the lyrical intensity of the songs is everywhere.

Where’s The Revolution is an apparent call to arms to end the troubles of the world, for sure, but here at the O2 it’s just another opportunity to sing as a unit, to vocally share with thousands of others what it means to be part of something else – a movement of people utterly devoted to a single entity.

This is no more apparent with the gloriously reworked Everything Counts, which pokes in the ribs of those who “grab all they can” but triggers a terrific sing-along at the end.

Gahan, Gore and Andy Fletcher are no longer three blokes from Basildon (one of those other cliches), pioneering their form of synth music and trying to gain acceptance from their detractors.

They moved beyond all that many years ago (not least with two of them living nowhere near their home-town).

Depeche Mode are entertainers, obviously, but they are more than that.

Gore said recently that the fervour from the fans and the community that surrounds them is almost religious in nature.

He’s not wrong. And perhaps for the first time, fans at the O2, in the often low-key capital city of their birth country, stood up and worshipped with an intensity that perhaps they’d been meaning to demonstrate for many years.

The national and global mood can be fairly sombre to many, but somehow, Depeche Mode provide a form of escapism for thousands of people.

depeche mode london o2 2017 4

I have read on many occasions that Depeche Mode strike a chord with those that feel as if they are not part of the mainstream, whether that’s at a cultural or emotional level – Music For The Misfits, perhaps.

As the final two songs of the evening (A Question Of Time and Personal Jesus) play out, there’s the last chance to feel part of the Depeche machine, swaying and waving and bellowing out the words, before filing out to their normal lives once more.

This odd, uplifting but sometimes dour, thoughtful, inspiring and confusing band, who really can’t be pigeon-holed musically because they’ve been so varied in their output over many years, have brought their array of contradictions to the masses again.

And they’ve won.

If Depeche Mode stick to their now well-trodden strategy, Gahan, Gore and Fletcher will be entering their fifth decade as a group when they embark on their next tour.

Until then, London and those who come to the O2 for their shows, it feels, will miss them a lot…

(Don’t) Get your air guitar out – Halo, rawk style

Please make it stop, some might argue.

British metallers Weak13 have turned one of Depeche Mode’s finest moments into a root and branch attack on our senses (and sensibilities).

The West Midlands three-piece are perhaps better known for their songs Go Away and Sex Pest, as well as their solitary studio album They Live.

Halo, somewhat fortunatelyhas been largely spared of a deluge of cover versions over the years.

US singer Ronitt had her rather more sedate take on Halo a few years back.

Yet most fans will have the wonderful Goldfrapp remix of the song on their minds when they think of different versions.

Depeche Mode were presumably so impressed with it (beyond including it on the album Remixes 81-04 album) that a version was played for an encore during the Delta Machine tour in 2013-2014.

Note: Look out, in HALO, for some inside knowledge about rockier versions of the  Violator classic.