Even before London, I’ve been saying since the mini-gig at the Barrowlands in Glasgow that Depeche Mode are in-form.
This is a term obviously more commonly used by sport writers and pundits, but it can be applied here to Depeche.
Dave Gahan appears to be wonderfully energised for his 55 years and clearly is enjoying himself immensely (he broods and stomps around on-stage but with a cheeky glint in his eye); the “band” sound tight and the production is superb; and there is a confidence from both Depeche and fans in the new material.
All these elements go a long way towards, outwardly at least, showing that things are pretty good in Depeche camp at the moment – something that comes through in the live performances so far.
Gahan’s interview with the British political magazine New Statesman last week hinted at some of the usual issues behind the scenes, but for the time being there do not appear to be many signs that they’re only going through the motions of being back in “band mode” (a lot of credit must go to Martin Gore in this regard, who has become a new dad twice in the last 15 months and must find it difficult being on the road).
A few changes to the song line-up (perhaps throw in the Ultimate Set List!) from night to night might appease the fans who are irked by such things, yet it generally feels as if the fanbase is really enjoying having the band back on tour again.
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I read and heard a fair amount in the weeks and months leading up to Depeche Mode’s show at the London Stadium that it was a risk for the band to try and pull something off on that scale.
Does that sound familiar?
Fans will remember an American interviewer in the 101 film asking Andy Fletcher and Martin Gore as to whether the Pasadena gig was a “risk for this band”.
It was a risk worth taking, as we all know – it was a triumph, in fact, with that memorable night in 1988 going down as one of the most important milestones in their eight-year history at that point.
They’ve had other milestone gigs since then, too, of course: the double-header at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in 1990; Dave Gahan’s “return from the brink” for the Ultra parties in London and Los Angeles; and perhaps even the Crystal Palace show in London in 1993.
But nothing compares to that balmy night in California (“there’s probably not been like a gig like again for us”, Gahan later said).
Back to London in 2017, with the Global Spirit Tour now a month old and Depeche Mode playing their biggest ever outdoor gig in the UK at a venue in London’s East End that is already known for many celebratory nights during the London 2012 Olympics.
This was a big event for the band, in many ways.
It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say that the London Stadium gig was Depeche’s “Rose Bowl in the UK” – but it was fairly close.
Saturday night in London was our intrepid trio’s defining moment in their home country – a reminder (two fingers up, even) to the doubters in amongst both the press and non-believing, so-called music aficionados which they have accrued over the years that, whether the cynics like it or not, the UK has produced yet another one of the biggest bands in the world.
That Depeche Mode can still crank out music both from the studio and in a live setting that entertains their fans is something that will no doubt be a cause for celebration for as long as the band continue to make records.
It’s perhaps hard for fans outside of the UK to really appreciate the significance of the gig in London.
But for those of us here that have been to the gigs (at home and abroad), bought the records and merchandise, followed their every move, even written about Depeche… we know that a gig like that in London, in front of 70,000 people, was a proud moment not only for the band but also us as well.
As supposed “hardcore fans”, we can sometimes lose sight of how awe-inspiring the band can really be, especially for debutants at a gig.
Depeche trigger things at shows that do not happen with many other bands (mass sing-a-longs, crazed arm-waving, etc) – but perhaps the most noticeable is the fervour and passion that they inspire and the sense of community that is a genuine part of the overall experience.
In London, for thousands of fans, this was a chance to celebrate that sense of belonging to a movement that surrounds a band that has, frankly, not had the recognition they deserve in their own country.
It was against this backdrop that will ensure the gig remains a memorable one for the tens of thousands who sang, danced in the rain at various points, laughed with and hugged their fellow Depeche comrades.
In short: Depeche’s show in London was as much a reason for the fans to have a party as it was for the band to signal to their compatriots that have been a force in music for an exceedingly long time and the cynics should wake up and at least have the good manners to congratulate them.
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After three gigs (the mini-show in Glasgow and the second night in Amsterdam) on this tour, some of the highlights haven’t changed.
World In My Eyes is probably the moment in the set where things start really ramping up (although, to be fair, just their arrival onstage was greeted with a noise to remember for a long time), even with London it still being dusk rather than the dark enclosure of previous gigs.
Those closer to the front would have had a ring-side view of Gahan’s trip over Gore’s synth stand, sending the lead singer sprawling and his mic needing a swift replacement.
Perhaps the chuckle between the pair was compounded by recalling just an hour or so earlier, when Gore was known to have taken a tumble himself during one of the fan meet-and-greets, much to the amusement of his fellow band members.
Depeche karma in action right there.
There is a genuinely joyous moment during this tour when those that have avoided any clips from earlier shows realise what the hypnotic intro to Everything Counts actually is.
Corrupt and Wrong are far dirtier than on record and have become brilliant songs, whilst the last 30-45 mins of the show is simply a riotous run-through of classic tracks.
Again, although it doesn’t move me to this extent, despite its brilliance, I have seen people in tears during the rendition of David Bowie’s Heroes during the encore.
Yet the biggest moment of the night was not concentrated on a single song, or how the crowd participated in something, or the rapturous cheers the band received at the end.
It was the sum of all of its parts – how everything came together for one single evening when a band, their families, the travelling circus of an entourage and thousands of fans all participated in a good ol’ fashioned knees-up, as those down the East End of London would have once said.
FOOTNOTE: Part of this post originally appeared in a collection of reviews from fans, collected following the gig by the Almost Predictable. Almost blog. The site’s editor, David McElroy, has set himself the colossal task of trying to get a review of every gig on the Global Spirit Tour!