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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

Paris gig review – Depeche Mode spreading the word to boys and girls

NOTE: The original version of this review of the Paris gig appeared as part of the Spirit Tour series on the Almost Predictable, Almost site.

* * *

I am making a fairly confident guess that the vast majority of those both writing and reading these reviews of the Global Spirit Tour are not newbies to Depeche Mode.

They probably range from hardcore devotees who go to ten or more gigs on a tour and collect every format of every bit of new material, to those who probably take in one show each time and buy the latest album.

We, both readers and scribes of the wider series on the Almost Predictable, Almost website, generally know our stuff and can relate in some way to most of the reviews, and we all certainly have an opinion about the band and how they are performing.

For this review, my second in the series for David McEloy’s site (I penned a piece about night #2 of the tour in Amsterdam – and the HALO site version), I wanted to come at it from a different angle, primarily because I had two newbies in tow.

And this particular pair of Depeche debutants happened to be my two kids, aged 12 and 9 respectively.

They certainly know of the band (their father is obviously a fan and just happens to be writing a book about them – so there’s a fair amount of discussion at May Towers about all things Depeche!) and they both have opinions of sorts about songs.

Ella, the more senior of the two, is typical for her age – she likes Katy Perry, Little Mix (she saw them at the O2 in London a few years back) and Justin Beiber, claiming they are all “AMAZING” compared to the 1980s-formed boys from Basildon.

Sam, alternatively, recognises many songs and even says he has a few favourites: World In My Eyes and Personal Jesus, for example.

I’ve shown them many live clips and enthused about how seeing Depeche at a gig is a wholly different experience to listening to the recorded output.

At this point, I usually get something along the lines of “well, i’m too young – I’m never going to get to go” or “yeah, whatever, Dad”.

I was determined to prove them both wrong at some point…

* * *

Late last year, as the first gigs on the tour were announced, I figured it was time to act – getting some money from a speaking engagement, snapping up tickets for the Stade de France show and deciding to make a weekend of it, with both elements kept as a surprise.

Through a combination of stealthy tactics and a few small lies here and there (they were told I was doing a speech in Manchester for my day job), eight months later, we found ourselves getting off Metro Line 13 at one of the stations close to the stadium.

I’d already had a funny conversation earlier on the Metro with Ella, who was asking “huh, how can something be ‘almost predictable’?” when she noted the t-shirt for David McElroy’s blog that I was wearing for the evening.

I explained it was a line from a Depeche song – “oh, right, okay…”, she remarked before, in that way kids do so well, moving on swiftly to something else of more interest to her.

The game was nearly up though.

Having already been taken aback somewhat as they boarded a train to Paris, rather than Manchester, we got within a few hundred metres of the stadium before my daughter asked why a group of men (old school ticket touts!) were holding up bits of paper with Depeche Mode written on them.

It was time to confess.

Within minutes of them slowly absorbing the news that they weren’t going to be “watching a sunset from a famous hill in Paris” after all, but seeing Depeche instead (“NO WAY?!?!?!”), they were immersed into the pre-gig world of hundreds of fans milling around the stadium.

“I can’t believe how many people are smoking!”, says Ella. Welcome to France 🙂 …

Sam, innocently and rather amusingly, asks: “Are they going to sing all the songs in French?”

It’s easy to forget, as fans of music generally for many years and regular gig-goers, how alien and surreal the experience might be for a kid.

The Stade de France and its surrounding pedestrian areas are easy to navigate, and within minutes of moving quickly past the merchandising stands (come on, lads, it’s pretty hard to feel revolutionary against the “system” when being bled dry for a tour t-shirt – sorry, rant over), we are in our seats.

As fans, especially during active periods for the band, it is fairly typical to get wrapped up in the Depeche Mode universe.

Many live and breathe the meanderings of life for the band – examining set lists, checking pictures on forums, wondering about the crowd configuration at shows, looking for hints of strains (or not, it seems, at the moment) between band members.

But in the heads of two kids who are about to experience Depeche Mode for the first time, the questions come thick and fast, covering every type of issue:

  • “So, there are three in the band [looks at my DM-branded beer cup], but five are going to play? I don’t get it.”
  • “Does the song Personal Jesus mean they are really religious?”… Let’s not get started on that one!
  • “Will the neighbours complain if it’s too noisy?”
  • “What happens if they need the toilet?”
  • “The front cover of your book has four people on it. Why did the other guy leave?”… Let’s also not get started on that one!!

Thankfully, Algiers (who are excellent as the support act) create enough noise and visual interest from our vantage point on the second tier, between the stage and halfway line of the pitch, to stem the flow of questions.

It is perhaps the general atmosphere of the huge stadium that they are absorbing like sponges by this point, as the Martin-curated techno set builds ahead of the first strains of Revolution by The Beatles.

Much to the kids’ delight, after exchanging messages, I point out a friend who waves back up at us from the Golden Circle.

And then, Depeche finally arrive shortly after 9pm (giving rise to perhaps the most frenzied reaction I’ve seen so far on the tour, at least from where we’re perched), with the now well-known run of songs that make up the first half a dozen songs of the set.

depeche mode paris 1

A Pain That I’m Used To is the first where the crowd appears to unanimously get to its feet, including – much to my surprise – both of the kids.

There is clapping and cheering, a few questions here and there (“Does he always wiggle his bum like that?”… “Err, yeah.”), but, perhaps most wonderfully, they have taken the plunge into our little world.

Never underestimate the impact of live music, whatever its form – it can truly surprise and thrill, especially to those that rarely experience it or, as in this case, are witnessing the power and passion of a Depeche Mode on top of their game and clearly enjoying themselves.

The wonderful In Your Room triggers the first “that’s a bit weird” about Anton Corbijn’s visuals but any confusion or distraction is soon forgotten as the opening bass line of World In My Eyes rings out and both the Stade de France and son Sam cheer loudly.

depeche mode paris 6

Dave’s first foray on to catwalk at the close of Cover Me brings about a huge cheer, plus an “oh no – is he going to fall in at the end?!?” from one of the kids.

Some brief fan punditry coming up:

Judas is a very welcome addition to the set, replacing A Question Of Lust and ensuring Martin gets a gentle and genuinely moving “if you want my love…” chiming around the stadium in northern Paris.

Home has its usual and loud sing-a-long at the end but I feel there is (after seeing three gigs so far on this tour) an awkward dialling down of the momentum, not least after two slower numbers from Martin.

Perhaps this is the point where Everything Counts or another old fave (maybe even Where’s The Revolution) should get their airing, rather than the plodding and lesser-known Poison Heart.

By now, close to 10.15pm, Paris has finally fallen dark enough for the light show to really kick in.

It’s a bizarre sight to see both kids singing “WRONG!” at the top of their voices and pointing to the sky, clearly picking up on what the crowd is doing around them.

By the time we get to Enjoy The Silence, a song that the kids actually know all the words to, much to my surprise, enjoyment and total immersion in the show takes over.

Ella leans over and shouts: “Will they sing the ‘I’m taking a ride with my best friend’ song?” – again, surprising me somewhat as I never realised she even knew the song.

Martin still says how incredible it was seeing an entire crowd waving their arms in unison for the first time on Never Let Me Down Again, back in 1988, so it must be equally breathtaking for a child to witness 70,000+ people doing it for the first time.

I’m not usually one for hyperbole, but it is a moving experience for a parent, seeing their children lapping up the experience, waving frantically along with everyone else – perhaps finally getting what all the fuss is about.

The encore (“oh, they’re coming back – YES!”) glides through with the rendition of Somebody, with mobile phone lights twinkling everywhere, a stomping Walking In My Shoes and a gentle Heroes before the final pair of I Feel You and Personal Jesus.

depeche mode paris 3 depeche mode paris 5

As the final “reach out and touch faith” comes and goes, with both jumping in the air and shouting at the tops of their voices, there is the immense relief that eight months of mild subterfuge and planning worked out, and pleasure knowing that it really was worth the effort.

It is arguable that they would perhaps have the same level of enjoyment at any other large gig – experiencing an enormous crowd and the passion that live music can create amongst the fans attending.

But this is something else – there is also an emotional connection for them as they know how much this band and the buzz around it (not least with my decision to spend a lot of time writing about it) means to me.

And, yet, weirdly, the most satisfying part of the whole experience in Paris was not something that happened in the stadium on the night of the gig – it was the following morning when all I could hear was them quietly talking about it and sharing their favourite moments as they woke up in the adjoining room at the hotel.


It was only later during this trip that I realised – after glancing upon a post on the Depeche Mode Classic Photos and Videos page on Facebook – that my own first visit to the French capital was almost 24 years to the day.

By bizarre coincidence, I was also there to see Depeche.

They played two consecutive nights, on the 29th and 30th June, at the Paris Bercy Arena on the Devotional Tour.

Full of hair (and bearing an Enjoy The Silence t-shirt), beside the Pyramide du Louvre in Central Paris before the first gig:

depeche mode paris 4

And just to demonstrate how times have changed for a certain rock’n’roll band, Dave Gahan is the new face of Dior.

The Paris-based fashion house has posters of the Depeche frontman in the windows of some of its stores in the city.

Luckily, the band’s new fans aren’t taking it too seriously 😉

depeche mode paris 7

London gig review – Almost a Rose Bowl moment for Depeche Mode’s locals

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.

* * *

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.

What else?

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!

Depeche Mode and the Utopian set list (voted for by fans)

Depeche Mode fans – forget the general election in the UK for a moment, this is THE result that everyone has been waiting for… 🙂

As mentioned a few weeks ago, we’ve been running a poll to find out what are the songs that Depeche Mode fans would love to hear on their ultimate set list.

Most importantly, these would be the 20 songs that are the best songs for a gig, not necessarily a fan’s favourite songs (an important distinction).

David McElroy from the wonderful Almost Predictable… Almost blog and I were asked by the London Stadium (venue for the gig this coming weekend) to pull everything together for an article for their site.

That’ll be posted in the next day or so. David’s post about the results is here, too.

But here are the results and some mini-analysis (I’m not an academic researcher, by any means, so my slicing and dicing of the results is rather rudimentary 🙂 ).

First of all, we had a three-way tie for the 20, 21 and 22 spots, so we increased the set list to 22 songs (surely no-one would complain about getting an extra two songs on the night?!?).

Chosen by dozens of Depeche Mode fans, here is the ultimate set list in order of popularity:

  1. Never Let Me Down Again
  2. World In My Eyes
  3. Personal Jesus
  4. Everything Counts
  5. Enjoy The Silence
  6. Stripped
  7. Behind The Wheel
  8. Fly On The Windscreen
  9. Cover Me
  10. Shake The Disease
  11. Halo
  12. Walking In My Shoes
  13. Going Backwards
  14. The Sun & The Rainfall
  15. In Your Room
  16. It’s No Good
  17. Wrong
  18. Scum
  19. You Move
  20. Lie To Me
  21. Blasphemous Rumours
  22. Nothing

waiting for the night live

What we suspect will delight many fans is the inclusion of some classic tracks (but not necessarily the obvious ones): Lie To Me and The Sun & The Rainfall, in particular.

Also, perhaps the strength of Depeche Mode’s new album, Spirit, is showing through a bit, too.

The increase of the set to 22 songs, to account for the three-way tie, meant that a personal favourite of mine, Nothing, made it to the final list as well (much to my enormous amusement and Nothing-hater McElroy’s dismay!).

We then set about trying to put the 22 songs into some kind of perfect running order.

Amazingly, we had little to disagree over (unusual for opinionated Depeche Mode fans, some might say!).

  • Going Backwards
  • Behind The Wheel
  • Halo
  • Walking In My Shoes
  • Lie To Me
  • Scum
  • Stripped
  • It’s No Good
  • Cover Me
  • Wrong
  • Fly On The Windscreen
  • You Move
  • World In My Eyes
  • In Your Room
  • Blasphemous Rumours
  • Personal Jesus

Encore 1

  • Shake The Disease (Martin solo)
  • Nothing
  • Everything Counts

Encore 2

  • The Sun & The Rainfall
  • Enjoy The Silence
  • Never Let Me Down Again

Sorry, Martin – just the one solo slot. Sorry, Dave – no mid-set respite for you on this gig.

Feel free to leave your feedback in the comments below 😉

barrowlands depeche mode 2

So, what else?

If the boys had a few extra Shredded Wheat one day and played an epic set of The Grateful Dead proportions, say with 50 songs, these are the next 28 songs that would make the list.

  • Leave In Silence
  • Something To Do
  • Black Celebration
  • Here Is The House
  • The Things You Said
  • Strangelove
  • Rush
  • Useless
  • Where’s The Revolution
  • So Much Love
  • A Question Of Time
  • Suffer Well
  • Photographic
  • Told You So
  • People Are People
  • I Want You Now
  • Policy Of Truth
  • I Feel You
  • Barrel Of A Gun
  • Home
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!
  • Just Can’t Get Enough
  • Ice Machine
  • Get The Balance Right
  • It Doesn’t Matter
  • Somebody
  • It Doesn’t Matter Two
  • Clean

Eagled-eyed fans will notice that there are still some glaring omissions, so here are some final factoids to digest:

  • First single Dreaming Of Me failed to receive a solitary vote.
  • A Question Of Lust, returning to the Global Spirit Tour set list this year, was in 75th position in the list of 200+ songs.
  • Fewer than half of the songs on A Broken Frame received one or more votes.
  • Songs from the Exciter era were the least popular with fans, with even the bouncy I Feel Loved in a lowly 82nd spot.
  • Everything Counts took three times as many votes than any other song from Construction Time Again.
  • Polarising 1985 single It’s Called A Heart also didn’t capture the, err, heart of any fan in the poll.
  • Many voters requested the 1994 Exotic Tour version of I Want You Now.
  • A mainstay of the World Violation Tour encore, Route 66, also didn’t register any votes.
  • Songs from the Spirit album captured almost as many votes as all the tracks on Playing The Angel, Songs of the Universe and Delta Machine combined.
  • Waiting For The Night, somewhat surprisingly, was the only song from Violator to not receive a single vote.
  • Dangerous got four times as many votes as fellow b-side Happiest Girl.

My huge thanks to everyone that took part, especially to David for helping out (and being so gracious about the inclusion of Nothing!) and to the London Stadium for getting involved.


anton 101


In case anyone wants to know, these are the 20 songs that I selected for my ultimate Depeche Mode set list, in running order:

  • Policy Of Truth
  • Behind The Wheel
  • Leave In Silence
  • Fly On The Windscreen
  • My Joy
  • Blasphemous Rumours
  • When The Body Speaks
  • Home
  • In Your Room
  • If You Want
  • Halo
  • I Want You Now
  • Cover Me
  • Nothing
  • Told You So

Encore 1

  • Judas
  • World In My Eyes

Encore 2

  • Never Let Me Down Again
  • Personal Jesus
  • Shout

Curate the ultimate Depeche Mode set list

By their own admission, Depeche Mode have a thorough and reasonably democratic process that they go through to create a tour set list.

And, yet, as the catalogue gets bigger with each new album, this mechanism presumably gets harder every time.

But fear not, gents.

In conjunction with the London Stadium, where the band play on Saturday 3 June, we thought instead it would be fun (and intriguing!) to get the fanbase to help out the boys with their dilemma instead.

Obviously, the Global Spirit Tour is already underway and the set list locked down – but ahead of what will be a landmark gig in the UK for Depeche, let’s find out what the masses would love to hear if the band had a clean slate again… just for the homecoming show.

Here on the HALO website and elsewhere, such as the Almost Predictable. Almost blog, we’ll be collecting the TWENTY songs you want to hear.

The full Depeche Mode catalogue is listed below for reference 🙂

Remember, this isn’t necessarily a list of your own favourite songs (though it may well be), but the TWENTY songs that you think should be on the ultimate Depeche Mode set list – tracks that would help create the best gig ever.

You can leave your list of TWENTY in the comments below, on the HALO Facebook page or via email.

The results will be posted on the London Stadium website and other participating sites in the days before the gig.

With many thanks in advance for your suggestions 🙂

The full discography is listed below.

PIC: Paris promo gig set list via Depeche Mode Live Wiki.

New Life
I Sometimes Wish I Was Dead
Boys Say Go!
What’s Your Name?
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Big Muff
Any Second Now (Voices)
Just Can’t Get Enough
Dreaming Of Me
Ice Machine
Any Second Now

Leave In Silence
My Secret Garden
Nothing To Fear
See You
The Meaning Of Love
A Photograph Of You
Shouldn’t Have Done That
The Sun & The Rainfall
Now, This Is Fun
Oberkorn (It’s A Small Town)

Love, In Itself
More Than A Party
Everything Counts
Two Minute Warning
The Landscape Is Changing
Told You So
And Then…
Get The Balance Right
The Great Outdoors
Work Hard

Something To Do
Lie To Me
People Are People
It Doesn’t Matter
Stories Of Old
Master And Servant
If You Want
Blasphemous Rumours
In Your Memory
(Set Me Free) Remotivate Me

Shake The Disease
It’s Called A Heart

Black Celebration
Fly On The Windscreen
A Question Of Lust
It Doesn’t Matter Two
A Question Of Time
Here Is The House
World Full Of Nothing
Dressed In Black
New Dress
But Not Tonight
Breathing In Fumes
Black Day
Christmas Island

Never Let Me Down Again
The Things You Said
Little 15
Behind The Wheel
I Want You Now
To Have And To Hold
Agent Orange
Pleasure, Little Treasure
Route 66
Sonata No. 14 in C#m (Moonlight Sonata)

World In My Eyes
Sweetest Perfection
Personal Jesus
Waiting For The Night
Enjoy The Silence
Policy Of Truth
Blue Dress
Happiest Girl
Sea Of Sin

Death’s Door

I Feel You
Walking In My Shoes
Mercy In You
In Your Room
Get Right With Me
One Caress
Higher Love
My Joy

Barrel Of A Gun
The Love Thieves
It’s No Good
Sister Of Night
Jazz Thieves
The Bottom Line

Only When I Lose Myself

Dream On
The Sweetest Condition
When The Body Speaks
The Dead Of Night
I Feel Loved
Easy Tiger
I Am You
Goodnight Lovers

A Pain That I’m Used To
John The Revelator
Suffer Well
The Sinner In Me
I Want It All
Nothing’s Impossible
Damaged People
The Darkest Star
Better Days


In Chains
Hole To Feed
Fragile Tension
Little Soul
In Sympathy
Come Back
Miles Away\The Truth Is
The Sun And The Moon And The Stars
Oh Well

Welcome To My World
Secret To The End
My Little Universe
The Child Inside
Soft Touch\Raw Nerve
Should Be Higher
Soothe My Soul
Long Time Lie
Happens All The Time
All That’s Mine

Going Backwards
Where’s The Revolution
The Worst Crime
You Move
Cover Me
Poison Heart
So Much Love
No More (This Is The Last Time)

Amsterdam gig review – Behold an infectious Spirit in the Depeche Mode camp

The Global Spirit Tour is underway, so a quick flight to the Netherlands from the UK was arranged for the gig in Amsterdam.

The Almost Predictable, Almost blog has set itself the ambitious but fun task of trying to capture fan reviews from as many gigs on the tour as possible!

This is my review of the Ziggo Dome show on Sunday 7 May 2017, which first appeared on David McElroy’s terrific site on the following day.

Thanks to David for the opportunity to contribute to his series and for also allowing us to republish it here.

+ + +

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I remember reading an article a while ago that analysed how the opening night of a tour is never the one that causes the most anxiety.

It is always the second show, and perhaps the two or three after that.

Sure, debut nights have very high stress levels – the months of preparation across every area of putting a band in the road need to come together and work seamlessly for two hours.

Staging, AV, merchandising, ticketing, VIPs, press, etc. Not forgetting, of course, the weeks of rehearsing and trying to make the live sound as good as possible.

There must be a huge sense of relief when it does all work – or appear to – on the opening night.

The reaction (on David’s blog and social media) to the Stockholm gig, the first of Depeche Mode’s new Global Spirit Tour, has been extremely good.

Yet it is said that the second night can often show the frailties of taking a massive production on the road – getting the stage, lighting, screens, computers, etc packed away and then back in place in a new venue, in a new city, within a day or so.

The first airing ofa new set can also cause headaches: poor reaction from the crowd (let’s face it, reasonably unlikely in the case of Depeche), realising that some of the arrangements or the video backdrops need to be tweaked, concerns over the running order and countless other creative elements of putting on a two-hour gig.

Still, it appears that – as Depeche Mode roll into Amsterdam, two days after the gig in the Swedish capital, with a 14-hour drive – things are going extremely well so far.

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The Amsterdam Ziggo Dome is a terrific venue – fairly big (17,000), airy, but still manages to be more intimate than some of the often soulless atmospheres within the identikit mega-arenas of Europe, such as the O2 in London.

Danish band The Raveonettes, the latest in a long line of brave souls to support Depeche, are loud, creative with how they use guitars alongside other instruments, and extremely good.

Some Devotees will moan, inevitably, but their grinding rhythms, superb close harmonies, heavy bass and wall-of-sound guitars seem to somehow capture a mood of both edginess and expectation.

They go down pretty well with the Amsterdam crowd (and me). Fair play to them. I’m a new fan.

The lights dim after what feels like an interminable wait to the strains of Revolution by The Beatles – cue the first of many sing-a-longs of the evening.

If the aim is to get the crowd whipped up into a frenzy, it works.

The first strains of Martin Gore’s guitar on Going Backwards ring out and it is soon very obvious that thousands of people already know the words of this and every other song from the new Spirit album, released just seven weeks ago.

It is, as has been noted in numerous forums and blogs, one of the best opening tracks from a Depeche album for a long time and, in this setting, the perfect song to kick off the gig.

This is no low-key Welcome To My World and Angel from the Delta Machine Tour – we are in full-on audience participation (and appreciation) straight away.

They stride through the first half a dozen or so songs like a well-oiled machine (including a wonderful Songs And Faith And Devotion album version of In Your Room) – the tightness of the show and the AV showing no signs of a lack-of-practice as it’s still early days in the tour, or following the 1,400km drive south from Stockholm.

As mentioned in my review of the Barrowlands gig at the end of March, Depeche Mode in 2017 seem very much at ease with themselves.

It’s noticeable in their confidence in the new material and their body language, especially between Martin and Dave.

There are hugs in the semi-darkness between songs (cue a huge roar from the crowd stage-left) and Dave even performs a “we-are-not-worthy” action to his band mate after a song later in the set, again triggering cheers from the Amsterdam masses.

Dave is in his element, as always – spinning, pouting, grimacing and grinning his way through songs.

The extended catwalk stage gets a visit on a few occasions – the soaring brilliance of Cover Me has Dave conducting the crowd participation from its end and Martin encourages the crowd yell-a-long at the end of his perfect rendition of Home.

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So what stands out?

Wrong has a new synth-led intro and generally grinds away merrily in its own repetition. Corrupt has finally won me over – perhaps due to it getting an extremely dirty feel to it for the tour.

Everything Counts creeps up on a few people, as the famous melody is introduced quietly against a low-fi, trip hop-style beat.

Still, when the song gets going, it’s pandemonium in the crowd (the second biggest cheer in the first half of the set after a rapturous World In My Eyes). It’s a wonderful moment, especially with the 101-style participation from the crowd at the end.

So, here’s a minor wrinkle – we’re not in full Devotional-style, split-level with the stage design but Dave Gahan does use a higher platform on a number of occasions, like a preacher’s pulpit (borrowing from the Where’s The Revolution video) that sits about a third of the way up the giant screen behind the main playing area.

Maybe I missed it in Amsterdam, but he’s never lit fully by the spotlights, just a silhouette.

This could well be the point, of course, yet it often took a while for the crowd to notice he was actually up there (“Oh, THERE he is! “Yeaaaaaah, Dave!!!”). I suspect that part of the performance might change as the gigs pile up.

The stage projections by Anton Corbijn (who is seen in the crowd tonight in Amsterdam) will polarise opinion, as always, but they’re bright, creative (especially so for the brilliant So Much Love), often weird or surreal, but do not take anything away from the performance.

They close the main set with Enjoy The Silence and Never Let Me Down Again – such staples of the Depeche live act these days but, let’s face it, it takes a heart of stone to not be moved both by their brilliance as songs and, in a live setting, how uplifting it can be having 15,000 people singing and waving along together.

Martin returns with Peter Gordeno for the encore to sing a pitch-perfect version of Somebody (I hear “I think I’m going to cry” from behind me somewhere). Walking In My Shoes, with its new intro, follows.

It’s easy to forget that not every fan in the Ziggo Dome tonight would have known what the setlist was likely to be, had watched footage from the previous gig or – shock, horror – simply doesn’t use social media to find out every detail about the band and the tour.

This is why, for me, perhaps one of the moments of the night is when it finally dawns on thousands of people, as Dave reaches the first or second line, that Depeche Mode are indeed playing their tribute to David Bowie with a version of Heroes (Peter is also out front again on the bass guitar).

“Oh my god! Is that Heroes? Oh my god!!!” screams a woman behind me.

Somewhat ironically, given that you’re reading this, there’s something to be said for not reading this or any reviews of the Global Spirit Tour!

A powerful Personal Jesus ends the night (I’d love to know where the loudest “Reach out and touch faith!” is on the tour) and then it’s all smiles, bows, hugs between the band (Fletch gets a huge roar when he saunters over stage-left), and they’re gone.

It’s still (very!) early days on the tour, but if they keep up this level of the intensity shown in Amsterdam, then fans are going to be in for a treat over the course of the next 12 months.

Someone asked me after the gig why I thought it was better than my experiences of the last few tours.

It’s two-fold: firstly, the new songs from Spirit that sprinkle the setlist are all extremely good, meaning the overall quality of the songs is arguably higher than in previous tours. A personal view, but I think there’s something to it.

Secondly, there’s what appears to be a very positive and buoyant mood in the camp – the pre-tour interviews have been some of the best the band have done in years, for example – which comes through on-stage.

Depeche Mode appear to be very comfortable in their current skin – the energy both in the performance of the songs and their physical presence (especially Dave) is higher than I can remember for many years.

And, best of all, they know it and they can see what it means to the fans who are clearly lapping up what could eventually be seen as Depeche’s most passionate and celebratory gigs in a very long time.

It’s a good time to be seeing Depeche on the road again.

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Barrowlands gig review – Let’s have a mass celebration

You have to feel for seasoned broadcaster and doyenne of BBC 6Music radio station, Lauren Laverne, as she saunters on to the Barrowlands stage to absolute bedlam in front of her.

The 38-year-old has probably seen some sights over the years as both a singer in the band Kenickie back in the mid-1990s and her subsequent radio and TV career – yet the gig in Glasgow is a unique moment for her, for the masses packed in under the ornate ceiling, and for the band she is about to introduce.

The band, obviously, is Depeche Mode – headlining the Sunday and final night of the station’s annual festival, and clearly the most high-profile and eagerly anticipated of the 70 or so acts that are performing over three days in the city.

Laverne has never introduced Depeche on-stage before (perhaps never even a band of their global scale and popularity), and certainly not one within the confines of a venue that by showtime is boiling (literally) over with excitement.

As she works her way through her notes, finally getting to the section where she hints at what is to come, you can see a combination of excitement, amusement and perhaps surprise at the reaction she is getting.

The baked crowd (no official number has been released, but it is probably in the region of 1,750 people, given the capacity is reduced somewhat to accommodate the film crew and tech area at the rear of the former ballroom) are roaring loudly at the end of every sentence.

“Get my boys on, Lauren!” screams a male fan with a thick Scottish accent near the front.

* * * *

Rewind a few hours and you can feel in the bars around the city that fans are preparing for an extravaganza.

This is, as Laverne reminded everyone to more cheers, the first time that Depeche have performed at the famous old venue since 1984 – confining themselves over the last two tours to the SECC and Hydro mega-halls elsewhere in the city, with those being the first Glasgow gigs since the Black Celebration Tour in 1986.

What most fans can sense is that this has all the factors necessary to go down as a landmark event – venue, crowd size, well-rested personnel (none of the late-in-the-tour fatigue having kicked in yet) and their first proper show in three years (the handful of small gigs in the previous week have been shorter and geared solely around to promote the new Spirit album).

Sure, there is a fair amount of anger over the way the tickets for the Barrowlands gig have been sold, with some appearing on re-seller sites before they’ve gone on sale to the devotee-verse.

By Sunday night, however, such irritations have gone and, whilst obviously being on the band’s circuit to push the new long-player, this instead feels like the first night of the forthcoming tour.

There is also no hiding away for a band in a venue such as the Barrowlands – the crowd is barely a few feet away from the performers, rather than the sprawling stages and rigs that will accompany the stadium and arena shows for Depeche in a few months.

Still, very few people in attendance will remember or have seen Depeche in such as setting – thus the raucous noise that erupts as Laverne ends her introduction and the band walk on stage.

I suspect they’ll not forget – or indeed, want to forget – those first few minutes in a hurry.

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If Going Backwards makes it to being the opener on the final setlist for the Spirit Tour, then the trio’s traditional squabbles over track selection and ordering will have paid off – it is a terrific song and has that now-usual Depeche sing-along quality to it and, in this case, sets the scene for what is to follow.

The A Question Of Time-esque So Much Love ignites the first heave of the legendary springy Barrowlands floor, yet perhaps what most people have already noticed and are lapping up is how much fun frontman Dave Gahan is having.

He twirls (nothing unusual there), pirouettes (nor there) and struts (or there), but in between are glimpses of a mischevious, pumped-up and fun singer clearly at ease with the opportunity to do his thing… and more.

He pokes his tongue out at the audience, grins like a giddy love-struck teenager, points at people and laughs his way through the first few tracks as if he’s just been plucked out of the Barras Market next door as a late replacement for the often-brooding, normal Dave Gahan.

Fans talk about the waistcoats and the boots and “guyliner” and (over-)analyse almost every move, yet very few people will disagree that he remains one of music’s best frontmen, having that confident and unique ability to entertain, control and cajole an audience.

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Corrupt comes next, perhaps the only slight low-point of the entire 12-song set, followed by A Pain That I’m Used To, complete with Peter Gordeno on bass guitar.

It’s not a perfect Depeche Mode song, but in this setting, it works, with Gahan prowling around and grinning at his two fellow stage-dwellers.

Arguably the next trio of songs is the first highlight of the set, with huge roars greeting those famous, bass-heavy bars of World In My Eyes (after the reworked, more atmospheric chord opening).

The sound is terrific and the loud synths for the final third of the song reverberate around the venue as Martin Gore, during his only keyboard-bound song, sings the Violator opener out.

The playful Gahan appears to be getting on well with Gore, comforting to those that worry about such things following reports of (but later played down) disagreements during the recording of Spirit.

He waves his towel in front of Gore to cool him down (Gahan himself is sweating profusely within minutes of the gig starting), exchanges a cheeky grin or two, kisses him on the head at the end of a song – antics that fans forget the sometimes serious Depeche Mode are capable of.

Gore himself, whilst appearing nervous at the recent Berlin promo show, looks relaxed as he says a few words or laughs with his guitar tech between songs.

Cover Me is a wonderfully intense song, starting here in a reasonably low-key way before the keyboards hit with a glorious wall of noise as Gore moves the slide up and down the guitar strings.

It is one of the best songs that Depeche have produced in many years. Gahan looks extremely proud of it as he shouts and encourages the crowd to follow his every clap.

After the song’s hypnotic ending, Gahan leaves the stage and the yelling and cheers start again, the crowd knowing it’s Gore’s turn to serenade them.

What comes next is a bit of a surprise, a fully-backed version of Home, sung with a passion and quality that reduces a couple stood nearby  to tears.

Whilst not weep-inducing to the vast majority of fans in attendance in the Barrowlands, it is a very moving moment, triggering the inevitable crowd serenade back to Gore at the end.

Where’s The Revolution and Barrel Of A Gun follow – the former sounding better than it has on the promo shows and Gore’s guitar cranked up a bit higher for the single from Ultra.

The latter will never be a perfect live track, but similar to A Pain That I’m Used To, it works here mainly because of the setting and atmosphere and Gahan’s incessant but appreciated patrolling of the stage.

“He’s absolutely lovin’ it!” laughs a guy to his girlfriend. “Haven’t seen him this animated for years….. COME ON, DAVE!!!!”

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The final three songs (two with a mini-break ahead of the “encore”, Enjoy The Silence) are pure Depeche in crowd-pleasing mode.

The reworked Walking In My Shoes sounds good and fresh, and gone is the almost painfully slow introduction to Personal Jesus from the Delta Machine Tour.

An ear-splitting series of “Reach out and touch faith” that end Personal Jesus are enough to, coining a well-worn cliche, metaphorically take the roof off the venue.

The band look shocked but thrilled at how raucous everything is.

It has turned into a crowd and band-fuelled celebration that many arguably haven’t seen since some of the nights on the Singles Tour in 1998.

Enjoy The Silence concludes the Barrowlands evening, again with a classic fan-led sing-along.

The music ends, the band come forward for their customary bow (Andy Fletcher comes over stage-left to applaud and grin),  and they’re gone.

For a moment there is a glimmer of hope that they will return for another song, perhaps debuting the cover of David Bowie’s Heroes that has been being talked about recently, but the venue music kicks in and the crowd (including Labour Party deputy leader, Tom Watson) are left to look at one another with various interpretations of “Did THAT just happen?”-type expressions.

* * * *

It is easy to get caught up in the hyperbole of such a night – to think it was bigger or better than it really was, just because you were lucky enough be there.

But, equally, Depeche have been around for so long now that many fans will naturally cast their minds back, nostalgically, to what they consider peaks for the band, and refuse to acknowledge that the now-trio (plus Gordeno and Christian Eigner on tours) can still cut it as a live act.

Yet it was, for many there on Sunday night, the pinnacle of their Depeche Mode live experiences.

Bands such as Depeche, with their enormous gigs, entourage and tightly controlled publicity schedule, rarely perform in an environment that feels both “old school” and utterly rapturous.

One fan said to me later that it felt like “his band” had come to perform just for him and his mates (that’s how so-called devotees often verbalise their passion – as if they have some kind of ownership of “my boys”).

The intimacy of the occasion and the passion that flowed between the band (especially Gahan) and the masses was a remarkable one to witness and be a part of.

Sure, there were a few flaws – some off-kilter harmonies during Walking In My Shoes and drummer Eigner continues to irk some fans (head over to the unofficial Eigner Fanclub, Electricity Club, for their valid take on that) – but this gig wasn’t about those individual moments, and certainly did not overshadow in any way the otherwise unique and celebratory night for what it was: an event that many will struggle to forget.

The reaction to the gig, generally, has been extraordinary (even from the sometimes unforgiving British mainstream press) – a prime example being David McElroy’s take on the Almost Predictable… Almost blog.

An “I was there!” moment for so many people.

I saw Depeche Mode on consecutive nights at the Bercy in Paris in 1993, during the Devotional Tour, and was blown away by their sheer power and an overwhelming explosion of colour, noise and swagger from the show.

I was also lucky enough to be at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010 (when Alan Wilder famously returned to play Somebody with Gore) but had consoled myself that I’d probably never experience something like that again (hint-hint, band and manager Jonathan “Baron” Kessler: iconic venues bring out the best in Depeche Mode).

But, 37 years in, they somehow, against all the odds of running a slick, sophisticated, professional and hugely popular Depeche Mode these days (it does almost feel like a “brand” sometimes), managed to inspire what for many will go down as a very special, intimate and one hell of a barnstorming evening at the Barrowlands of Glasgow.

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In the early hours of Monday morning, I found myself – with half a dozen or so friends – dissecting the evening over a few drinks in the bar of a hotel in the north of the city.

We didn’t try to gatecrash but we could see the entire band, entourage and guests at a private party next door. Sometimes it feels better to just let people get on with their lives – in this case, celebrating their evening.

Still, as good fortune has it, I bumped into Fletch outside in the street when I arrived, so we chatted for a while.

I have never sought to contact any band that I have liked (except, in the case of Depeche, when dealing with their management for HALO), so this is a surprise and, after decades of following them, not as intimidating an experience as one might have feared.

Thanks, Fletch.

Later, I also spoke to Eigner outside the hotel as we left at the end of the night. He was on good form and happy to oblige the by-then half a dozen or so people who asked for pictures.

Unusually for me, not wanting to come across as a groupie despite being at the band’s hotel, I thought (presumably by now, simply basking in the adrenalin of the evening) that it was a worth asking.

Oh well 🙂

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Lastly, even the 630am flight that I had to take a few hours later to return to home (and the day job) had its upside.

The fair city of Glasgow certainly knows how to do a sunrise.

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