Last night’s Depeche Mode concert was the last for me, representing the fifth show in the past two weeks. The second of two concerts back-to-back at the O2 Arena in London, as with the night before, I elected to take a spot in the front row center at the end of the catwalk extending into the vast general admission standing floor. Waiting for the band to come out, it was a bit of déjà vu, but it turned out to be anything but… with the prior four shows, the set list was exactly the same at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena, Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion, and the prior night’s show at London, England’s O2 Arena. The signal that last night’s gig had something different in store was the familiar sound of distorted guitar feedback that marked the opening of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room”, which opened into the awesome Zepyhr Mix version of the song. A friend of mine from California also turned out for the two O2 shows, and we turned to each other at the same time with a “holy shit!” expression on our faces. We knew at that point we were going to be treated to an amazing – and unpredictable – show put on by my favorite band on Earth, and they did not disappoint. An epic conclusion to an amazing personal (and literal) journey with the band and their music over the past two weeks, spanning a number of countries all over Europe and coming to a close in their home of England.
Who: Depeche Mode
Venue: The O2 Arena
Where: London, England
Promoter: Live Nation UK
When: May 28, 2013
Seating: “Early Entry” General Admission Standing – Front of Ramp/Platform (Against the Rail)
Note: Please also visit the site pertaining to Depeche Mode’s charitable efforts here: my.charitywater.org/depechemode
See all of my articles on this Depeche Mode Delta Machine World Tour by clicking the portal below (with coverage of Budapest Hungary, Zagreb Croatia, Bratislava Slovakia, and London England):
London, England Concert Overview
As noted in yesterday’s review of the first O2 show, VIP Nation Europe’s handling of the “Early Entry” experience was not managed well at all. Thankfully, part two the second night is best characterized as uneventful.
They still did not have my ticket or special “VIP” laminate I was owed from the night before, believe it or not, but they gave me a second laminate for Night 2, so that was something, I guess.
There also appeared to be fewer participants in the option overall, but it could just be that people showed up later, and by the time we lined up it wrapped around the corner.
For my thoughts on my different experiences with “front of stage” and “early entry” options at the concerts I attended in the past two weeks, as well as choosing different spots on the floor at the shows I went to, check my review on the first concert at the O2 Arena.
To read my overview of Depeche Mode and their history, see my review from the Budapest concert.
I shared my thoughts on Depeche Mode’s new album, Delta Machine, in the review I published about the Bratislava show.
Again Depeche Mode continued with their rotating support, last night with Danish electronic music producer Anders Trentemøller.
I would rate Trentemøller among the best of the half dozen or so opening acts I have seen in the past five shows – great sound and energy.
Unfortunately, the awesome lighting effects were not too camera friendly, so check out the two photos included in the album further below for a sense of how they appeared on stage.
So the basics of last night’s show at the O2 was mostly the same as with the other four shows I’ve seen in recent weeks.
The band opens with “Welcome To My World”, which as I’ve mentioned in past reviews, I feel is the perfect song for the band to kick off each night with… there is an opening bit that starts out with none of the members on stage, which really builds excitement in the audience for what is about to come. The song itself builds and goes into some more -pop-oriented stretches, and Dave of course is the ultimate front man and really works it out.
With guidance from the genius of Anton Corbijn, Depeche Mode has long had a stage set up and accompanying visuals that perfectly compliment their music and identity as a band, and this tour of course is no different, and did not disappoint. Everything has a place, and there is nothing on stage that doesn’t need to be there… very industrial and industrious in appearance, with enough space between the keyboard/synth set ups and thumping heart of their instruments, the drum kit, to allow plenty of room for Dave Gahan to move (and at times slither) around the stage with his trademark New Wave rock star moves (vintage and newly conceived).
Having now seen the band five times on this tour, it is amazing to see how they have evolved as a band with their live performances. They make it all look easy, as their completely unique sound is recreated on stage, and they seem to be having as much fun as the audience putting it all together. Dave and Martin seem to really feed off each other with joy, respect and admiration, with Dave frequently coming over to Martin and putting an arm around him, or prompting the audience to cheer for the man behind most of the lyrics and songwriting chores.
Martin seems most alive on stage with a guitar strapped around him (the number of variety of which seems to be bigger than ever).
I was fortunate enough to be close to stage for all of these shows, and there seems to be almost a renewed magic between Martin and Dave… at times you can almost imagine what their relationship might have been like when they started out, relative kids who ended up being true pioneers in pop music, helping to create and nurture an entirely different kind of music which even today sounds more relevant and contemporary than what is being produced by new artists just emerging in the music industry.
It is almost as though there is no pressure – well, no negative pressures – on the band. They love music, they love performing, and they know their fans are true. There is such excitement beaming from the stage, and Dave plays us – the audience – almost like an instrument as well. A musical cue or slight gesture elicits an expected response and reaction from the crowd, at times shifting into revival-like waving of arms or fluttering of hands, depending on the song and the moment in the song. Depeche Mode concerts are an experience, worshiping at the sounds, the energy, the lyrics, and the charisma of Dave and the band.
With this tour, even the at times notoriously all-business Fletch seems comparatively possessed… directing the audience into participation. And at last night’s show, I was almost floored when I saw him getting down on stage, and even shaking his ass. Who knew?
Touring member Christian Eigner is really a critical member of the band now in their live shows, as he is an amazing drummer, and the live drum sound introduced by Alan Wilder with Songs of Faith and Devotion dramatically improved DM’s live shows, and it was really smart of them to embrace that going forward. The contrast with the drums and Martin’s guitar with the more synth-sounding elements of their music is best reflective of how they’ve evolved since their origins with Vince Clarke on Speak and Spell. Yet, funny enough, the drums work wonderfully with “Just Can’t Get Enough”, and help to make it sound like a song that could have debuted yesterday, due to the infectious pop sound.
Last night, after opening with “Welcome To My World”, they transitioned into “Angel”, just as they did with the prior four shows I attended.
Expecting the same set list to continue to unfold – hoping for maybe one song change, and expecting it to be one of Martin’s songs – that’s when things started to evolve, as I began to explain in the opening… The first thing I noticed was a bright spot light pointing directly down on the center of the catwalk stretched in front of me. I noticed this right away, but dismissed it as maybe a lighting mistake or something…
I really wasn’t expecting such the different change that was unfolding, and then there was that sound… Depeche Mode is all about auditory short hand… key songs have that sound… that sample that we hear and becomes hard wired into our brain, so if we hear that two or three second sound, we know what is coming… so it was one of those moments where I didn’t believe what I was hearing. But the expecting backing visuals changed as well, stripped away from the polish I’ve come to expect to something maybe a little more analog and simple…
So there was that “holy shit” moment, and before I could even process that they were really going to play “In Your Room”, it was already happening.
This brought an excitement to the show for me personally that I hadn’t felt since the first one on my journey, back in Budapest (I went into all of this a bit “spoiler free”), as I wanted to be surprised by the first show.
So as I watched – no, experienced – the Zephyr Mix of “In Your Room”, I had this feeling and internal question… was it going to be just this one change, or will there be more?
“In Your Room” replaced “Walking In My Shoes” – both are from Songs of Faith and Devotion… for me personally, I favor “In Your Room” much more – to me, it is a much better song, though I accept that “Walking In My Shoes” is more of a mainstream-recognized song from that album.
The fifth song on the set for this tour has been “Black Celebration”, so that was what I was expecting next… and then came that most recognizable of audio cues for DM… the sort of spinning hubcap noise that opens “Behind The Wheel”. Again, I looked over to my friend – holy shit! Then we knew it was on. This was a very special Depeche Mode show that was unfolding, and it was all about fan service in their home country (though I believe there were as many people in attendance from other countries around the world as there were British).
“Behind The Wheel”, for me, is one of their most important songs, and one of the songs I’m most personally attached to for a variety of reasons. This is one of those songs that was part of the soundtrack of my life growing up. Music for the Masses is my all-time favorite album – not just among the works of Depeche Mode, but ALL artists. My most cherished album and it debuted as I started high school, and this album and the videos by Anton Corbijn really shaped my outlook on life at the time, and had a huge impact on my tastes in music and where they went from that point forward.
I remember the single, the artwork, the remixes… and of course the remixes that followed from the “Route 66” B-Side… maybe the greatest remix of all time. I remember getting the Just Say Yo compilation from Sire Records (Volume 2 of Just Say Yes) and hearing the “Mega-Single Mix of “Behind The Wheel/Route 66” and just being blown away. Fucking genius. Who has ever made a more captivating, road trip time rocking song before? No one, and in my opinion nothing since has ever touched this accidental lightening in a bottle. Genius.
Then the was the Razormaid version… I must have listened to it thousands of times over the years…
Anyway, suffice it to say, I was going out of my mind last night seeing this come to life again, live on stage, right in front of me… the band right there… like my soul was starved for it. The show could have ended right after, and I would have been completely satisfied with my experience and having waited around the venue for the eight hours prior. And that is what live music is all about – creating these moments and experiences that touch your life, motivate you, inspire you… really, last night was an unforgettable one, and at that point, it was just starting.
So there was that feeling… anything could happen. What was Depeche Mode going to do to us next?
Then they went right into “World In My Eyes”… are you serious? The prior four shows I attended, it was “Policy Of Truth” that hit next (also from Violator), which is a song that I like a lot, but do not love like some others… (as mentioned in my prior reviews), so I was thrilled to be treated to another single off Violator last night. And it was really blowing my mind that we were getting a very different show, and I was so happy to have such a different experience and show to mitigate the fact that as each song was coming off, this special DM journey of mine was coming to an end. So kind of a sadness stomped out by euphoria.
After that, those of us in the crowd most moved by the many changes were allowed a bit of time to let it sink in; to collect ourselves… “Should Be Higher” and “Barrel Of A Gun” were next, as was the case in the prior shows.
Next came the part of the show that gives Dave an off stage break and Martin takes center stage on vocals, and here is the point where I was expecting a change of some sort, and they did not disappoint in the least, opening with one of my favorite post-SOFAD songs, “Only When I Lose Myself”… fucking incredible. Truly one of those concert moments that words cannot do justice to – love Martin Gore and that is such an awesome song.
Martin then did “When The Body Speaks” as he has been, and Dave returned to deliver one of their best songs off Delta Machine, “Heaven”, followed by maybe the best new song “Soothe My Soul”.
Then came something I wouldn’t have imagined… “John The Revelator” from Playing The Angel. What? Love this song, and never would have expected this one to show up on the set list. Never. This show was all about deep cuts and fan service, and Depeche Mode completely delivered.
Afterwards, Depeche Mode did “Soft Touch/Raw Nerve” off of Delta Machine… another change, and what would be the last detour from the proven set list that has been in play since I jumped on the tour in Budapest (though, honestly, I would have preferred the classic “Question of Time” in this case, but it was cool to hear the new song on my fifth show, at least!).
The rest of the show – in terms of the songs played – resembled what I’d experienced in recent weeks, and, of course, it all came off brilliantly.
The vibe I got from the band – Dave in particular – was more celebratory. It was a Depeche Mode party in the O2.
If you watch the video I shot of “Never Let Me Down Again” the night before, you can visibly see Dave get a little choked up at the end of the catwalk, whereas last night, it was more of a look of joy. I believe the different perspective and state of mind was reflected as such in the two shows… so the same music, but completely different performances. The magic of live music.
Below is the set list for last night’s show in London…
- Welcome To My World
- In Your Room (Zephy Mix) [In Place of: “Walking In My Shoes]
- Behind The Wheel [In Place of: “Black Celebration”]
- World In My Eyes [In Place of: “Policy Of Truth”]
- Should Be Higher
- Barrel Of A Gun
- Only When I Lose Myself [In Place of: “Higher Love”] (Sung by Martin Gore)
- When The Body Speaks (Sung by Martin Gore)
- Soothe My Soul
- John The Revelator [In Place of: “A Pain That I’m Used To (‘Jacques Lu Cont’s Remix’ version)”]
- Soft Touch/Raw Nerve [In Place of: “A Question of Time”]
- Secret To The End
- Enjoy The Silence
- Personal Jesus
- Home (Acoustic)
- Halo (‘Goldfrapp Remix’ version)
- Just Can’t Get Enough
- I Feel You
- Never Let Me Down Again
So while I’ve become accustomed now to changing countries every few days and seeing Depeche Mode every few times, I’m a bit sad it’s all coming to an end, as it has been an unbelievable and unforgettable experience… but consequently it is a set of amazing experiences that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
For me, this website, The Rock Subculture Journal, is all about advocating people going out and seeing and experiencing live music. It can bring a lot of joy and inspiration to your life, and I think people forget how much these experiences can really touch and change your life.
When I first learned of the new Depeche Mode album and tour, I hoped to have an opportunity to do something like this, and an beyond thrilled that I had the ability to do it – it has been one of the best experiences of my life. And if one person can maybe be inspired to do something similar, I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished my mission.
Thinking of younger generations though, I actually feel badly for them, because what I’ve experienced growing up with Depeche Mode I don’t think is really possible for young music fans. In the 80s, there was no Internet, and the music industry was different. Bands had time to grow and evolve and develop a fan base… we went out and bought albums and singles, etc. And Depeche Mode has been together and making music for decades, and a new album and tour is an event. And they are a band that can sell out huge stadiums in minutes.
Today, younger fans are bombarded with pop culture via the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, social media, etc.) and everything is becoming single-driven, not artist/album-driven. It is all about short attention spans and moving on to the next thing… I try to imagine what the music industry will be like 20 years from now, and what we have with Depeche Mode will be more and more rare and unheard of… not that any band will ever be anything like Depeche Mode. Change isn’t always good, and I’ll embrace what we have while I can.
Below are a few videos to share to give an idea of the sound and atmosphere of this specific show…
“In Your Room”:
“Behind The Wheel”:
“World In My Eyes”:
“Only When I Lose Myself”:
“Soft Touch / Raw Nerve”:
Below are photos taken during this event. I’ve taken literally thousands of photos in the past four shows, so did not take as many this time (focused on capturing the set list changes on video).
All of these photos were taken with a non-pro camera. Click on any image to open the gallery and for higher resolution versions of the same photo: