Wednesday 24 January 2024

Depeche Mode, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham

Supported By Nadine Shah

The last time I saw Depeche Mode was way back in 1986 on the Black Celebration tour which is obviously a very long time ago. That was at the NEC and that gig was one of the reasons that I decided that I don't like big arena shows but here I am now in a big arena seeing them again 38 years on. Of course Depeche Mode don't do anything other than arena shows and since they are showing no signs of coming down to my level here I am. This show at the Utilita Arena (aka the NIA) in Birmingham is their second UK date as part of their massive Memento Mori World Tour which began in March 2023 and will not finish until this April.

My partner is with me, tempted by seeing the band but fast regretting it now as I have insisted on standing up. The last time we were here for Arcade Fire we had seats that were so far way I could barely see or even hear the band properly. To get anywhere near the front tonight we had to be relatively early which means a lot of standing and waiting. Thankfully Depeche Mode hit the stage bang on time at 8.45.

In the meantime there is a distraction from the waiting in the form of Nadine Shah. Shah is from Tyneside but with a part Norwegian mother and a Pakistani father. She’s been around since 2009 and has supported Depeche Mode before, ten years ago. Still I haven’t heard of her.

I feel a bit sorry for her because her band seem dwarfed by their surroundings perched as they are on a small proportion of the massive staging playing to a not very attentive audience in such a cavernous arena. She’s fine, a polished performer who can sing but she’s not really my thing. Then after only six songs she’s gone.

Then it’s Depeche Mode who start off with a couple from their new album 'Memento Mori', the brooding 'My Cosmos Is Mine' and the rather excellent 'Wagging Tongue'. The new album is pretty good and the likes of 'Wagging Tongue' and 'Ghosts Again' which comes later stand up well against most of their older material. The album is probably their best since 2005's ‘Playing The Angel’ which gets three tracks itself tonight, and I’m a little disappointingly they play only two more from it tonight but then when you have fifteen albums to pick from set lists are a nightmare.

We haven't got the greatest spot in the world but we're near enough to get the full benefit of the sound which is much better than I expected for such a big arena and I've got a good view but then I'm a bit taller than my partner who says she hasn't. Hopefully she is enthralled by the impressive visuals on the big backdrop behind the band that accompany every song.  


The band then move on to a journey through some of their finest moment starting with 'Walking In My Shoes' and which is followed by the even better `It’s No Good`.

Depeche Mode are now vocalist Dave Gahan, whose voice still sounds great, and everything else-ist Martin Gore. They are assisted on stage by Christian Eigner on drums and Peter Gordeno on bass\keyboards.

As ever I will disagree with the set choices as I’m not a great fan of 'In Your Room' nor ‘I Feel You’ but there’s plenty I love. The likes of 'Policy Of Truth' hit the spot, 'Precious' is terrific and the classic `Everything Counts` from way back in 1983 sees Gahan and Gore sharing vocals along with most of the crowd.

After 'Speak To Me' Gahan disappears for a lie down leaving us with a Martin Gore solo segment. He has varied his two tracks throughout the tour and tonight it is 'Strangelove', one of two from 1987's 'Music for the Masses', followed by 'Heaven', the only one tonight from 2013's 'Delta Machine'. Interesting choices but he has been doing 'Home' from my favourite album ‘Ultra’ from 1997 and he doesn't do that tonight. The bastard.

Gahan is back for the finale which includes the `World in My Eyes` performed alongside images of Andrew Fletcher who sadly passed away in May 2022. It was a nice touch.


Then with some form of weird symmetry of 38 years ago they surprisingly play 'Black Celebration' itself. Then it's the brilliant 'Stripped' and a personal favourite of mine 'John The Revelator' from the aforementioned ‘Playing The Angel’ before closing out with `Enjoy the Silence`.

If you thought that maybe 'Violator' was not getting enough love tonight they put that right when it clocks up its fourth and fifth tracks in the encore starting with 'Waiting For The Night'. Then it’s the mega oldie 'Just Can’t Get Enough' with a lot of bad dancing from Gahan, 'Never Let Me Down Again' and finally 'Personal Jesus' that ends the night. Even I have to admit it was a pretty well thought out set list.

Depeche Mode were in the past known as quite a gloomy bunch and maybe it looked as if they were not always totally enjoying themselves on stage but now, perhaps as they get older, the two remaining members of the band look like they're having a ball and long may it continue.

No comments:

Post a Comment