Depeche Mode: Manchester Arena – live review
Friday 15 November 2013
Basildon boys Depeche Mode arrived in Manchester for the latest show of their Delta Machine tour. Promoting the finest album in their thirty-three year history, still packing out Arena venues and rumoured to be headlining at Glastonbury 2014.
There’s always a huge sense of anticipation before these shows. Anyone who’s ever seen the Mode will know that they have it down to a fine art. Tour after tour they never fail to deliver and this was no exception.
With a back catalogue of almost two hundred songs, there will always be those disappointed not to get their favourite, but the quality of a Depeche Mode show makes you forget these minor concerns.
With three huge (and we’re talking HUGE) screens to play back images, lyrics and video footage of the band in amazing quality, there was always somewhere to look. The imagery was fascinating and worked superbly well with the music. Surely Anton Corbijn was involved somewhere?
Supported on stage by Peter Gordano (keyboards, guitar) and Christian Eigner (drums), Dave Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher looked comfortable and confident throughout the two hour set. The band has adopted a more ‘live’ performance over the years, dispensing with pre-recorded elements, and as a result of this the atmosphere has intensified. The percussion of Eigner, in particularly, added another dimension of power and given the analogue feel of Delta Machine, this made for a particularly effective sound.
Gore seemed less than happy at the start, seemingly going through the motions until he slowly moved into gear, maybe he was just weighing up the audience. Fletch gave his best Kraftwerk audition and Gahan spun and ran and twirled around the stage with microphone in Freddie Mercury pose to the joy of the twenty thousand strong audience.
Opening with the first of five tracks from Delta Machine, Welcome To My World started slowly and as such isn’t the ideal choice as an opener. Likewise Angel which, although well received, didn’t seem to have the kick of the recorded version. But then things started to step up a notch. The music got louder, the atmosphere intensified and Walking In My Shoes blew the socks off everyone. Maybe the sound wasn’t quite right at the start? Maybe the crowd expected too much too soon? We’ll probably never know, or care, as everyone soon forgot.
There were surprises in the set list. Black Celebration seemed an unusual choice but had everyone singing along to the chorus. The most recent single, Soothe My Soul, was nowhere to be seen, and a piano only accompaniment to American single But Not Tonight was sung by Martin in one of three solo performances. The others – The Child Inside and Condemnation (saved for the encores) again showed that he is a vocalist with an extraordinary voice, and surely one of the finest lyricists that this country has ever produced.
Live versions of remixes were also performed. The interesting guitar intro from Gordano had much of the audience guessing that it was the Jacques Lu Cont remix version of A Pain That I’m Used To, and another of the five encore tracks (adding another thirty minutes to the show) was the Goldfrapp remix of Halo. These tweaks and changes are what keep Depeche Mode ahead of the pack – even down to copying the synth sound from The Saturdays’ cover of Just Can’t Get Enough to bring it bang up to date.
Behind The Wheel, a live favourite, had the crowd jumping, and one of the most perfect pop songs of recent times. Enjoy The Silence was just sublime. A Question Of Time, I Feel You, Personal Jesus – need I say more? Ending with Never Let Me Down Again amid the waving arms, they finally left the stage after two hours of entertainment and twenty songs.
Depeche Mode are, without a shadow of doubt, one of the hottest properties around. With an expected gross revenue of $200m for a tour that will continue until March 2014, you can see why.
The Basildon boys have done good.
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul is working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.