Friday, 19 May 2017

LIVE REVIEW: DEPECHE MODE, STADE CHARLES-EHRMANN, NICE 12 MAY 2017

This review has been written by Carsten Drees, a German Devotee and a man who I've been lucky enough to meet twice on this tour already. Carsten has written a wonderful review that basically sums up both the experience of being at a Depeche gig and the experience of meeting Carsten himself! Check out his tech blog http://www.mobilegeeks.de/ and keep an eye out for Carsten at Depeche gigs throughout the summer. Thanks Carsten! 


The experience of listening to new Depeche Mode songs hasn't change that much over the years: It's just me, the new album, something to drink (non-alcohol) and some chocolate. This setup works for me since those well-known lads from Basildon published their The Singles 81-85 compilation back in 1985.

I was 14 years old and will never forget this moment, when I first took a look at this grey vinyl record and seconds later listened to all those great tracks. Fast forward: 32 years later and there still is the magic of the moment, when I sit down and listen to the new tracks. But something changed completely: In 1985 and the following years I was in some kind of bubble – there were just very few people to talk to about the new songs. Today, there are millions, when you take a short look at the internet. And loads of them are saying the same things – I don't like their new material, I want Alan back, SOFAD/Ultra was the last cool depeche-album/song since the band published Exciter etc etc.

You want to know why I'm talking about all those things instead of talking about the gig in Nice, France? Because something has changed: In my opinion, Spirit is an outstanding album and absolutely worthy of the name Depeche Mode - no doubt about it. But this time I have the feeling that most of the long-time-supporters are quite happy with Spirit, too. Sure – there always will be lots of haters around, but in general the fanbase seems to be very pleased by the new songs.

And this – finally- brings me to the tour and the concert in Nice: Which songs should be part of the setlist? To me, their selection is a very good one and Going Backwards is maybe the strongest opener in this millenium! I had the luck to see those guys in Berlin and Glasgow and attended the official start of the tour in Stockholm, Sweden, so I already knew that Going Backwards was the first song of the gig.

It was a warm spring day in lovely Nice and after a day with loads of drinks and delicious food we made it to the Stade Charles Ehrmann. Many other German friends made it to Nice, too and so it was – again – a big happening of the same old crazy depeche-family. First surprise: the stadium was pretty small and the stage took place in the hall right next to the arena – pretty strange. The stage seemed to be right in the butt of the hall, where Depeche Mode played their warm-up gig in 2013!


Next surprise: There were just three beer stands and just two places with mobile toilets. Very poor in my opinion, but there still was another nasty surprise: 10 or even 11 Euros for a single beer (deposit inclusive)! The good news: finally the very popular cups with Depeche Mode on it were introduced. I am not quite sure how many there are – there are two or three different ones.


When The Raveonettes started to play their support gig, we continued our own black celebration with pricey but beautiful cups of beer. The band sounds quite okay, but to me it's just a nice background music while you're waiting for DM. Then finally it was time for Depeche! The intro was a combination of two songs: First we listened to Revolution - an old Beatles classic, before the DM-intro started - a short instrumental version of Cover Me.

Then our heroes entered the stage including Jingling-Bernd (Gordeno) and Drumming-Clown (Eigner). If you're interested: In our language we call those two guys Klimper-Bernd und Trommel-Kasper! Okay, we're making fun of it, but in general it's okay to us, that they are part of the Depeche-experience on stage. But hey – there is one guy missing, isn't it? Yeah, that's right – Mr. Gahan himself was the last one to enter the stage and he did it in the back of the band on the second, upper stage.(Spoiler-Alert: He spent to less time up there at the concert).

Going Backwards – I already mentioned it: It's a great opener – on the album and live, too. If you want to get an idea of the mood of the current tour just watch this single track. It's Depeche Mode 2017 in a nutshell: There is passion and loads of energy and some lads who are enjoying what they are doing there.

Then it's time for another energetic track, So Much Love, or as we call it A Question Of Time 2. To be honest before their first concert, I had the vision that they could do a mash-up with this two powerful songs. By the way, the weather was still pretty fine and it felt like the first real summer-gig of this Spirit-tour.

But I'm still a little disappointed when it comes to the French crowd. Were you guys still sleeping? The Swedish crowd wasn't too enthusiastic, but the French one seemed to be even quieter in this early part of the concert. Maybe they already had an idea what was coming up: Barrel Of A Gun, A Pain That I'm Used To (featuring Klimper-Bernd on bass-guitar) and Corrupt. Sorry guys, I quite like these tracks, but it's a pretty lame combination and believe me, the fans will talk of this part as the „I will go for a pee and buy some beer“ section of the concert.

Don't get me wrong: I love Barrel Of A Gun, Corrupt is one of the greatest non-single-tracks in recent band history and APTIUT is a kinda party track which made the crowd finally start to clap, sing along and enjoy the concert. But to me personally it's a wasted chance, because their back catalogue offers so much more than this.

But then to me it's the real kickoff of the concert - In Your Room! The version is pretty much the one from the album which I really appreciate hearing live again. The crowd seemed to share my enthusiasm and now it is the party I was looking forward to.

I should mention the screening on the big L.E.D. wall in the back. Corbijn's idea for this song isa dancing couple – yes, the screening was as boring as it sounds. But anyway – I really enjoyed this short trip to the year 1993 and was waiting for some more. Next stop: 1990! There are three songs from Violator in the setlist - World In My Eyes is the first one and boy, I really love this awesome new intro!

Now everyone was enjoying the concert, including those five dudes on stage and even if I hoped for a little more enthusiasm like at the German concerts, it was a pretty cool party right now. Glad, you're finally awake, France! :D

Then there was time to slow things a little down with the most beautiful track on the current album - Cover Me. I can remember that there were some German guys aged 40-something in Glasgow who started crying at this part of the concert ;) Now we're kinda used to it and maybe a little more laid-back, but anyway, this is one of the highlights of the whole concert! It's such a brilliant and beautiful melody, I love the lyrics and Dave is performing so cautiously and delicately.

I pictured us in another life - Where we’re all super stars

After this sentence the faster Kraftwerk-esque part starts and it felt like the band now was giving the audience a fairy kiss to wake us all up from a beautiful dream. Every one starts clapping along. Also - it wasn't a dream that Dave Gahan was wearing an astronaut suit, but another backing film from Anton Corbijn. I really like this one – one of the best videos in the whole concert.

Okay, we're in a chilling mode now – best time for Dave to leave the stage and for Mart to enter the limelight: Time for another „Oh, I cried in Glasgow“-moment. Martin decided not to sing his new stuff (thank you for that, Mr. Gore) and instead performed Home and again it was the version which features the full band and not just the piano of Jingling-Bernd.

I really enjoy Home so much, every time I listen to it, especially live. I love the mood of the song and the singalong part at the end. Oh, you should have a look at the video (below) I made in Bratislava at the last tour – please listen to it carefully, 'cause Mart is singing a totally different song after it. If you ever saw a Depeche Mode concert before, you know that Martin is always singing two songs in the middle of the concert. And the second song – now played just as a acoustic version – took us back to 1986: A Question Of Lust!




It's one of my very fave Gore-songs – it always reminds me to my teenage years: my first girlfriend, first kisses... And still this song is so magical to me and always put me in a trance. Thank you so much for this selection of songs! Ah, Dave is back and ready to bring us the last two Spirit songs of this night: Poison Heart and Where's The Revolution. I already mentioned it: I really like the selection of this five songs from the current album – even if I'm missing Scum very badly.

Poison Heart worked very well as a reminder to the crowd, that the ballad time was nearly over and we're now entering the party-section. Where's the Revolution is such a great live song – I especially like the last part of it when Dave wants us to sing along and you hear nothing but Christian's drums.

Now we're entering the last part of the concert – 10 more songs are to come and believe me: Depeche Mode wants as to sing and clap and scream and sweat – this upcoming part of the setlist is proof of that. It starts with Wrong - performed in a fantastic new version with an sensational intro. By the way: Here you can see that the light show isn't as shitty as we thought after the first concert in Stockholm. If you're close to the stage – most times we're „front of stage“ - you are not able to see, how beautiful it looks. If you have the chance to see more than just one concert, take the chance to watch from the distance – it's definitely worth it, no doubt about it.

Next song: The music starts and you can see it in the eyes of the most people around us – they have no idea what this could be. But then all of the sudden there was the iconic intro-sound of Everything Counts and the whole audience immediately went nuts. Right now it feels like the good old times when we used to get the chance to listen to live songs from their early years. The version played on this tour is basically not far from the album but with this all new intro it's really close to perfect.

But the classic time is not over yet – suddenly we‘re listening to the opening sounds of Stripped. This is the song which started this whole Depeche Mode-madness to me. I was 14 years old back then and a Depeche Mode fan since 1982, but with Stripped, everything changed. I decided then that I have to go to my very first concert – the rest is history.

But there are some classics still missing - Enjoy The Silence for example and that comes next. I bet they will never play just one single regular concert without this one. The version is quite okay, but not that special. It's like: „Okay, they have to play it and I have to party“. Basically there is nothing more to say about it, but there was this strange, strange screening in the back. I still have no idea what is happening there and it really left us helpless when we saw it for the first time in Stockholm. Try to imagine that you are watching „Farmer wants a wife“ on LSD while you're listening to Old MacDonald had a Farm!

There are lots of different animals on the screen, all in very strange colours. When the first animal was shown I immediately started to shout „Hase, Hase“ (which translates to „rabbit, rabbit“) and all my german friends joined me fortunately. So a unspectacular Depeche-classic and a strange video mutated to a big party with many mid-40s shouting the names of animals.


(Picture by the lovely Daniela Vorndran from www.black-cat-net.de)

After it (and after we finally figured out how to stop laughing) we got that for many years marked the end of the concert - Never Let Me Down Again. ETS and NLMDA – what a great combo to end the regular set. The people were going crazy and so were we. After some minutes and exhaustive arm-waving in the typical NLMDA-way it was time to wave our guys goodbye for the first time.

It's not a very sad goodbye, because every one knew that the guys will return soon for some more songs. After some minutes it was Martin who stands in front of us to perform another classic Depeche song: Somebody from Some Great Reward! There is once again a film on thebig screen in the back, but there is not much going on – just the word „Somebody“, which could be the proof, that Depeche Mode is not going to change this part of the setlist.

Just to recall it: Home, A Question of Lust and Somebody - Martin Gore is performing three of his very best songs! Thanks for that, Mart!

There are four more songs to come – and the first one is from 1993: Walking In My Shoes - again with a new intro and basically in a slightly different version than 2013. There is something going on in the background: we can see another video by Anton Corbijn and unlike the strange Enjoy The Silence clip, this is a very strong one! We can see a man who is dressing as a woman – I bet, it's not that easy to walk in his shoes - not in the proper sense and not in the figurative one.

Now – finally – it's time for something, that was probably the most moving and touching moment of the whole night. A big, black flag in the background, „Klimper-Bernd“ picked the bass guitar again and a programmed drum beat kicked in. Martin and his guitar cuts in and then Dave started singing:

I, I will be King
And you, you will be Queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes just for one day

When I first listened to this amazing interpretation of this great David Bowie song in Stockholm, I immediately started crying like a child. There are my personal „Heroes“  just in front of me performing such a stunning version of of song by another hero who died way to soon. I felt so sad and so touched at the same time, feeling embraced by those beautiful sounds. The Depeche Mode version of „Heroes“ isn't a complete different one – the band managed to perform it as a homage to one of the greatest musicians of all time and added just a little electronic spice to it. Believe it or not, just by writing down these lines and recalling the moment, I feel like I could cry again. Thank you for so many magic moments in my life, Depeche Mode – and thank you for adding such a special one with this cover version.

After a performance, that left me breathless, David returned to the party mode with the inevitable I Feel You. I really love the song, but I prefer listening to it at home – maybe I listened to it way too much in the 90s ;) But anyway: Great version, absolutely on point and a very vibrant performance of good ol' Dave.

Now there was just one last song missing and I bet, the most people in the audience already had an idea what was coming up: Sure – it's Personal Jesus. I am not quite sure what to think about putting this tune at the very end of the concert – why not Everything Counts guys? I looked around: Happy, singing, clapping faces everywhere! Okay, Depeche Mode – maybe it's the right decision to end the concert with Personal Jesus. Maybe you’re right.



Once more we were able to see how much fun those five guys had on stage. And this thing makes me very happy – they are enjoying the concerts in 2017! They laugh, they talk to each other and even Fletch is involved – back in 2013 it sometimes looked as if there was some kind of ice age between Dave and Andy.

After Personal Jesus, our personal heroes waved to the audience for a last time and then disappeared into the night.  Thanks for a very good and entertaining evening, Depeche Mode. And hey – thank you, Nice for letting us walk all the way back to the beach, because there was just a handful of busses shuttling. It was a quite unusual location – with a band in a very good mood, a (in my opinion) pretty cool setlist (okay, it's exactly the same one as the played the previous nights), with too few toilets and beer stands and to pricey drinks. Did I miss something? Oh, of course: It was way to silent, especially in the beginning of the concert. Pump up the volume, guys ;)

Carsten - 2nd from right

In the end it was a very special night with the band who are responsible for the soundtrack of my life and with some of my very best friends. Nice, France – we'll return, I promise! Or as Dave Gahan would probably say: See You Next Time!!




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