I'd originally planned to try to get to one of the Madison Square Garden shows on this tour but that proved impossible. It's a gig that many people travel from far and wide to attend and one of those people is Michael Lyons from Belfast, a man who has seen Depeche more times than many of us could dream of. Michael is in New York for both shows and happily for me, he asked to review the first night. As expected, it's a great review and it features the views of Messrs Gore and Fletcher. Look out for two more reviews from Michael on this tour from Dublin and Mexico City. Thanks Michael. All photos here are Glyn Tookey and Michael's so don't steal them.
This will be an interesting show tonight for me for a number of reasons, not least because I've never really had a desire to travel to see the band in the United States before, but also, the opportunity to go to New York and Madison Square Garden was too good to turn down. The reason I've never been fussed on a US trip is my built on impression of the American crowd being more reserved than the European equivalent and the all seated shows. I've never seen a Depeche show where the ground floor is all seated. Given I was drawn into the Depeche thing in 1984 by the electric atmosphere in the crowd, the idea of a more reserved audience, in seats with all that personal space...well let's seeif tonight, will it live up to those very mild expectations or will it surprise me and be better than that? I'm looking forward to the iconic venue and to see the spirit show indoors with all my European summer shows having been outdoors in the sun and the rainfall (hello Berlin). I arrived on Friday evening closely followed from London by Glyn Tookey aka 'Spooks' to join the early arrival from Dublin of Holby city crew of Dr. Kevin Devlin and his good lady Dr. Julie Anna Rankin. So breakfast has been had and now we're off to catch the mighty Manchester United play away at Stoke City before getting ready for the other main even tonight. The weather is sunny, a comfortable 20 degrees and I'll send an update later hopefully with a picture or two.
So we arrived at MSG around 6pm, collected our tickets and had a look at the merchandise stall. Some new items in there that weren't on the European leg so that was nice. The staff at MSG were very welcoming, lots of smiles and 'welcome to the garden' and 'have a great night' greetings. We were lucky to have friends and family accreditation for the show and a very smart New York branded laminate which will be a cherished souvenir. We made our way to the backstage hospitality area and met up with some friends, had a beer before making our way to our seats located just at the end of the catwalk.
The newly refurbished MSG looked gorgeous and every bit the iconic venue we'd hoped for. My previously mentioned low expectations from a crowd noise and participation point of view were soon dispelled when the band took to the stage to a terrific roar from what looked like a very non-typical Depeche Mode crows compared to what I'd normally see in Europe. No evidence of the black swarm and lots of very well dressed, very affluent looking New Yorkers. The first thing that struck me was the sound, just so much better, more powerful and engaging indoors than out. And before long we got to see for the first time how good the light show really is, again something that doesn't always work well outdoors. Right from the off, Dave seemed to relish his adopted home town night out, the usual animated facial gestures along with the now polished showman routine was being delivered to perfection once again.
I won't bore you with this song and that, we all know what the setlist is, some highlights however for me were the moments when he gestured for the house lights to come on, lighting up the audience and exposing the scale and beauty of the venue, moments that also bring massive noise from the floor. Musically the epic crescendo that is Cover Me takes the audience away into space with their spaceman for a brief moment, a fantastic part of the show.
Everything Counts had an extended singalong and it almost felt like a star trek type transportation back to the Rosebowl, one of a few quite nostalgic moments I felt. Another was the roar that greeted World In My Eyes It was unlike anything heard all night. The Americans are different than the Europeans in that respect, the affection for those 88/90 era songs which are really are given a welcome beyond all others.
A nice look to the sky and a kiss blown to heaven by Dave finished off the brilliant Depeche cover version of "Heroes" and, all in all, I was pleasantly surprised as to how atmospheric and engaged the audience were, given everyone had a seat. Different than Europe yes but not disappointing at all.
There was a large aftershow party hosted by the band afterwards where Dave made an appearance, chaperoned by Jennifer who held his hand throughout! Martin and Fletch were on good form, Martin keen to have it confirmed that it was a quiet crowd, something that we couldn't really agree with on but interesting. He said that the energy they get from the crowd does vary from show to show and does have an impact on how they feel about it during and afterwards. So it's a sightseeing day today for us, before returning again on Monday for the 2nd night. After last night, very much looking forward to it, obviously very happy to have made the journey.