Monday, 18 November 2013

Review of Depeche Mode at Manchester Arena on November 15, 2013

Clifford the big brown dog
I lost track of him during the first number, Welcome To My World. Dave Gahan had just twirled on to the stage like a leather-bound spinning top. Manchester had roared. A fleet of space ships hovered above the stage spurting light and the Depeche Mode logo all over the arena:  > ⋀ ⋀.

I looked round to share a witty remark with him, but he'd vanished. Must be a bladder infection or something, I thought. He'd had to keep nipping to the gents between pints at the Wetherspoon's and the grimly contemporary Mitre pub near the cathedral. Why else would he keep going?

They say you've got the face you deserve when you get to 50. Dave Gahan is 51. He doesn't look four years older than me. I vividly remember the cherubic, chubby chap from Essex grinning his way through Just Can't Get Enough on Top Of The Pops. He's weathered the storms well. The drugs, the years, the bladder tumour. The countless feasts laid at his feet. From Epping to Manchester via world synthrock domination. Try walking in his shoes.

Still no sign of him after that singalong anthem. No text. No tweet. No nothing.

Why do bands seem to lose the joy of living when they get older? Would DM always have sounded like this if Vince Clarke hadn't created such cheerful melodies in the 80s? Would they look and sound plain daft jigging along to New Life thirty years on? That's what they were doing when we paid 80p to see them at Fagin's down the road in '81.

Now they make brooding, angsty, gothy noise - close your eyes during Angel and you could be listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Nobody's going to tweak a replacement hip joint dancing to that one. You sway, yes, you think, yes, but you don't dance, no. One Movember victim next to me conked out half-an-hour in. Splat. "Medic!" Carted off by his own personal Jesus.

Still no sign of him.

Maybe Enjoy The Silence marked the start of the DM transformation from kindergarten to autobahn. What a superb song that is. A magnificent closer on the night. Their gotterdamerung key to immortality. Just look around at the thousands of blackened souls living every word and drumbeat of it.

I didn't like the Martin Gore solo bit. No doubt that's because I just don't get enough, I'm not a proper fan, I'm mean-spirited and spiteful. All possibly true. But I paid my £65 plus booking fee to stand there after a Friday afternoon train rattle from that London and I'll say it: he looks sunken-eyed, spooky and unhappy. He makes me sad looking at him. Bring back Dave with his twirling, his Marc Almond showmanship and the happy evidence of a lifetime of sit-ups. Everything counts in large amounts.

Words like violence break the phone silence. A tweet: "Object of ridicule after I lost track of u. sloped off. C wot happens when u hit the north?" That's the Policy Of Truth, alright - another riffy winner on the night.

By now I'd threaded my way to the back to take in the widescreen view of Manchester loving every magical minute of the slow-burning Personal Jesus. The space ships descended and ascended spectacularly. The video screens offered HD proof of the passing of time and claustrophobic lady contortions. Melancholy but stirring nonetheless.

In the gents before the encore one fan, plastic beer glass in one hand something else in the other, was loudly hoping for See You, his night ruined if it wasn't played. He'll get over it.

A tram ride through the drizzle and I found him back in the Wetherspoon's, an unexpected pint of Guinness waiting for me. The drink suited the gig. Dark, roasted, creamy head. Bit too cold.


  1. G'day David. Love your blog. A big DM fan, I'm hoping they play Sydney soon. Gotta say the new album was often lacklustre and disappointing. I thought the title was odd too, considering there was very little Delta blues. 90s DM was where the treasure was. Lorne, NSW, Australia.

    1. Thanks Lorne! Agreed about the new album. Where's the uplifting joyfulness gone? Great music selection on your profile, by the way - but why no Smiths?? I recently finished the Morrissey autobiography - like reading an extended Morrissey lyric. You'd love it.

  2. No Smiths on my profile! An oversight. I'll fix that right away. Not sure whether to buy the Moz autobiography. Releasing it through Penguin Classics is a bit pretentious methinks (I'm an English teacher of 19 yrs). Agree with you about DM's lack of joy. Where are the soaring choruses from Enjoy the Silence, Walking in My Shoes, Never Let Me Down etc? On another note, what's your favourite OMD track? I'd say Souvenir. LJ.

    1. Souvenir - great choice. I still really like Enola Gay, too. Don't know if you've heard their new album, English Electric - it's excellent. Probably my favourite this year.

  3. Enola Gay's a classic. Great lyrics. Forever Live and Die always got me too - I love the anthemic chorus and bass line. I've heard bits of EE. It came out when I was in Europe earlier in the year - I remember it sitting next to DM's newie in the window of a record store in Stockholm. Mixed feelings thus far. Will have to revisit it. What did you think of the 90s stuff when it was just Andy? Some of Liberator was awesome. LJ

    1. I'll have to have another listen to Liberator. Have to admit it passed me by a bit. In other 80s news I'm currently mulling over whether to go to see ABC do the whole of The Lexicon of Love in March. Might be a gold lamé step too far...

  4. I agree, David. I'd shoot a poison arrow through my heart rather than see ABC. Never a fan. LJ