It’s a far cry from their humble origins. Leaving school in 1979, Martin Gore worked as a bank clerk for Nat West in Fenchurch Street, saving the money he earned to buy a Yamaha synth. He joined a band featuring Andy Fletcher, an insurance clerk for Sun Life, and Fletch’s best mate Vince Clark, who also had a keyboard and was saving up to buy a guitar. They called their band Composition of Sound…
Back in the present day, and everything seems more complicated compared to those halcyon days. It’s two weeks since a suicide bomber attacked Ariana Grande fans in Manchester, and later this evening after the concert there’s another terrorist incident a couple of miles down the road at London Bridge.
The world is a messed up place. But if we can’t still go out and enjoy a gig, they’ve won, haven’t they?
So tonight we celebrate all things Depeche Mode, a band who still appear to operate outside the mainstream, and have a following so devoted, the majority continue to eschew anything but black on the hottest day of the year. As we take the train to Stratford, DM fans all stand out a mile, having rejected anything that might resemble a colour, and on their way to the rock n roll equivalent of church.
Because going to a Depeche Mode concert has long been more an act of communion than a mere gig for those in the know. From Gahan’s Jagger-like dancing and arse-wigggling, to Fletch’s slightly dazed “what exactly am I doing here?” smiles and hand clapping, Gore’s solo spots and star shaped guitar, to the synchronised arm-waving of “Never Let Me Down” which always looks so impressive, and does even more so when there’s 80,000 people in the congregation.
The events tonight and two weeks ago in Manchester may raise doubts, but they will never shake Depeche Mode fans from their faith and devotion.
“Where’s The Revolution?” is the lead single from new album Spirit, but it’s a blast of The Beatles’ Revolution that precedes DM’s arrival, before Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher shuffle onstage to “Going Backwards” – a highlight from the new album. Gahan delays his appearance before joining them in a resplendent red velvet jacket and rakish Terry Thomas moustache, for a moment resembling a Vegas lounge singer. The jacket lasts about a song and a half before Gahan discards it.
The set builds. “So Much Love”, also from Spirit, quickens the pace, “Barrel of a Gun” from Ultra is a satisfying dip into the back catalogue, and “In Your Room” feels like a highlight of the first part of the set until “World In My Eyes” really gets the crowd going, despite a slip from Gahan mid-song that sends him flying.
Then it’s time for a couple of Martin Gore’s songs. He takes centre stage, all eye liner and blond hair, resembling an overly sincere panda, and sings “A Question of Lust”, aided by eighty thousand voices which echo through the stadium like a football crowd. It’s an amazing moment and for a moment he looks quite moved. Gahan may have the rock star moves, but Gore’s voice is DM’s secret asset. “Home” goes down equally well.
A remixed “Wrong” is an upgrade on the album version, and a little rain starts to fall as Gahan strides down the catwalk, taking him into the audience for “Everything Counts” which gets perhaps the biggest reaction of the evening.
By now we are in the home straight, and the band show their stadium credentials firing t shirts into the crowd during “Enjoy The Silence”, and tearing through “I Feel You” and the evening’s closer, “Personal Jesus”.
But there’s an additional track in those encores that is an interesting piece of Depeche Mode history…
This is the part of the review where things go wobbly on screen, and I take you back nearly forty years to where we were at the start of this review….
Gore, Fletch and Clark would rehearse at Woodlands school in Basildon.
Next door to their classroom/rehearsal room was another band rehearsing, called French Look, which Gore also played in and whose sound engineer was called Dave Gahan. (We’re assuming a teenage band rehearsing in their local school can have a sound engineer. Let’s just say he turned a few dials and switched the equipment on).
One day Gahan picked up the microphone and began to sing a song, which grabbed Clark, Fletch and Gore’s attention.
This lad could sing. There was one issue: Gahan was a soul boy, and Clark et al, in the nicest possible way, were geeks.
However, this unlikely combination was a perfect match. Gahan brought an element of “cool” that Gore, Clark and Fletch were lacking.
Before too long, Gahan was in Composition of Sound. It was June 1980. In less than six months, Composition of Sound became Depeche Mode and were attracting reviews such as the one from the Basildon Evening Echo that graces their The Singles: 81-85 LP and which is one of my favourite lines in a live review:
“They could go a long way if someone pointed them in the direction of a decent tailor…”
And the song Dave Gahan sang in that rehearsal room?
It was one from David Bowie’s then album-before-last, recorded at Hansa studios in Berlin and called “Heroes”.
And thirty seven years later Gahan sang the song again, at Depeche Mode’s biggest ever show. The same song that so attracted Gore and Fletch’s notice in that comprehensive school classroom.
Eighty thousand people? The red velvet jacket may suggest they never found that decent tailor, but Depeche Mode have certainly come a long way…
Categories: Live Reviews