The progenitors of synth-pop release album number fifteen and begin a worldwide tour in support.
I would assume that calling Dave Gahan and Martin Gore the grandfathers of synth pop or some equally trite descriptor would be met with droll British cut-eye. So, I’ll avoid such cliches while marvelling at Depeche Mode’s awe-striking lastability. Formed in Essex in 1980, along with Andy Fletcher and Vince Clarke, they hit the UK top ten with their first shot, Just Can’t Get Enough from 1981’s Speak and Spell. Despite Clarke’s departure, they did it again in 1983 with Everything Counts off Construction Time Again. Their breakthrough album, Some Great Reward launched the band into the stratosphere, where they’ve remained. Following albums Black Celebration, Music for the Masses, Violator and Songs of Faith and Devotion kept them at the new wave vanguard while many 80s compatriots peeled off into obscurity. While personal problems dampened their output through the later 90s, they never stopped producing music and touring. Sadly, Fletcher died suddenly after suffering an aortic dissection in May 2022, never hearing Depeche Mode’s latest release, aptly titled Memento Mori.
Opening the night was Welsh übertalent, musician and producer Kelly Lee Owens. Surrounded by a few keyboards, the artist filled Scotiabank Arena with some of the most innovative and interesting music I’ve heard in a while.
Five songs from Memento Mori peppered the setlist from the tour supporting it, beginning with My Cosmos Is Mine and Wagging Tongue. However, the audience perked up when Walking In My Shoes began. Gore spent much of the first half of the show behind a keyboard or guitar, while Gahan defied his almost-61-years of age and danced and jogged the width of a stage that featured an enormous M edged with neon and a thrust into the middle of the floors. The first roaring singalong of the night came when the band, backed by Christian Eigner on drums and keyboards and Peter Gordeno on keyboards, bass and backing vocals, launched into Everything Counts. The crowd wasn’t what one would call the most diverse generationally. While I did spy one mom just fucking giving it, her Gen Z daughter while dressed for the occasion was more interested in scrolling Instagram. Unabashedly Gen X, I felt like I was at a junior high school reunion with 16,000 former classmates. For this cohort whose introduction to Depeche Mode may have been via Some Great Reward, we would be disappointed to not get a single song from the album in the set. Despite this egregious omission, the setlist as a whole was clearly geared to deep cuts to please the lifelong fan and the band. Stand out moments following included a pair of songs, A Question of Lust and Soul With Me sung solo by Gore and backed by Gordeno. Ghosts Again proved that the duo can still write a dance-pop banger, while I Feel You reminded us of how they did it back in 1993. A tender moment honoured Andy Fletcher when they dedicated World in My Eyes to him with his face full on the video screens. Enjoy The Silence ‘ended’ the show, before they returned after a pause.
Sidenote, it’s perfectly fine for bands to never again pretend they’re done the show only to return for an encore. We get it. Take a pause, towel off and have a drink, we’ll wait patiently till you return. No need for faux goodbyes.
The encore began with Gore and Gahan at the top of the thrust singing Waiting For The Night together. It was a sweet song that ended with the two hugging. Their enduring partnership of over 40 years truly is one of the greatest that continues till today. A number of songs could be considered for what would end the night, but surely they’d be high energy hits. The trio of songs began with Just Can’t Get Enough where I swear they took the piss a bit to sing “just can’t get it up”. Never Let Me Down Again and Personal Jesus were the arena shutdowns one expects them to be as they ended the show.
This North American leg of the Memento Mori tour wraps tonight at Madison Square Garden. But fear not, European Deppers, the Euro leg begins in a month. And if you missed them this time on this side of the pond, they’re coming back in the fall to do it all again.