NIA, Birmingham, 19/11/2017
published: 23 /
DAve Goodwin watches 80's legends Depeche Mode play to a packed NIA Birmingham as they tour their new album 'Spirit', 37 years and 14 albums after their debut, 'Speak and Spell'.
Who would have thought that the skinny Basildon synth pop boys who formed Depeche Mode way back in 1980 would this year be one of the nominees for 2018's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After listening to 'Speak and Spell' on the way down, which was THE album to own at that time, the present album 'Spirit' seems like an age away, not just in time but in sound and band appearance. And it is: it's 37 years and fourteen studio albums later!
So we entered the impressive NIA humming Depeche tracks that we had been listening to on the way, you know the ones, tracks like 'Master and Servant', 'Precious' and 'Personal Jesus'. This tour is off the back of the launch of their latest offering, 'Spirit'. Support act The Retros, all the way from Beijing, were pretty good to be fair. One thing we noticed right from the off though was the heat. It was totally tropical in the arena, and once it was full of bodies it was at boiling point, which was good because the moment Depeche hit the stage they were on fire. After 'Revolution'(Beatles)and 'Cover Me' had played via on-stage video, out they came to 'Barrel of A Gun', complete with Grandmaster Flash sample. The trio of Dave Gahan, Martin L Gore and Andy Fletcher are a five piece on-stage nowadays, and the old days of doing the circuit in the south-east has changed to packing arenas like this one. The sound generated from the stage though is something else and the light show just as good.
Gahan was in good spirits (if you'll pardon the pun), the master of the stage making use of every nook and cranny to sell us his wares and sell them he did. The voice showed no signs of giving up and neither for that matter did the energy. Dressed in simple trousers and waistcoat he meandered the huge stage along with gantry about a quarter way up the back splitting the video screen so he could be seen in silhouette.
They worked their way through 'Useless' and gave us a fantastic rendition of 'Precious' followed by 'World in My Eyes', 'Cover Me' and a soul-searching version of 'Insight' where Gore was left on his own. A little later crowd participation was at its best, singing back to 'Everything Counts'. There were only three tracks from the new album however, probably due to the band's vast repertoire of songs.
'Enjoy the Silence' and 'Never Let Me Down' finished the twenty-song set, and coming back out to 'Strangelove', 'Walking in My Shoes' and 'A Question of Time' almost sealed the night, but we were sent home just the same way as we entered with our own 'Personal Jesus'.
Photos by Dave Goodwin