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Depeche Mode @ LG Arena, Birmingham, UK, 27th January 2014

So on a slightly wet January eve we head to the LG Arena and make it with just one minute to spare. Mega-giants of the dark side of electronica are here tonight, and 15,000 loyal devotees are here because they know they are guaranteed one hell of a gig. Andy Fletcher, Martin L. Gore and Dave Gahan, aka Depeche Mode, are here to give us a black celebration…

Formed way back in 1980, first single ‘Dreaming of Me’ did little, Second single ‘New Life’ a poptastic track got them on Top of The Pops and started them on one hell of a journey. ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ which they deliver tonight in all it’s glory (although a tad harder, Gahan vocals deeper) made the top ten. Their first album ‘Speak and Spell’ was greeted with mixed reviews – Rolling Stone calling it ‘PG-rated fluff.’ Original member Vince Clarke called it a day – a tottered off to create Yazoo, The Assembly and Erasure. But the rest of the lads weren’t gonna give up . An advert in Melody Maker brought them Alan Wilder, who remained a member ‘til 1995. Success grew and grew megastardom called and they embraced it, in more ways than one…

So to confirm – DM have had over 50 songs in the UK charts, thirteen top ten albums, sold over 100 million albums worldwide. 2013 brought new album ‘Delta Machine’ plus a worldwide tour which at the end of 2013, just halfway through, they had played to nigh on 1.4m people – grossing nearly $100m – 9th on the list of top 2013 worldwide tours.

And so tonight – we’re welcomed to their world indeed – as they lead us in with the first track from 2013‘s ‘Delta Machine’, followed by ‘Angel’. We’re already hooked and that’s before we get the deep darkened dance track that is ‘Walking in My Shoes’. ‘Precious’ on their slightly lighter side from ‘Playing the Angel’ leads us to the darkest place to celebrate ‘Black Celebration’. There’s other classics here too – ‘Policy of Truth.’

The set is simple – high definition screens showing the band live or their trademark arthouse videos. ‘Precious’ we get dogs of all breeds. Who know’s why – this is Depeche – and we don’t ask – nor do we care. Gahan is spinning and turning, dancing with his snake hips – his vocals are well on form, performed with a huge grin on his face, the waistcoat opened to a scream from the audience. And to a Martin L. Gore interlude as he takes the lead – giving us haunting renditions of ‘Slow’ and ‘But Not Tonight’ before Gahan and the boys are back. The first single of ‘Delta Machine – okay we’re all there too – ‘Heaven’ before Gahan takes charge ‘Behind the Wheel.’ 15,000 people are dancing and cheering. That unique Depeche indie electronic howl blazes out as we get ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ And to a question we’re asking, cos it’s just flying by tonight: ‘ Question of Time.’ Gahan is stripped to the waist; still dancing, spinning, engaging, grinning. Then ‘Enjoy the Silence’ before a hardcore version of the clippity-clop classic that is ‘Personal Jesus.’

We’re enthralled and as they take a break, we cheer and wait. Gore is back. This time for his truly haunting and beautiful rendition of ‘Shake the Disease’ – a song with a haunting howl that as it concludes the crowd repeat back. The band cease playing, Gahan is back and he’s conducting us and we continue with the repetitive howl. We’re grinning, the band are grinning; Gahan is like a Cheshire cat. If he told us to jump off a cliff, like lemmings we would. Next up ‘Halo’, then that dance classic ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ followed by the rock grind that is ‘I Feel You’, a track that we feel too. We’re still dancing. And then to the finale – ‘Never Let Me Down Again ‘ and for this wave your arms from side to side and never stop.  And if our arms start to ache – don’t watch Gahan – he’s still giving it one million percent.

And then it’s over. Just over two hours gone in a flash.

I first saw DM in ’84. At the Birmingham Odeon. Tickets were just £4.50 (before the days were booking fees and any other additional charges were even invented). Who would have dreamt that 30 years on they would still be doing this and still delivering and then some. While tickets tonight are 10 times as much as they were thirty years ago, there’s lesser bands who charge a hell of a lot more to see them.  And ok, as you can gather, I’m one of the devoted, I’ve seen them more times than I can mention. What makes DM different is that they’ve stuck to their guns, at times not deemed cool, but they are truly uniquely. They take their own path. And always have done. They’ve inspired a generation of bands from so many genres (they were the first band to issue a house track), a have a huge back catalogue of classic unique tracks. Every time they play – they know what the fans want – they deliver the new and the classics too. They may not have the presence in the UK;  to the rest of the world they’ll be playing stadia – but they choose not to ignore their home fans and we love them for that. Some may think they’re retro, but new track ‘Goodbye’ was used in the trail for the last ‘Luther’ series. You’ve heard their recent stuff – it’s used on TV all the time. Tonight was DM on form and when you know they are having a blast on stage, you do too. Gahan pure ability to give, vocally at the best he’s ever been (check him out on last year’s Soulsavers album ‘The Light The Dead See’) and he delivers with more energy than most guys half his age – with passion and a broad grin. Live DM give one million percent.

They’ll be back, probably in 3 to 4 years, cos in thirty odd years, whatever the roller-coaster journey they’ve had – they’ve never let us down…

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Setlist:
Welcome to My World
Angel
Walking in My Shoes
Precious
Black Celebration
Should be Higher
Policy of Truth
Slow
But Not Tonight
Heaven
Behind the Wheel
Pain That I’m Used To
Question of Time
Enjoy the Silence
Personal Jesus

Encore:
Shake the Disease
Halo
Just Can’t Get Enough
I Feel You
Never Let Me Down

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Gig Review for Gig Junkies;  Photography by Katja Orgin