Depeche Mode/Algiers

Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 22 June 2017

"Unforgettable - not always for all the right reasons - but another remarkable evening"

Having seen Depeche Mode at the London Stadium (that's in London, England folks, just in case you were uncertain) earlier the same month, and finding that to be one of the best stadium gigs I've ever been to, I was consciously keeping my expectations in check for this German counterpart.

Seeing Depeche Mode in Germany is kinda like seeing them with a home audience. My knowledge and geography isn't that bad that I don't realise they came from deepest Basildon in the county of Essex, in England, but as they developed beyond their initial synthpop era, it was Germany and the fanatically black-clad Germans who really embraced our boys with a passion (and volume) that remains to this day.

First to the stage though were Algiers from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. Fair to say their style is eclectic. Maybe they'd prefer it be called experimental, though Williamette Week journo Casey Hardmeyer pretty much nailed it with his phrase 'dystopian soul'. Although more original than most DM support acts (poor or just completely inappropriate support acts being a never-ending weakness of their tours), the novelty with Algiers soon wore for me. Though odd moments did grab my attention, they quickly faded from my memory after the gig. 

Setlist: Cleveland, Old Girl, Irony. Utility. Pretext., Claudette, Remains, Animals, Blood

You've only got to look at any modern Depeche Mode tour and count the UK dates (and ticket sales) alongside those in Germany to see where the balance of favour lies. In this, the first leg of the current Global Spirit Tour, there were no less than nine dates in cities up and down Germany. In the UK? One date. Yep, one! Admittedly, it was at the country's largest stadium; and, admittedly, it was always pretty much a safe bet that the band would subsequently announce a second leg which would include further UK dates (which it did). But then they've added further German dates too. Just to re-enforce the point.

Oh, and what, you may be wondering, did that one UK date and those nine German dates translate to in terms of ticket sales? 65,191 in the UK. 425,661 in Germany. See what I mean?!

This was my third time seeing the Mode at the Olympiastadion. The combination of the band, their incredibly faithful local following, the connection to Berlin's Hansa studios, where they recorded Some Great Reward and Black Celebration (in 1984 and 1986 respectively), and the historical importance of the venue (where the 1933 Olympics were held under Hitler's fascist regime) always makes for a special experience.

Of course, being only a few weeks since the London gig, the setlist tonight was much the same. Although, the band tend to have two or three songs somewhere near the middle of the set, that they mix up from show to show. Martin Gore takes over lead vocals, giving frontman Dave Gahan a chance to take a well-earned respite backstage. The setlist included five songs from the latest (and best in more than a decade) album Spirit.

Depeche Mode Berlin 2017      Depeche Mode Berlin 2017   Depeche Mode Berlin 2017

The first, Going Backwards was a steady, if not enthralling, opener to the show but is representative of the tone of the album - the band's most overly political since 1983's Construction Time Again. However, the pulse and heart rate were immediately raised by the following So Much Love - one of the best of the new songs. Later into the set, the Dave Gahan penned Poison Heart though is even more dreary live than on the album. The anthemic Where's The Revolution was next and fared much better - not least because it is a better song. 

Without question, it was the (also Dave Gahan penned) Cover Me that truly shone. Hearing it on the album before the tour started, I knew this had the potential to be glorious live - and so it has been. As soon as it opened the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and - and stayed up throughout. I had tears in my eyes too - such is the power of some Depeche Mode songs - even today.

The single most memorable thing from this gig was a HUGE thunderstorm that hit the venue about half way into the performance. This had been flagged up in advance of today, but we'd hoped it might have missed us.

Berlin was experiencing a mini-heatwave in the days running up to today
(and, sods law, it was sunny the next day too!). We were out having a late lunch around 3pm when the sky quickly turned dark, the thunder struck and the rain fell heavily. But, within a couple of hours, it had largely cleared away and we (naively) thought that was it and that the much publicised thunderstorm had passed through before the gig later that evening.

It really began to rain heavily as the opening bars of Wrong rang out across the vast stadium. It's a song I love and, at first, I found the synchronicity of the rain with the music a welcome added dimension. However, it wasn't long before the phrase torrential rain was entirely appropriate.

So, this turned out to be another unforgettable gig, albeit this time not entirely for all the right reasons! Nevertheless, it was another remarkable evening. In the run-up to this tour, listening to the new album Spirit, whilst it's far from the best thing they've ever done, after just a couple of listens I knew some of this be great live - and so it proved to be. 8/10

Setlist: Going Backwards, So Much Love, Barrel of a Gun (with Grandmaster Flash The Message lyrics), A Pain That I'm Used To ('Jacques Lu Cont's remix' version), Corrupt, In Your Room, World in My Eyes, Cover Me, A Question of Lust (acoustic), Home, Poison Heart, Where's the Revolution, Wrong, Everything Counts, Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again Encore: Strangelove (acoustic, sung by Martin), Walking in My Shoes, Heroes (David Bowie cover), I Feel You, Personal Jesus

Review: Rob Dyer
Photos: Yuko Iwatani

See also:
Depeche Mode - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 9 June 2013 
Depeche Mode - Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany - 10 June 2009
Marsheaux - Hansa Studios, Berlin, Germany - 21 June 2017