Depeche Mode

Waldbuhne, Berlin, Germany - 25 July 2018

"Many were deeply moved and in tears"

Editor's preface: The concert was being filmed for a new documentary, shadowing fans following the band on tour. A kind of a sequel to DA Pennebaker's Depeche Mode: 101, which was filmed at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, USA in June 1988 - 30 years ago. At the time of this gig there were rumours circulating that this would be Depeche Mode's last ever gig.

Almost a month has passed since Depeche Mode ended their latest tour in Berlin. Despite the time that has passed, I still feel that my mind is left somewhere in the city, wandering around in midnight Kreuzberg and dusty passages of Olympiapark in the heat. Yeah that heat. Unbearable yet memorable for a finale like this.

So looking back - what is it that really happened? Yes, Depeche Mode played two shows at Waldbuhne, Berlin, the very last ones of the 14 month long Global Spirit Tour. Seemingly simple, but it was so much more. So many things happened in such a short period of time and I'm still struggling to find right words to describe all. How would you describe the feeling of getting inside the iconic Waldbühne and seeing the actual stage for the last time on this tour?

Also, the feeling of seeing other fans wearing a DM t-shirt in every corner of the streets. Then the feeling of meeting so many friends that have known you for ages in a single place. To me they are all beyond words. It's something that can only be experienced by being there and living in the moment. If you ask me what I thought of the shows after all these weeks, all I will do is to smile back and try to answer everything with that silly smile...

The day we all waited for so long, yet few wanted it to come. Feeling uneasy we spent the morning hanging out at the mall of Berlin near Potsdamer Platz. Funny how certain part of memories fades away and never come back. Looking back, I do not recall anything else other than that I had a curry wurst, thinking constantly about the last show! Literally it was the wurst moment of my life, ha, ha!

Up until this point, Depeche Mode had played 128 shows around the world, the latest at Lollapalooza Festival in Paris a few days before. The band had musically evolved playing a few different songs on every leg, constantly breathing new life to existing ones like Enjoy the Silence (longer intro) and Walking in My Shoes (longer outro). However, to our dismay the setlist got shorter and shorter, from 22 (summer legs), 20 (autumn/winter), and 15 (festivals).

Then, as if none of that mattered, they turned the setlist upside down for the first night here (two days prior on the 23rd July), performing 20 strong songs similar to the first leg. Quite a move given that they hardly change setlists on the tour unless it's different legs. So Much Love, one of the strongest tracks from Spirit made a surprise comeback, as well as Wrong, an absolute classic from Sounds of the Universe. What other surprises would they have in store tonight, if they could change the set like the night before before last? I was optimistic about the show.

Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018
     Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018    Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018

Time has passed and it was time to head to the venue. The celebration mood mixed with strange excitement started building as we took S-Bahn from Westkreuz, seeing more and more people dressed in black. It was like visiting a Depeche Mode Museum - you could see all kind of fans in various outfits; everything from plain casual to chains and fishnet in black eyeliner, and of course in DM t-shirt of all periods imaginable. Strangely enough they all looked well blended in. No matter the styles and characters we all had one thing in common: to see Depeche Mode for the last time.

After walking from nearby Pichelsberg station, we were greeted by a huge bell tower and square. Built in 1936 for the Berlin Olympics, Waldbuhne (a natural amphitheatre) has served for all kind of purposes including sports, political propaganda, cultural events, and music. Seeing the sculpture of two naked athletes at the front gate gave me a strange shiver down the spine. Iconic and almost symbolic of the Berlin history, I felt excitement running through the body.

Having seen Depeche Mode in Berlin four times before, I was eager to see how the audience would respond to the last show of the tour. The crowd at the front stage area were well in the mood as I sat down at Block C, centre of the arena about 40 metres back. After enthusiastic clapping and chanting fans started making Mexican waves through the whole arena. What a sight! Again I started thinking that this could be the last time we would see all of this.

Well on time, it started with The Beatles' Revolution as the intro music. Strong energy shooting into the skies over Berlin. Any 'cloudy' thoughts disappeared instantly as Dave Gahan sauntered onto the stage, wearing sunglasses, arms open. What an iconic posture! Well symbolic of Where is the Revolution promo video in which Dave give a Lenin-like impersonation. Only here they opened with Going Backwards. He slowly climbed up the stairs and stood in the middle of the gigantic LED screen. "Ignoring the realities. Going Backwards. Are you counting all the casualties?"

Dave's voice echoed through the arena, setting the tone for the show. It may not be the strongest song melody-wise, however, the lyrics is truly up there among the darkest and heaviest they have done. I guess this is where their strength lies. Singing dark melodies together bringing out such redemption and catalysis among listeners… Oscar Wilde once wrote "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." In many ways I think it's true with Depeche Mode's music.

Just as hoped, the setlist of the evening changed again. A 1997 classic, It's No Good instead of So Much Love, Useless instead of Corrupt, and Precious and Poison Heart. Again the band delivered them wonderfully. Unlike the first night, where Dave looked and sounded very emotional, tonight he looked more relaxed and enjoying himself. Same intensity as in any nights, but he looked a bit more laid-back asking "How is Berlin tonight!?" in a playful manner.

Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018    Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018    Depeche Mode Waldbuhne, Berlin 25 July 2018

Then came the first surprise of the evening: The Things You Said. Iconic bass-line backed by Martin's just as iconic vocal, it was received with huuuge applause. Oh how long we have waited to hear it again! All in all he has never sung this song since the Pasadena Rose Bowl show in 1988. It was so moving to hear it for the first time after 30 years that it almost brought tears in my eyes. I'm sure many felt the same too.

Another highlight for me was Never Let Me Down Again. Just before the massive arm-waving would kick in fans waved their national flags in the air, showing the boys where we came from. Another moving moment, a solid proof that their music knows no boundaries. If there was a peace conference taking place in Berlin I dare say that it took place at Waldbühne that very night!

Then came another emotional high hitting my senses. Followed by the mid-tempo beat, Dave started softly "I wish you could swim, like the dolphins" Yep, David Bowie's Heroes. Recorded at Hansa Studio by the Wall, it was so special to hear it again here in Berlin. Funny, it was this song that got Dave in the band as he auditioned in 1980. Then almost 40 years later he sang it again at the very last show. What a beautiful moment.

The show ended with an extra number, cheesy yet almost obligatory Just Can't Get Enough. At this point the show was turning into a massive celebration of their 38 year long career. Therefore ending the evening with this number was like an obvious call. Again the crowd was ecstatic, singing and dancing to every word of the song. Total triumph!

So was the evening at the lovely venue in the German capital. After the show I met up my dear friends. Giving each other big hugs and promising to meet up again we slowly walked out to meet my family who was also attending the show. Many of us were deeply moved by the show and in tears.

Strangely enough, I was in a mixed feeling. Sad and emotional on one hand, fulfilled and optimistic on the other. Perhaps it was because I have seen them many times on the tour that I got used to it somehow. Then somewhere else - part of me believing that they would come back again in 4 years. All in all they have always returned tour after tour, trouble after trouble in their career. If they could continue for 25 years after the Devotional Tour, 4 years seem like nothing to worry about, right? I guess we will all wait and see.

Last, but not least, I also want to add that it was the first time for Amuro, my 11 year old son to attend a live concert. What a perfect way to start one's musical journey with their last show. Looking back 20 years later, I sincerely hope that he would say it with pride "My very first concert was Depeche Mode with daddy and mommy!9/10

Setlist: Going Backwards, It's No Good, A Pain That I'm Used To (Jaqcues Lu Cont remix version), Useless, Precious, World in My Eyes, Cover Me, The Things You Said, Insight (acoustic; sung by Martin), Poison Heart, Where's the Revolution, Everything Counts, Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again, Encore: I Want You Now (acoustic), Heroes, (David Bowie cover), Walking in My Shoes, Personal Jesus, Encore 2: Just Can't Get Enough

Review: Mototaka Fujii
Photos: Yuko Iwatani + Rob Dyer

Here's the full multi-cam of the show, made by my good friend Janne, partially filmed by me.