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depechemode46Nice, Palais Nikaia, France - 4th may 2013
“DEPECHE MODE are going to do a warm-up show for their forthcoming world tour in Nice? We don't have the money, we don't have the time, the journey is too long - by all means, we're in!”

A trip to Nice, France, to see the DEPECHE MODE warm-up show for the upcoming Delta Machine world tour

After the release of the new album ‘Delta Machine’ in March, the official start of DEPECHE MODE's world tour 2013/14 is on May 7th at the Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv, Israel. But just like the last tour, DEPECHE MODE played a warm-up concert before the official tour start. In 2009, Luxembourg was the place to be for seeing the new show first [see our report] and this time the warm-up show was taking place three days before the official kick-off at the beautiful Palais Nikaia in Nice, France. For die-hard fans, this gig was an absolute must! It was the first time to check out the “Delta Machine Tour” without seeing, hearing and reading all the details on the net before, and it was a chance to see the full show in a rather intimate indoor setting instead of some huge football stadium. Intimate is of course a very relative term when it comes to DEPECHE MODE.


The sold-out Palais Nikaia has a capacity of 9,000 and most bands would be more than happy to attract such numbers to their gigs. But we're speaking here of a band which is in some parts of the world as big as U2, COLDPLAY or perhaps even the ROLLING STONES. In 1988 DEPECHE MODE played the legendary '101' show at the Rosebowl in Pasadena, California in front of almost 80,000 fans and this gig is still considered a milestone in the band's career. 25 years later DEPECHE MODE have a '101' moment several times a week when they tour Europe, at least when talking about attendance. From the Olympic Stadium in Berlin to the Stade de France in Paris to San Siro in Milan, the list of huge stadiums DEPECHE MODE play these days (and manage to sell out in no time!) is truly impressive!


But numbers aside, the big question is if DEPECHE MODE is still able to deliver as a live act? After all, 1988 was right in the middle of their heyday, their peak level era as ground breaking artists and as stunning and innovative live performers. On the other hand, opinions differed on DEPECHE MODE's last few albums, and besides the mixed reactions to their studio work, DEPECHE MODE's live tours in recent years showed a band which rarely stepped out of their personal comfort zone. Among fans there have been fears that the new tour might be yet another predictable “Best Of” tour with a few new tunes thrown in. Optimists (probably a rather rare species among DM fans) hoped for a mind-blowing concert experience as the new album 'Delta Machine' displays arguably a revitalized and strengthened band. At the end of the day the show in Nice proved both camps correct to some extent. But, so much we are going to give away already, the optimists had the better points in the long run!


When the warm-up gig in Nice was announced our first thoughts were that we wouldn't be able to make it. The journey would be too long, the air routes are a bit dodgy and expensive, and personal commitments were in the way as well. Second thought: we just HAVE to be there! Seeing the 'Delta Machine' show first, meeting old friends, staying in a wonderful city at the Mediterranean, all this was way too appealing! And so we got our tickets quickly, booked flights and made appointments for a pre-show meet-up with DM buddies from all over Europe. Our journey started very early on Saturday morning, which meant for one of us getting no sleep at all as he came straight from a DJ gig - quite fittingly at a DEPECHE MODE party! The car ride to the airport was smooth, we were there early and everything was relaxed. When we waited for boarding, we saw the first few DM fans waiting for the flight to Zurich, where we had a transfer, too.


In Zurich, we met another friend who was coming from Frankfurt and there were even more DEPECHE MODE shirts to be spotted on the plane from Zurich to Nice. Approaching Nice was an experience, it looked great from above when the plane was circling over the sea to approach the airfield and the weather was quite wonderful. When we left the airport building, bright sun and palms were awaiting us. We caught a cab to enter the city and meet friends from the international Home Depeche Mode forum and some friends from Germany at Wayne’s Bar in the historic centre of Nice. We had a wonderful afternoon there with nice chats, drinks and food. Time passed quickly. We did not leave for the venue too early. Time with friends was more important and we did not want to stand first row anyway (well, we got there later nevertheless…).


After leaving the bar we arrived at the venue around 7pm, when the doors were already opened. Excitement was increasing! Inside the venue there were a few bars but with horribly long queues. It took ages until you got your drinks, and despite the rush demand the service team didn't seem to be particularly in a hurry. A few more bars and a staff that realizes that people are thirsty and hungry might have doubled the volume of sales, easily. However, as soon as we were victualed with food and drinks we entered the standing area from the back door in the middle. And the area was absolutely packed! As we heard later the doors at the sides were not checked and probably people entered the standing area without having tickets for it. We originally planned to get a nice spot in the middle but there was simply no space and small persons could not even see the stage there.


So we moved to the left where it was less crowded, it was even possible to get quite close to the stage. We even met more friends there (DEPECHE MODE fans are truly one big family) and the girls sneaked in in the front row with a quite good sight to the stage, right in front of a big screen which was used later during the show. The lights surprisingly went out ten minutes before eight o' clock, earlier than expected, and the concert night started with British band F.O.X. This band from Essex,UK, is a really young group that was only started in January 2013, having just released their debut album 'Chimera'. You might wonder why such a young band becomes support act at a DEPECHE MODE show. It is kind of a great story. Singer Mitzi has sent Dave Gahan a few demos when they were working on their album, as she told in an interview, not thinking they’ll get any reaction. But Dave obviously liked the music and now, F.O.X got the support slot for five DEPECHE MODE shows, including the warm-up in Nice.


When the band entered the stage, we really were curious what would be presented now. The band is so new that no one of us really knew what to expect. The female fronted band (consisting of Mitzi Fox, Darren Barker and Patrick Monahan) presents Electro Pop with some 80s Wave influences and some Dance elements. “Synth Pop meets Lady Gaga”, as one of us jokingly said. The reactions to F.O.X were a bit mixed, not everybody enjoyed Mitzi’s voice. Where we were standing the sound wasn't the best anyway but people standing more in the centre of the venue seemed to enjoy the show and no one booed, as it happened infamously with so many DM support acts in the past. Half an hour later their show was done and the stage was prepared for DEPECHE MODE! During changeover, a DJ set was played - most probably again one compiled and mixed by Mr Martin L. Gore himself, just like the last couple of tours. Earlier than expected the cove lights were turned off and the spot lights on stage turned on and at 20:45 the first sounds of the intro resounded at the Palais Nikaia, resulting in a wave of sheer enthusiasm when the band one after another entered the stage. Here we go, let the game begin!


The first song of the show is also the first song on 'Delta Machine'. 'Welcome To My World' really thrusts itself as being the opener of the performance with its creeping, droning synth noises which build up to a bigger-than-life hymn. Although Dave Gahan almost missed the cue for his first line it soon became clear that he is in absolute top form! His voice sounded amazing throughout the entire night, perhaps also thanks to the in-ear monitors he finally uses. He didn't use them on past tours and frequently he just yelled against the wall of noise coming from the big speakers. At the Palais Nikaia his vocals had almost studio quality, let's just hope that his delicate vocal chords are going to bear up with his very long tour!


'Angel' was next, a track that has already proved its qualities as a live monster at the couple of short gigs DEPECHE MODE did during the promotional campaign for the release of 'Delta Machine'. Speaking of these live showcases: The band has really benefited from these short one-hour gigs in New York City, Austin, Vienna and Los Angeles. In a way DEPECHE MODE did not really need to warm up in Nice, the band seemed to be very well rehearsed already and in absolutely high spirits. Martin Gore and Dave Gahan in particular quite clearly enjoyed themselves on stage and Dave was always up for anything fun and showing big smiles while he was flaunting from one edge of the stage to the other. He still is somehow the Elvis of the Post Punk era. Ostensibly proud as a peacock he prances around the stage, shakes his hips (much to the pleasure of the female fans) and there's hardly a Rock God pose he wouldn't love to attitudinise with all of his heart.


But Dave does all this with a subtle (self-)irony and a lot of playfulness so that you are always willing to forgive this Essex boy for his camp performance. He doesn't take it too seriously himself, and perhaps this is no surprise for a man who has seen the dark side of life more than once. Drug addiction, a suicide attempt, even a cardiac arrest for two minutes and a cancer diagnosis during the last tour in 2009, all this has been well documented in the press. Surely Gahan knows all too well that self-importance and Rock star life mean nothing in the end – but hey, there's still nothing wrong with having a good time and some fun when on stage, isn't it? And DEPECHE MODE's audience in Nice was eager to be part of the fun. Gahan had the crowd in the palm of his hand while the band performed a blistering set focussing heavily on their 1990s material and, of course, the new album.


Personally I could have done without 'Precious' and 'Policy Of Truth' as they were already standards of the last few tours but no-one can deny that they got a rocking response from the audience. Quite interestingly my personal moment of ultimate fan hysteria as well as the biggest bummer of the night happened during the very same song: When the ticking sequence of 'Black Celebration' kicked in, my heart missed a beat and feelings of nostalgia and euphoria rushed through my body when the sounds merged into an overture of epic proportions. But when things were meant to go truly ballistic the new version of this classic just fell flat and plodded along until it was over after only four minutes. Perhaps many other fans didn't care as they were happy enough to get to hear it at all. But if you ask me, DEPECHE MODE should seriously beef up the main section of the song for the rest of the tour.


But there was not much time for such nit-picking thoughts. The awesome 'Should Be Higher' came in and brushed away any musings and the visuals to this song were simply breath-taking! Blazing sparks and tongues of fire jumped from one LED screen to the next until they illuminated the entire venue in bright orange and red colours. The new stage setup really looks magnificent and much more interesting than the simple rectangular LED backdrop they used on their last tour. The triangular LED screens behind the band gave an account of the new DM logo on the album sleeve, and added up to one big screen. There were also two long, angular LED screens under the roof of the stage and at the sides two massive LED screens which showed the band's performance in super-king-size. The huge open air shows are going to benefit from these sideways screens for sure!


After 'Barrel Of A Gun', which DEPECHE MODE already exhumed for the above mentioned showcases, it was time for Martin Gore to get into the focus. When he started to strum his guitar there was a sense of anticipation among the crowd and when he began to sing the line “I can taste more than feel...” there was a moment of shock: Oh my gosh, it's ‘Higher Love’! But hey, why are Fletch, drummer Christian Eigner and keyboarder Peter Gordeno still on stage when this is an acoustic version? Because it isn't! With the line “ a higher love” the song crossed over to the full album version and provided one of the most glorious moments of the night. The following 'The Child Inside' from 'Delta Machine' could not really pick up this momentum and saw the crowd being as quiet as during no other moment of the gig. But the close-ups on the side screens revealed that Gore dedicated all of himself to this song. A very passionate and emotional performance but I'm afraid I'm in a minority liking it.


'Heaven' finished the slower middle section of the set and was accompanied by a brand new black & white video shot by Anton Corbijn, of course. I have to admit that it was the only time that I felt that the visuals distracted a little too much from the band's performance but it was great anyway. The second 'Delta Machine' single, 'Soothe My Soul', was next and with its bouncing beat it proved to be a rousing live song. And for the second half of the main set DEPECHE MODE kept up the rapturous speed with the ecstatic 'A Question Of Time' and a pretty astonishing new version of 'A Pain that I'm Used To'. It must have been ages since the last time it took me a while to figure out which song is playing right now at a DM show but all the more this new live version, based on a remix by Jacques Lu Cont, was pretty exciting. Another interesting detail was that Peter Gordeno left his keyboard racks to play the bass guitar next to Martin Gore, who worked his Gretsch guitar. Might be a first for DEPECHE MODE, and the Indie Rock meets Electronica grooves of this rendition might set the house on fire when played in the warm evening sun at the open airs this summer.


The only time DEPECHE MODE choked the tempo a bit at this part of the set was when they performed the Gahan-written 'Secret to The End'. A great track but it felt a little misplaced in the set. But the band raised the spirits again just after it. The big crowd pleasers 'Enjoy The Silence' and 'Personal Jesus' are of course essential and indispensable. At the Palais Nikaia they did what these showstoppers always do to a crowd: Welcomed by a big roar of the crowd as soon as the first signature sound rings out, and joyful and loud sing-alongs for the rest of the song by a crowd that absolutely loses it. Dave Gahan obsessively kept the crowd engaged and ran to the end of the catwalk to let the fans belt out the final “reach out and touch faith” of 'Personal Jesus'. It would have been a typical DEPECHE MODE routine to finish the main set at such a peak level vibe but surprisingly a moody blues guitar rose to a slowly pulsating beat. 'Goodbye', the last song of the new album, finished the set and left the audience in a much more sentimental mood than 'Personal Jesus' would have. But starting with 'Welcome To my World' and finishing with 'Goodbye' does make sense in a way, doesn't it?


The fans of course yearned for more and quickly Gordeno, Fletcher and Gore returned for a heart-warming rendition of 'A Question Of Lust'. After that the fans got an unexpected treat with a slow and very emotional version of the 'Violator' classic 'Halo', based on the remix GOLDFRAPP did in 2004. Some might have missed the rolling and droning basses of the original but for many fans it was an unrivalled highlight of the show. A very touching, wistful and wrenchingly beautiful moment featuring a Dave Gahan who was absolutely into it. Anton Corbijn's clever film on the backdrop screens deserves a special mention as it helped to create a perfect moment. After this balladry highlight DEPECHE MODE exposed the crowd to an emotional seesaw starting with the happy-go-lucky 'Just can't Get Enough' from 1981, which raised the party level a few miles. 'I Feel You' followed and this dark anthem with its roaring guitar riffs is quite the opposite of the song before. It's one of those standards you get at any DM show but the band presented a slightly reworked version with elements of the RENEGADE SOUNDWAVE remix from the original 12" single. Last but not least there's 'Never Let Me Down Again', another showstopper and in this case in two different ways. There's of course the tradition “wheat field” of waving arms and the final part of the song, the so-called 'Aggro Part' sounded really energetic and powerful. A dignified finale to a memorable night!


DEPECHE MODE have done so many things right with their first show of the 'Delta Machine' tour! Admittedly, they did a few things wrong – for example, that the song of the same title didn't make it into the setlist is a bit perplexing. After all it was the successful lead single of the last album 'Sounds Of The Universe'. The band should also refine the setlist a little to improve the flow. 'Goodbye' is probably better off as the final song of the encore after 'Never Let me Down Again', and 'Secret To The End' and 'Soothe My Soul' probably should switch slots to improve the drive of the second half of the main set. But first and foremost DEPECHE MODE should do something about 'Black Celebration', this great classic just sounded dire and dull after the anthemic intro. A pity! Few grievances aside, DEPECHE MODE did put on a hell of a show which instills a longing desire for more!


The show in Nice was no warm-up, it HEATED things up! And DEPECHE MODE delivered many things many fans yearned for: Significantly reworked live version, some old gems that weren't performed live in quite a while, a show that looks much more exciting than the last time around, and a positively shocking total of 8 new songs from 'Delta Machine'! The boys must be proud of their new stuff, and quite rightly so! Summer tour, here we come!

Setlist Depeche Mode (credits to the Forum)
01. Intro (Welcome To My World instrumental)
02. Welcome To My World
03. Angel
04. Walking In My Shoes
05. Precious
06. Black Celebration
07. Policy Of Truth
08. Should Be Higher
09. Barrel Of A Gun
10. Higher Love (begins as bare version but from the chorus on full electronic)
11. The Child Inside (fully electronic but with Peter only)
12. Heaven
13. Soothe My Soul
14. A Pain That I'm Used To (Peter Gordeno on bass guitar)
15. A Question Of Time
16. Secret To The End
17. Enjoy The Silence
18. Personal Jesus
19. Goodbye
20. A Question Of Lust (full band version)
21. Halo (Goldfrapp Remix)
22. Just Can't Get Enough
23. I Feel You (with bits of the Renegade Soundwave Remix)
24. Never Let Me Down Again

Rating Depeche Mode
Music: 9
Performance: 10
Sound: 9
Light: 10
Total: 9.5 / 10


When the final sounds of the DEPECHE MODE set were faded and the band had left the stage for good, it took us a while to see and think clearly again. Of course being together with die-hard fans meant discussing the show and setlist started immediately. We were standing quite a while in front of the venue to discuss things and meet up some people we so far missed. The plan was to go back into town now to meet up again at Wayne’s Bar but when we finally arrived there, the venue was so packed that no one really could get in. Meaning other fans had the same problem; we walked to a nearby café and had some drink there, plus some food later. Time passed and we were slowly getting tired, at least some of our group. Since we did not had a hotel room – our flight was going back early in the morning – we caught a taxi to the airport where one third of the group decided to sleep on a bench.


The rest was not as tired and we did not see the beach at all during the day. So we took a night walk, passed the airport area and finally reached the beach where we sat down, listened to the waves and discussed the day a bit more. Two hours later back at the airport it soon was time for check in. It happened as it was bound to happen, we met lots of more fans, some of them were friends we missed the day before. So the ride back was also really nice, even though we were all deadly tired. But well… isn’t a DEPECHE MODE warm-up worth all those exertions? Back home to normal life I have to say: I regret no single second of this trip. And I am ready for more! London is already calling!


All pictures by Daniela Vorndran ( / / /

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