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depechemode spiritsintheforest
Artist: Depeche Mode
Title: Spirits in the Forest (Live Spirits)
Genre: Electronic Rock
Release Date: 26th June 2020
Label: Columbia (Sony Music)


DVD / Album Review

About 30 to 40 meters is a safe distance. Safe from Dave Gahan’s histrionic overacting, making faces and grimacing constantly, pretending to be half Las Vegas Rock God and half wacky pimp. Not that I would have been aware of this safety distance when I was actually there, at the Waldbühne in Berlin, to witness DEPECHE MODE’s final two shows of the “Global Spirit Tour”! I just happened to be not too close to the stage, and I was busy having a great time with my DM buddies. And in all honesty, for the last two years I've told people that the two nights at the Waldbühne were among the best concerts in the last twenty years! Those hot summer nights in July 2018 truly had something magical about them, I loved every minute of them and there were a few pretty emotional moments. But I have also to be honest that now, two years later, watching close-ups of Dave Gahan’s face in high definition is indeed a little cringe-worthy at times. And while Gahan is lasvegassing on stage, Gore looks as if he even doesn’t want to be there and Fletch is just cool and does his occasional robotic daddy dancing. Glad that the last two didn’t change much...

It is interesting that being there in person on one hand and watching a film of the same event on the other can be such profoundly different experiences. And no, this is not going to be a scathing review of DEPECHE MODE’s latest concert film. It is more about the good, the bad and the brilliant about modern-day DEPECHE MODE.

The main feature of this 4-disc release is meant to be ‘Spirits in the Forest’, a documentary by long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn about a handful of fans from all over the world telling their stories and who all end up experiencing the final show of the tour at the Waldbühne (“forest stage”) in Berlin together. Much has been said about this documentary already since it hit movie theatres worldwide last November. In a way it is the counterpart of ‘101’, the band’s legendary concert film and documentary from 1989 by D.A. Pennebaker which followed a bunch of partying teenage fans following the band in a bus up to the final show of the ‘Music For The Masses’ tour at the Pasadena Rose Bowl. ‘Spirits in the Forest’ is a much more serious and thoughtful journey, letting six fans from various corners of earth telling their stories in their own words and how much DEPECHE MODE shaped, or even saved, their lives. A rather calm and often quite emotional movie, probably not what all fans hoped for but which is, according to Forbes magazine, “the new gold standard for concert films”!

But the ‘Spirits in the Forest’ documentary is old news for most fans, so the concert recording ‘Live Spirits’ featuring the full performance on July 25th, 2018, is the true attraction for die-hards. And here we have the first problem of this release: DEPECHE MODE played two nights at the Waldbühne, two nights were filmed and recorded there but if you hoped to hear any songs from the first night on July 23rd you are going to be disappointed! ‘Barrel Of A Gun’, ‘Corrupt’, ‘Wrong’, all these songs were mainstays for most of the ‘Global Spirit Tour’ in 2017/18 but are nowhere to be found in this release. In an interview with NME director Anton Corbijn stated that he reluctantly agreed to this project, first and foremost to document the backdrop videos he produced for the ‘Global Spirit’ show. So, it’s all the more baffling that even ‘In Your Room’ and ‘So Much Love’ are missing here, too, even though they had elaborate screen projections by Corbijn for the tour. Previous DVD releases had the screen projections as a bonus but this seems to be a thing of the past. A shame!

On the plus side we get ‘Useless’, which wasn’t performed live since the ‘Singles Tour’ in 1998, the DAVID BOWIE cover 'Heroes' and Martin Gore delivers renditions of his two ‘Music For The Masses’ songs: A rare piano version of ‘I Want You Now’ and ‘The Things You Said’, which hadn’t been played live since the legendary ‘101’ show and which got one of the loudest roars from the crowd that night. Mind you, it’s just an old album track which wasn’t performed live in three decades, yet it gets a similar crowd reaction as global hits like ‘Enjoy The Silence’ or ‘Personal Jesus’! If you pack a venue like the Waldbühne with die-hard fans from all over the world, then things like these happen.

Speaking of crowd and venue, in a way they are the secret stars of this concert film. The Waldbühne is truly an amazing and beautiful venue, a steep amphi theatre in the outskirts of Berlin, a city that has a special meaning in DM’s history and in the fans’ hearts, anyway. No surprise that fans from all four corners of the world spared no pain to be part of this special two-night event to finish off the ‘Global Spirit’ tour. If you watch closely you can see that many of them brought their national flags with them, as if this was some sort of World Cup event and not “only” a concert. England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Argentina, Peru, Chile, and many more - no surprise that there was quite some magic in the air! The fans celebrated themselves at the Waldbühne, feeding off anything the band would offer them. So, some of the most spine-tingling moments are when the camera turns around to film the audience when they do some of the loudest crowd singalongs in recorded history. And the crowd just didn’t want to stop, as in particular ‘Everything Counts’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ prove. In fact, the fans were still singing when the band left the stage already and when the headlights were switched on.

It’s only in hindsight that you notice that this wasn’t exactly DEPECHE MODE’s best performance ever. The opener ‘Going Backwards’ sounds messy, Martin Gore’s backing vocals sometimes come in a little late, octopus-armed drummer Christian Eigner seems a bit over-ambitious and Dave Gahan was apparently in a silly mood that hot July night. But you have to give him credit for being still so energetic and powerful at the end of a long tour with 135 dates! Halfway through the show, I think during his own ballad ‘Cover Me’, he stops over-acting for a second and smiles an authentic smile, lost in thought and enjoying the moment thoroughly. This guy simply loves to be up there on stage! Daylight is gone, the big hits come, and Dave is by and large back to normal. The second half is among the best live footage DEPECHE MODE has released since ‘One Night In Paris’ from 2001, and again, that’s to some extent thanks to the amazing audience.

So, DEPECHE MODE went the extra mile for these two nights in Berlin, playing a few songs they haven’t played in a while and changing half of the setlist the second night. Ten different songs – that’s close to a miracle in DEPECHE MODE terms! Just a pity that Anton Corbijn - and the record company, for that matter - didn’t go an extra mile, as well. The extras are rather a let-down. Sure, it’s nice to have the show on two audio CDs and there’s also the option to choose 5.1 surround sound for the DVD / Blu-ray. But that’s it! Every fan would have loved to have the songs from the first night as a bonus, as well as Corbijn’s screen projects as standalones. Didn’t he want to document these in particular? So, where are they? The cardboard sleeve isn’t too exciting and looks kinda cheap, the layout of the booklet is lazy, and the DVD menu is so basic it could have been done by anyone. There's not too much love for detail in this product. Martin Gore once said jokingly in an interview that the band’s motto was “Will this do?” but sometimes I’m afraid it’s only half a joke.

But fans will buy the ‘Spirits In the Forest’ package no matter what, and to be honest there are enough good reasons why it should be in every fan’s collection. The beautifully filmed second half of the show, for example, and ‘The Things You Said’ and the kick-ass new version of ‘Everything Counts’ alone are already worth the money. For all who attended the shows at the Waldbühne it is special memorabilia, anyway. In the end, ‘Spirits In the Forest’ is not perfect but good enough to be worth having.


Tracklist

Disc 1 (DVD/Blu-ray) - Spirits in the Forest - Running time 1:22 hours

Disc 2 (DVD/Blu-ray) - Live Spirits
01. Intro
02. Going Backwards
03. It’s No Good
04. A Pain That I’m Used To
05. Useless
06. Precious
07. World In My Eyes
08. Cover Me
09. The Things You Said
10. Insight (acoustic)
11. Poison Heart
12. Where’s the Revolution
13. Everything Counts
14. Stripped
15. Enjoy The Silence
16. Never Let Me Down Again
17. I Want You Now (acoustic)
18. Heroes
19. Walking In My Shoes
20. Personal Jesus
21. Just Can’t Get Enough

CD1
01. Intro
02. Going Backwards
03. It’s No Good
04. A Pain That I’m Used To
05. Useless
06. Precious
07. World In My Eyes
08. Cover Me
09. The Things You Said
10. Insight
11. Poison Heart

CD2
01. Where’s the Revolution
02. Everything Counts
03. Stripped
04. Enjoy The Silence
05. Never Let Me Down Again
06. I Want You Now
07. Heroes
08. Walking In My Shoes
09. Personal Jesus
10. Just Can’t Get Enough


Line-up

Martin L. Gore
Dave Gahan
Andy Fletcher

Live musicians:
Peter Gordeno (keyboards, bass guitar, replacing original sounds with pre-sets, backing vocals)
Christian Eigner (drums, pointless fills)


Website

http://www.depechemode.com / https://www.facebook.com/depechemode


Cover Picture

depechemode spiritsintheforest


Rating


Music: 9
Sound: 8
Extras: 5
Total: 7.3 / 10




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