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introSportpaleis, Antwerp, Belgium
25th January, 2014
Depeche Mode & Feathers

A 'Black Celebration' and a strong comeback...

Many people were waiting around the corner to criticize their show. A thirty-three year career, thirteen albums, including the youngest, ‘Delta Machine’, which delighted some and disappointed others. In addition, four years ago, the last tour of these synth-pop pioneers, was well below expectations, mainly because of the relatively poor performances of Dave Gahan, who was fighting against a cancer.


Tonight, the Sportpaleis is sold out. In spite of the traffic jams, we arrive just in time for ‘Welcome To My World’, the introductory song, and missed the support act FEATHERS. On the stage, behind the band, we see a huge video screen, composed of several triangles, which evoke the ‘Delta Machine’ logo. The musicians are placed as usual: Martin Gore on the left and Dave Gahan in the centre. Behind him, Christian Eigner, the drummer and on two podiums behind: Peter Gordeno on the left and “Fletch”, aka Andrew Fletcher, the third original member of the band, on the right, both playing keyboards.


It is not a coincidence that the first two pieces of the set, ‘Welcome...’ and ‘Angel’, are from ‘Delta Machine’: the guys are very proud of their latest production and I must recognize that their blend of blues, rock and electro works perfectly on stage as well. Later in the set, ‘You Should Be Higher’, another ‘Delta Machine’ song, composed by Dave Gahan, will also collect a nice success. But, unsurprisingly, the biggest public support comes for the band's classics: first ‘Walking In My Shoes’, featuring a very powerful final by Christian Eigner, ‘Precious’, embellished with a strange video with dogs or ‘Black Celebration’, very dark and hypnotic.


The two main leaders, Martin Gore and Dave Gahan, look very fit and happy to be there. Gore is, as always, dressed in a very “glamorous” fashion with an androgynous twist plus, like during the last shows mostly, with a “Free Paco” shirt, while Gahan is wearing his traditional sleeveless jacket. Gahan is full of energy and clearly demonstrates he's is in very good form. He has given up taking illicit substances and is now a fan of jogging and fitness! The result is beautiful to see: he twirls on the stage like a ballerina from left to right, engaging the audience to sing the choruses - no doubt, one of the best showmen in rock history is back!


After the very effective ‘Policy of Truth’, it is already time for the first break of the concert. Gore and Gordeno remain alone on stage to perform acoustic versions of ‘Slow’, a very hot blues, revealing to those who did not know that Martin Gore really has an exceptional voice, and ‘But Not Tonight’ another song from the "Black Celebration" era, the B-side of ‘Stripped’ single. Gore is usually very discreet, even shy, but here, he walks on the stage ramp into the audience and encourages fans to sing the "ooh, ooh" at the end. The crowd does that and even continues to sing when the music stops and this, for several minutes. Then Dave Gahan returns on the stage and is clearly amazed by what is happening: a magical moment.


As a transition, the band plays another blues from ‘Delta Machine’, the beautiful ‘Heaven’, enhanced by a haunting video by Anton Corbijn. Then the “DM Machine” starts rolling, first with ‘Behind The Wheel’, followed by Jacques Lu Cont's remix version of the very NINesque ‘A Pain That I'm Used To‘, on which Gordeno leaves his keyboards to play some bass guitar front stage. The energy goes one step higher with ‘A Question of Time’ and finally reached its climax with the first guitar notes of ‘Enjoy The Silence’. The screams from the audience is a deafening din. More than 20,000 fans are singing the chorus with Gahan. The final touch is provided by an exceptional version of ‘Personal Jesus’: it starts very slowly, like a teaser, and then the song explodes, like a moment of pure sound orgasm.


For the encore, Gordeno and Gore return alone again for a sublime acoustic version of ‘Shake The Disease’. The melody is haunting and during the passage "Understand Me…", Martin Gore claps his hands and the gesture is taken over by a subdued public. The encore continues with the Goldfrapp remix version of ‘Halo’, which miraculously benefits from a very clear sound, followed by ‘I Just Can’t Get Enough’, the song that DEPECHE MODE has played the most on stage in their 33 years career, and still a fan favourite. ‘I Feel You’ is quite disappointing, drowned in a slurry sound. But the strongest moment is, not surprisingly, the final song, ‘Never Let Me Down Again’. It has been a tradition for a long time now: at a specific time of the song, Dave Gahan comes in front of the stage and lifts his arms in the air. 20,000 fans also lift their arms and when the final riff starts, the whole venue starts swinging the arms from left to right. The crowd then looks like a corn field moving with the wind. A unique moment that gives me goose bumps every time...


In conclusion, an excellent concert. DEPECHE MODE is back and stronger than before. This is largely due to Dave Gahan, a great showman, the likes of Mick Jagger, Bono, etc. He has an amazing charisma and the unique ability to speak to everyone, from the first to the last rows. The setlist was perfect even if we regret the absence of jewels such as ‘Strangelove’, ‘People Are People’ or ‘Master And Servant’. The only negative points are the venue and the sound, very confused, as usual at the Sportpaleis. It is high time to renovate this venue and to update it to modern technology! But the live sound of DEPECHE MODE is also questionable. It’s much too raw! The drums are much too heavy and the mix lacks in finesse, clarity and dynamics. But let's not spoil our fun. DEPECHE MODE concerts are unique moments, true “celebrations” of music and life... Gahan came very close to death a few years ago, but now he and his band are more alive than ever!


01. Intro ( Excerpt from 'Welcome to My World')
02. Welcome to My World
03. Angel
04. Walking in My Shoes
05. Precious
06. Black Celebration
07. Should Be Higher
08. Policy of Truth
09. Slow (Acoustic; Sung by Martin )
10. But Not Tonight (Acoustic; Sung by Martin )
11. Heaven
12. Behind the Wheel
13. A Pain That I'm Used To ('Jacques Lu Cont's Remix' Version)
14. A Question of Time
15. Enjoy the Silence
16. Personal Jesus
17. Shake the Disease (Acoustic, Sung by Martin )
18. Halo ('Goldfrapp Remix' Version)
19. Just Can’t Get Enough
20. I Feel You
21. Never Let Me Down Again

Music: 8
Performance: 9
Sound: 6
Light: 9
Total 8 / 10


All pictures by Daniela Vorndran ( / /

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