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Esprit Arena, Düsseldorf, Germany
26th and 27th February 2010
Depeche Mode & Nitzer Ebb

The “Tour of the Universe” is over! There was the good, the bad and the ugly since DEPECHE MODE’s most recent tour started on 6th May 2009 with a warm-up show in Luxemburg. At the end of February 2010, Martin L. Gore, Dave Gahan and Andy Fletcher finished their tour with two nights at the massive Esprit Arena in Düsseldorf, Germany, with a total attendance of almost 100,000 fans!

The ups and downs of the “Tour of the Universe” and in the lives of the DEPECHE MODE members have been well covered in the media and fan forums alike. In particular the downs, and first and foremost the downs singer Dave Gahan had to confront. As we all know, DEPECHE MODE had to cancel quite a few gigs after their first official gig of “TOTU” in Tel Aviv, Israel, as Dave Gahan was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo surgery to remove the tumour in his bladder. Reason enough for other artists to cancel the entire tour but not for our tough Essex boy! After the mandatory break, Dave Gahan pushed to perform live again as soon as possible, and in Leipzig he returned to the stage like a phoenix from the ashes. In fact the first few gigs after the “cancer break” saw some of his best performances, both in terms of his vocal delivery and the energy he spread on stage! Big thumbs up to Mr. Dave Gahan for his dedication!

The cancer diagnosis wasn’t the last problem Gahan had to face on this tour. There was a strained muscle, severe difficulties with his vocal chords, and further cancellations. But the tour went on, from Europe to North America to South America and back to Europe. The further legs saw songs from ‘Sounds of the Universe’ dropped by and by - as well as the old fan treats ‘Strangelove’, ‘Master & Servant’ and ‘Fly On The Windscreen’ - but they also saw a band which grows more and more confident of what they are doing and a lot of happiness on stage. As much as they love to moan at the various internet forums, the fans stood loyal to the band and all the concerts were a big celebration. And after the well-deserved Christmas break DEPECHE MODE seemed to be on absolute fire despite the long months of touring they already had behind them.

One particular highlight was their show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, a show for the benefit of the Teenage Cancer Trust. In this historical venue the die-hards from all over Europe were not only treated with three songs accompanied by a strings ensemble and the 1981 classic ‘Photographic’, this event saw also the reunion with ex-member ALAN WILDER! Even if it was just for one song, ‘Somebody’, it was something completely unforeseeable, and surely something the fans are still wetting their pants over. A glorious moment! After two rather small shows in Horsens, Denmark, DEPECHE MODE headed for Düsseldorf in Germany to play their two final shows at the huge Esprit Arena. 50,000 people attended the stadium each night! The perfect place to end something what basically started as a stadium tour last summer, although the Esprit Arena has its own hassles. As impressive as it looks, the Friday night show proved that the acoustics are hard to deal with for the sound engineers. Especially in the back and the upper tiers the sound tends to be too low or, when you raise the volume a bit, too muddled and bass-heavy.

There were quite a few complaints about this after the first show on Friday night. Apart from that, DEPECHE MODE delivered a solid performance with a standard set list, and the atmosphere in the front of stage section was more than euphoric, just a pity that it didn’t translate to all parts of the Esprit Arena. A good show, though not really outstanding, and the highlights were Martin Gore’s solo spots when he did lead vocals for an acoustic versions of ‘Insight’ (from the ‘Ultra’ album), ‘Home’ and a brilliant rendition of the rather obscure ‘Black Celebration’ track ‘Dressed in Black’, which went down really well and saw ten thousands of fans singing the key line until Dave Gahan made them stop. While Martin Gore’s vocal delivery was just perfect, Gahan seemed to struggle a little with his voice during some songs; and in fact he faced some further problems with his vocal chords again. In the weeks prior the Düsseldorf show, a bad cold made its round in the DEPECHE MODE camp, which effected both crew and support act NITZER EBB as well as the DEPECHE MODE members.

In fact people close to the band claim that the Saturday show - the final gig of the tour - almost had to be cancelled!!!

What a symbol would this have been for a tour, which saw more concert cancellations than in the entire DEPECHE MODE career before? As word has it, it was strong-willed Dave Gahan who gave the doctors’ recommendation the finger and insisted on going ahead with the show as planned. The DEPECHE MODE universe would have missed a very intense, emotional and by now already legendary gig if the doctors stood up to Gahan with their advice! From the point when the doors where opened there was a sense of “last show of the tour” tension in the air, which just built up and built up. NITZER EBB’s support gig went down really well and saw as an unexpected highlight Martin Gore’s guitar tech Jaz Webb joining Douglas McCarthy on stage to deliver some extra shouts during the song ‘Payroll’. Absolutely hilarious!



The level of tension just rose during the interval between support and headliner. 50,000 fans chanted “Depeche Mode! Depeche Mode!” before Gahan & co. even got near the stage, and when the lights went out to start the show, a massive roar raised the roof of the huge Esprit Arena. The long and rather slow ‘In Chains’ was a bit of hit or miss as an opener on this past tour but on that night tens of thousands sang every line of the song from the start. Yes, this was going to be a very special night! That was truly clear from the very first moment. DEPECHE MODE made their way through their standard setlist with old and new hits like ‘It’s No Good’, ‘World In My Eyes’, ‘Precious’ or ‘Wrong’. The up-tempo ‘A Question Of Time’ made almost the entire front of stage section jump around like nuts, while the chorus of the epic ‘Walking In My Shoes’ was sung by the entire arena. The band was visibly in a very happy mood, with Gahan and Gore smiling and grinning at each other many times.



Gore started his solo part with the beautiful ‘One Caress’, surprisingly early in the set as it was usually part of the encore, and after the acoustic version of ‘Home’, the whole crowd was singing its famous hook line, merging into a nice jam session by the band. Gahan thanked “Mr Martin L. Gore”, one of the extraordinary many thank yous of this night. At one point, Gahan said to the fans “Thank you very much! You will never know how much but thank you very much!” Yes, he was particularly sentimental this night! At some points, Gahan even forgot to stroll around the stage like a peacock, doing his notorious dance moves, and just stared with glassy eyes into the auditorium. When he walked down the catwalk during ‘Never Let Me Down Again’, welcomed by 100,000 arms waving in the air to do this famous “cornfield move”, Gahan was so stirred that he even kind of broke down. Some fans who were close to the catwalk swear they saw some tears of joy in his face but however, this was clearly a very, very emotional moment for the DEPECHE MODE front man. We can only guess what was running in his mind in this moment but what a tour was this for Mr Dave Gahan!



After just two shows he was taken to hospital only minutes before he was supposed to be on stage in Athens, and then came the shattering diagnosis - cancer! A diagnosis that could stop entirely any tour but Gahan was back on stage only four weeks later. He had further health issues in the further course of DEPECHE MODE’s world tour, further shows had to be cancelled, but Gahan proved to be a real comeback kid who gets back on his feet again no matter what. You can only admire Gahan for his physical strength and especially his willpower! By that point the atmosphere in the Esprit Arena Düsseldorf was already more than boiling. Big classics like ‘Policy Of Truth’ (which saw hundreds of balloons in the audience), the hard-rocking ‘I Feel You’ or the anthem ‘Enjoy The Silence’ made sure that the massive crowd was on a constant high. The die-hards wondered if they would get any surprises in the encore, and the first song after the main set was the 1984 classic ‘Somebody’ with Gore on lead vocals and Peter Gordeno playing the piano. The song received a warm welcome but to me personally it was almost a little downer. Since seeing this song being performed with ex-member Alan Charles Wilder just two weeks before at the Royal Albert Hall this particular song felt to me like a no-go, like a sacred cow. Don’t play it unless Charly’s on the piano!



However, most people in the audience clearly loved it, just like the following ‘Stripped’ which went on this tour from sounding pretty flat to a throbbing anthem. A lot of the credits go to drummer Christian Eigner, who added a lot of energy and variation to this song, and other songs. I struggle to find words for the final two songs of this show - well, of this tour! But before a word was said and a sound was played came the craziest 30 seconds at any DM show. Just a screen test, a blue image flashing on the huge LED screen for the fracture of a second - and the crowd went mental! The die-hards knew exactly what was coming next, and everyone else joined in the massive roaring and cheering, suspecting something special would happen now. For some reason (tech issues?) it took a while until the next song actually started, and Gahan just stared at the crowd, perplexed why the heck the crowd was going insane although there was no music yet. The beats came - PHOTOGRAPHIC! The crowd response was hysterical, in the most wonderful sense of the word!



After it's first performance on this tour at the Royal Albert Hall obviously many fans watched the respective YouTube clips to death and were all too familiar with the song’s backing projection of two silver-blue, reel-to-reel tape machines. By the way, a nice self-ironic nod to the times when DEPECHE MODE used such machines as backing tapes for drums and Synth effects. ‘Photographic’ raised the pulses to an all-time high, so it was time to slow things down a little and get all emotional. After all, it was the last show of a very long tour, so Dave Gahan set out to do a little Thank You speech. He nervously fiddled in his pocket - maybe he lost his prepared speech during one of his infamous spins? - and thanked the crew, Mute head Daniel Miller, manager Jonathan Kessler, and last but not least the fans. “You make all we do very easy! You are THE greatest fans in the world!” - and he surely did not just mean the Düsseldorf audience but all loyal and devoted DEPECHE MODE fans all over the world.

But there’s one man who always introduces his band mates but who never gets acknowledgement himself - so Martin Gore stepped forward and said “What we did not do is saying ‘thank you Dave Gahan’, so can we all say ‘Thank you, Mr Dave Gahan’?” A boisterous cheer from the crowd for their admired hero, and Gahan just fell on his knees in front of Gore with his arms wide open. Only few can really know what this gesture meant to Gahan, it took “thirty fucking years” (Gahan) until he got this kind of acknowledgement from the rather introvert Gore. The mutual friendship and admiration shown in this moment gave me a lump in my throat, and the big hug of the two caused yet another massive roar from the crowd. ‘Personal Jesus’ was next, the last song of the “Tour of the Universe”. But after such special moments on stage there is surely no business as usual, especially not when there’s a crowd who prepared something special for this final songs. The German DM forum prepared a campaign prior the concert, so before ‘Personal Jesus’ even started, thousands - ten thousands - of signposts saying “DM - Come Back!” were hold up high in the air by the fans! What a view! Gahan, apparently still in another world after he was quite literally floored by Gore’s gesture of friendship and respect, somehow forgot to honour this breath-taking sight apart from a few more thank you. But it’s a safe guess that the band was certainly impressed - the sight of thousands of fans holding up posters could neither be missed nor ignored!

With all this extra excitement, ‘Personal Jesus’ went down like a storm more than ever, and the fans chanted “reach out and touch faith” for the last time this tour. More hugs followed, Gahan even commanded his buddies from NITZER EBB to join DEPECHE MODE on stage for taking a last bow in front of a an enraptured audience. And all rumours about DEPECHE MODE calling it a day and Düsseldorf being not just the last show of the tour but also the last DM show ever should be stopped by Gahan belting out “See you next time!” What a night! What a glorious, magnificent, emotional Grande Finale of the “Tour of the Universe”! The tour had its ups and downs, it had moments of pure bliss and also disappointments in store for the fans, it ended on a total high and I’m sure I’m truly not the only one who already cannot wait to buy tickets for the next tour! http://www.depechemode.com/

Setlist February 26th
01. In Chains
02. Wrong
03. Hole To Feed
04. Walking In My Shoes
05. It's No Good
06. A Question Of Time
07. Precious
08. World In My Eyes
09. Insight (acoustic)
10. Home (acoustic)
11. Miles Away / The Truth Is
12. Policy Of Truth
13. In Your Room
14. I Feel You
15. Enjoy The Silence
16. Never Let Me Down Again
---
17. Dressed In Black (acoustic)
18. Stripped
19. Behind The Wheel
20. Personal Jesus

Rating
Music: 9.9
Performance: 8
Sound: 8
Light: 9.5
Total: 9 / 10
Setlist February 27th
01. In Chains
02. Wrong
03. Hole To Feed
04. Walking In My Shoes
05. It's No Good
06. A Question Of Time
07. Precious
08. World In My Eyes
09. One Caress
10. Home (acoustic)
11. Miles Away / The Truth Is
12. Policy Of Truth
13. In Your Room
14. I Feel You
15. Enjoy The Silence
16. Never Let Me Down Again
---
17. Somebody
18. Stripped
19. Photographic
20. Personal Jesus

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 9.5
Sound: 9
Light: 9.5
Total: 9.6 / 10




All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com/ / http://www.black-cat-net.de/ / www.myspace.com/vorndranphotography)


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