Anyone flying over London tonight is in for one hell of a sight. It’s stadium gig season, with Harry Styles at Wembley, Arctic Monkeys playing north London’s Emirates Stadium, and we’re in the distant posh suburbia of Twickenham for Depeche Mode. Three acts in very different stages of their career, but there’s a very present hunger for this particular mega-show.
The Essex synth pop legends are playing their first show in the capital in nearly six years, their first since losing Andy Fletcher, the renewed interest from the acclaimed 2023 album ‘Memento Mori’ and old favourite ‘Never Let Me Down’ blowing up streaming from its inclusion in The Last Of Us. Fans of all ages in varying degrees of goth are expecting a statement gig.
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There’s an almost false start feeling to opener ‘My Cosmos Is Mine’, its spacey ambitions not quite reaching the distant corners of the cavernous Twickenham Stadium, but the Gahan-penned Kraftwerk-indebted punchy pop gem of ‘Wagging Tongue’ soon lifts the mood as the frontman (resplendent in silky black and electric blue waistcoat) endlessly twirls – part ballerina, part vampire, part sexed-up snooker player. His charisma is everything. The first bona fide classic comes next with ‘Walking In My Shoes’, as Gahan takes a beat to show off his fetching white leather boots.
Coldplay might insert LEDs into your gums while Muse recreate War Of The Worlds with some balls-out bombast, but there’s an effortless cool to Depeche Mode’s stadium approach. The Anton Corbijn stage design is sparse and simple, with just the giant M lettering of the new record and some tastefully simple visuals, leaving everything else down to the songs and personality with no pyro or pratting about.
They may be demigods to their leather-clad cult, but tonight Depeche Mode have never seemed so human. “The beautiful angelic sound of Mr Martin Gore, in London town,” beams Gahan after his bandmate takes the lead for the artful musical theatre of ‘A Question Of Lust’ and ‘Soul With Me’. The macabre spectre that haunts ‘Memento Mori’ emerges for the pop perfection of ‘Ghosts Again’, now received like an old favourite’, before the face of the dearly departed Fletch later lights up the screens for ‘World In My Eyes’. “Let’s hear it London, Mr Andrew Fletcher”, offers Gahan to a rapturous response.
The famously fractious tensions in the band seem to have given way to fraternity, never more heartwarming than during the pally wedding dancing between members that closes the monolithic ‘Enjoy The Silence’, or the tender hug they share after Gahan and Gore’s duet on ‘Waiting For The Night’.
What ultimately hits the hardest is the generosity of bangers and the graceful energy they arrive with. Look at that setlist: the bittersweet euphoria of ‘Everything Counts’, the furious stomp of ‘I Feel You’, a gnarly outing of ‘Wrong’, the Jacques Lu Cont dancey swagger of ‘A Pain That I’m Used To’, and that encore? ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ into ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ into ‘Personal Jesus’? Come on. We’re in sexy goth heaven. You feel spoiled as an audience member, and we’d be lucky if this good feeling and compulsion of Depeche Mode’s current purple streak continues for years to come.
Depeche Mode played:
‘My Cosmos Is Mine’
‘Walking in My Shoes’
‘It’s No Good’
‘Sister of Night’
‘In Your Room’
‘My Favourite Stranger’
‘A Question of Lust’
‘Soul With Me’ (Acoustic)
‘I Feel You’
‘A Pain That I’m Used To’ (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)
‘World in My Eyes’
‘John the Revelator’
‘Enjoy the Silence’
‘Waiting for the Night’
‘Just Can’t Get Enough’
‘Never Let Me Down Again’