Live Music + Gig Reviews

Depeche Mode @ Twickenham Stadium, London

17 June 2023

Dave Gahan and Martin Gore bring music to the masses once more with choice cuts from new album Memento Mori and big hitters from across their career

Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode (Photo: Anton Corbijn)

Depeche Mode have been giving stadium gigs for longer than many of us have been having hot dinners. The legendary 101 album and documentary shows how well suited they were to the format back in 1988 – and this date at Twickenham, their only UK appearance while touring 15th album Memento Mori, gives fans a long-awaited opportunity to reacquaint themselves with the band.

First, a chance to take in the supporting pretenders. Any doubts about the suitability of Young Fathers for a stadium audience are emphatically swept away within seconds of their opening song, I Saw. The band are thrilling to watch, prowling the stage like feral cats as their music takes hold. There is barely concealed anger here but countering that is a celebration of rhythm, the drums underpinning Toy and Rain Or Shine taking on a primal power, with vocals totally on point. Get Started is a highlight, its serrated production and powerful vocals helping the band win new converts.

Much has changed since Depeche Mode were last in London in 2017. The sad loss last year of keyboard player Andrew ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, which threw the future of the band into doubt, is used as a positive to spur on founding members Dave Gahan and Martin Gore. At times their relationship has been that of fractious brothers, but here there is a telling and winsome closeness within the band as they celebrate their lost friend on World In My Eyes. Equally poignant is Waiting For The Night, a highlight from Violator accompanied by Peter Gordeno and Christian Eigner on keyboards, and sealed by a hug at the end. The faithful stadium rousers do their job once again, but there are more layers of subtlety than before. Gahan has retained his vocal proficiency, and although the voice on occasion has a haggard edge the rich baritone provides the ultimate in uplifting spiritual balm, arms outstretched in angelic pose.

The crowd enjoy singalong choruses of Everything Counts and A Pain That I’m Used To, while Gahan delivers a rough-hewn I Feel You and, with Gore at his side, hurls down the gauntlet with the upper case chorus of Wrong. The song carries great substance in these times, as does John The Revelator, his fake news dissected and thrown to the dogs. Yet in the midst of the world’s trials and tribulations, it’s good to report there is still room for a trademark wiggle from the Gahan posterior. Gore’s vocals have gained in stature, too, and as he takes the lead for A Question Of Lust he wanders along a central platform into the Twickenham throng.

Memento Mori gets its moments in the sun, its elegance and soulful restraint slotting in effortlessly with the rest of the band’s output. The lyrics allow them to acknowledge the passage of time but also sing of old wounds that are healing. Ghosts Again is particularly moving, while Soul With Me and Wagging Tongue are not far behind.

Then there are the big hitters, the Mode staples heard far and wide. Walking On My Shoes bares its teeth early on, and by the encore the band are flying. Never Let Me Down Again is sung as though their lives depend on it, the extra resolve and power surely pointed in Fletch’s direction. Enjoy The Silence is sublime, beaming out like a beacon into the starry night and the planes flying over the stadium. There is a jubilant Just Can’t Get Enough before the final absolution, the plea to ‘reach out, touch faith’ on an exultant Personal Jesus. Effortlessly taming the crowd, Depeche Mode have once again given us music for the masses.

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