[live review] depeche mode @ royal albert hall
February 18, 2010
Concert date: February 17, 2010
Depeche Mode and I go back a long way. Almost to the beginning. They may not the best music act in the world, but they are the most special to me. Even so, my expectations for last night’s concert were higher than usual.
But the boys didn’t disappoint. Yesterday evening was special.
Why? First, it kicked off the 10th series of Teenage Cancer Trust benefit gigs – a worthy cause indeed. Second, it was the Royal Albert Hall. Depeche Mode simply don’t play venues this small any more, and had never played at this one before. Third, there were (I’d been told) rumours circulating the DM corner of the internet that Something Really Amazing was on the cards.
The set opened with a few songs from their latest album, Sounds Of The Universe (2009). It’s not their best work by a long chalk (and not a patch on the previous release, 2005’s Playing The Angel). Things really kicked in with Walking In My Shoes (from 1993’s grunge-pop masterpiece Songs Of Faith And Devotion) and didn’t let up from there. Lead singer Dave Gahan was clearly enjoying himself on stage even more than usual, and songwriter Martin Gore’s vocal turns – the heartfelt ballads in the band’s oeuvre – somehow didn’t diminish the pace. Only Andy ‘Fletch’ Fletcher seemed unfazed by it all, sticking firmly to his well-honed clapping/ arms in the air/ pressing keys routine.
Highlights of the pre-encore set included A Question Of Time, Home (including impromptu jam over the audience’s singalong backing vocals), I Feel You and closer Never Let Me Down Again. All unimpeachable classics.
The aforementioned Something Really Amazing happened when Gore returned to the stage to perform Somebody – with former band member Alan Wilder, who left acrimoniously in 1995, accompanying on piano. This was the moment the band’s most fervent fans had waited 15 years for. I’m talking way more fervent than me by the way – but that single song undeniably created a brief period of rejoicing for the entire assembled congregation.
The set had one more mini-surprise – a rare performance of Photographic, the band’s first recording from 1980 – before finishing with a storming version of Personal Jesus.
The band are back at the O2 this weekend, but it’s from shows like this that future nostalgia is made. For a band 30 years into its career that’s not to be sniffed at.