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Depeche Mode, Manchester Arena review - synth-pop gurus raise the spirits of thousands | reviews, news & interviews

Depeche Mode, Manchester Arena review - synth-pop gurus raise the spirits of thousands

Depeche Mode, Manchester Arena review - synth-pop gurus raise the spirits of thousands

Eighties icons storm through a set that’s equal parts prettiness, darkness and pomp

People are people and pouting is pouting

For a band as big as Depeche Mode, in a venue as big the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena, on a tour as big as their current Spirit tour, it almost doesn’t need saying that the pre-gig atmosphere is buzzing.

A major presence on the British music scene since their 1981 electropop debut Speak and Spell, they’ve since tried their hand at goth, new wave, rock’n’roll, industrial music, and classical piano, all of which has helped birth this year’s politically-influenced Spirit. Now, stood before hordes of people who grew up with their music, they’d be praised no matter what they played. That doesn’t mean they’re lacklustre by any means, though: there’s something in their performance for everyone.

The band start off with Spirit cut “Going Backwards”. It climbs slowly through spacey synths and trudging drums, warming the audience up for the mammoth 20-song set awaiting them. “We have not evolved” croons singer David Gahan in its opening bars, though the music seems to say otherwise; the newer material isn’t aping their older work, but stands on its own merit.

The crowd are like an extra band member

Cryptic signs, paint splatters, animated shapes and monochromatic films play out behind the band, who loom below in all-black. Founding member Andrew Fletcher in particular looks like the Terminator in his large black sunglasses and table of synths. Martin Gore’s black-painted nails take the intricate guitar parts all night, whilst Gahan marches, skips and prances his way through every song, sometimes salsa dancing with the mic stand, sometimes just stood shaking his hips at the audience, who lap up every second of it. The crowd are like an extra band member, practically taking over singing duties on songs such as “Enjoy The Silence” and “Where’s The Revolution”.

The gently chugging intro of Black Celebration’s “Stripped” gets one of the largest cheers of the evening, although it doesn’t ever properly lift off in the usually tragic chorus  it’s as if the band have taken the song name literally and whittled the music down as a result. Luckily, it’s an anomaly in a set which, for the most part, perfectly marries Depeche Mode’s stadium-filling poppiness with their characteristic melancholy. Nowhere is this seen more than in “World In My Eyes”. Bathed in soft pink light, the drums snap and dance alongside the audience, constantly pushing the downbeat melodies onwards. “Never Let Me Down Again” is also breath-taking in its stomp and force.

Gore gets a moment in the spotlight during encore track “Judas”, which he gives the emotional piano-with-vocals treatment. It’s then just two short songs until their final offering of the night, the rollicking and triumphant “Personal Jesus”. As the last bars ring out round the arena, it seems that every pair of hands in the room is raised, desperate to “reach out and touch faith”. It can’t be easy for a band to condense 36 years of hits into one evening, but Depeche Mode have managed it  and managed it extremely well all the same.


Gahan marches, skips and prances his way through every song


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I was at the concert last night and I cannot fault the performance of the band, I was disappointed with the set. Whilst it is difficult to get the balance right between 'old' and newer songs, I felt that they left it late to play some of their more well known songs that in the end really got the whole arena up on their feet. This is when the atmosphere really upped a level but then the concert came to a close. Would have been better if they started and finished with their older, more well known songs with songs from their new album in the middle of the set, in my opinion.

All the songs were well known ! It depends on how much you know and listened to them ... they have done more than ‘ just can’t get enough ‘.

I agree, Spirit has been out a while now the songs played from this album are well known now surely by their followers?! Unlike other bands who've been around a while and replay the same old stuff, DM have never stopped creating music. Going Backwards is an excellent song, if that doesn't get you up on your feet from the start......

We we're there.Standing three rows from the front, just amazing, was like it was an up close and personal gig,they never fail to delight!!

Such an awesome concert of the guys, yet first time saw an audience who sat most of the time during their show:((

I recommend standing tickets for DM every time. I'm in my 50s but had my fill of sitting for concerts - at the London DM concert me and my wife were almost thrown out for standing up!!

Second standing row from the barrier. Amazing concert, so close to Dave. Loved the set list as this is the Spirit tour after all! Saw them in London earlier on in the tour and they’ve definitely settled more into it. Surrounding fellow DM devotees were a joy. From start to finish it was electric. At the end when all stood together on the stage Dave turned to the other band members and whilst nodding his head he said “that was a good night” Well Dave, I can honestly say it was probably a better night for me!

I was really unimpressed to be honest. Absolutely boring and self indulgent.

Bless you. I reckon you must have been the fella sitting next to my missus!! If so, you spent more time out of the arena getting drinks and the like than you did trying to understand and appreciate the offerings of a band who have influenced so many of today's artists. Stick with your Ed Sheeran and One D mate.

Little mix are still playing...maybe more tour stuff?

I have been a life long fan since having the Speak and Spell album bought for me when I was 12. Last night was the first time I have seen my childhood (and beyond) heroes and the 36 years have been well worth the wait! I was really looking forward to some more of the 'old stuff' but appreciate that the Mode are still writing and performing stunning tracks so getting the balance right (no pun intended) is always going to prove difficult to suit everyone's expectations. The hairs stood on the back of my neck as I was transported back through decades of my lifetime utterly immersed in what was a truly wonderful performance! Mr Gahan & Co are responsible for my croaky voice today. Amazing gig!

We were right at the front and was amazing the atmosphere was brilliant from the minute they came on!! They never fail to deliver! Absolute class.

As a life long fan and having seen them 5 times, this was one concert where I didn't feel the set list did them justice. I was at the last concert - Delta and this was a true reflection of what they can do. Still amazing and the best band in the world! They are still totally amazing and won't be forgetting them in a hurry!

I took my 11 year old son last night and he absolutely loved it....brilliant performance as always

Amazing night. I loved the set list and was especially pleased to hear Useless performed live in my case for the first time. I went to the London stadium gig and have to say Manchester was much better. More intimate even though it was still in a large arena. Brilliant night thank you to the Band!

DM are like a fine wine they get better as the years past. First saw them in 1985 then caught up with them on the Tour of the Universe and have been lucky to see them every tour since. Absolutely awesome last night and Dave Gahan is up there with Freddie Mercury, Bono and Jagged as an amazing front man and the energy and electricity from. The group was spine tingling. Thanks Depche Mode you gave me the sound track to my life. Also my first time of seeing them since my wife sadly passed away so vary emotional last night too

Spooky coincidence. I first saw depeche when I was at school. A Broken Frame at Hammersmith Odeon. The soundtrack to my life and my darling wife, who sadly died aged 46. London on the 22nd will be the first time I will attend on my own (I had a ticket for Wembley but was too emotional to go). There is something very special about depeche gigs. This will be my fifteenth time to see them live. Always so very uplifting..... can’t wait.

Amazing concert lost count how many times I have seen depeche mode let's say I'm nearly 50 and i was there at the start, excellent choice of songs I'm still buzzing now nearly 24 hours on hope they tour again soon can't wait another 4 years Christian and Peter did an awesome job think they should get more credit

I have seen Depeche Mode 6 times now twice this tear London and Manchester, Absolutely Brilliant, they get better with age. The audience were fantastic, on their feet from the start. New and old songs throughout. Superb , All credit to the guys. Cant wait to see them again.

Absolutely amazing concert from start to finish. I've seen the guys about 6 times now and this was by far the best. So much energy. An outstanding performance and the set list was absolutely spot on! We were right at the front too so got to see Dave at his absolute best. Amazing gig, guys!

I was lucky to have an Early Entry ticket and got front row - centre of Dave's mic spot. Craig who was our EE representative from Live Nation did a Stirling job ensuring that our relatively small group of early Entry ticket holders had a fair chance of finding our desired gig places. The concert was amazing. All of the guys gave it 110%.... even Andy's fancy finger work! I treasure the many eye gazes from Dave and more so his "on queue" thrusts. One very happy die hard fan...... Birmingham next stop.

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