After the passing of founding member Andy Fletcher last year, it would have been totally understandable if Depeche Mode had decided to call it quits. Instead, Martin Gore and Dave Gahan have rallied, released an excellent album in Momento Mori and, judging by the scale of the show they put on at Twickenham on June 17, are determined to enhance their reputation as one of the very best stadium acts on the planet.
First though, Scottish indie-soul collective Young Fathers have the rather thankless task of warming up a partisan crowd. They’re an odd booking for a DM crowd, and their hip-hop-meets-art pop-meets-afrobeat mash up definitely confuses some aging goths. But with a no fucks given attitude and a bunch of songs from this year's superb Heavy Heavy album in their back pocket, they’re certainly memorable, even if they didn't ever have a snowball's chance in hell of upstaging the headliners.
As soon as Dave Gahan and Martin Gore walk onstage, backed by longtime touring members drummer Christian Eigner and keyboardist Peter Gordino, Twickenham is in the palm of their hands. Depeche Mode open with a pair of songs from the new album, My Cosmos is Mine and Wagging Tongue, both of which sound monolithic, but it’s when the evergreen Walking in My Shoes kicks in that everything is taken up a notch. It’s initially a fairly stripped-down stage show, and 3 of the members onstage are quite innocuous presences, but luckily for everyone, the fourth element is Dave Gahan.
As the singer struts, spits, spins and swaggers around the stage he is impossible to look away from, his voice still sounds incredible and in his shiny, turquoise, sequined suit he looks like some kind of rock star sprite from a Jim Henson movie. The man is a star, obviously, but the way he’s been carrying DM stadiums shows on his back for so many decades now surely puts him in the conversation for the greatest frontman of all time. It says a lot that when he finally takes a break and steps back to let Gore front the band for A Question of Lust and Soul with Me the energy noticeably drops.
To be fair to the rest of the band, Gahan is given all the tools at his disposal to help him do his job with that peerless back catalogue. Five songs from Momento Mori make the setlist, the highlight being Ghosts Again, but when you can peel off Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Just Can’t Get Enough, Never Let Me Down Again and Personal Jesus all bunched up together, it’s basically impossible to fail.
There is only one moment when it feels like all the air has been sucked out of South London, and that's when Andy Fletcher’s face is projected onto the screens during a rousing World in My Eyes. Depeche Mode are moving forward, but will clearly never forget their past: cherish them while they’re still with us.