preface: The concert was being filmed for a new documentary,
shadowing fans following the band on tour. A kind of a sequel to
DA Pennebaker's Depeche Mode: 101, which was filmed at the
Pasadena Rose Bowl, USA in June 1988 - 30 years ago. At the
time of this gig there were rumours circulating that this
would be Depeche Mode's last ever gig.
Almost a month
has passed since Depeche
Mode ended their latest tour in Berlin. Despite the time that
has passed, I still feel that my mind is left somewhere in the city,
wandering around in midnight Kreuzberg and dusty passages of
Olympiapark in the heat. Yeah that heat. Unbearable yet memorable
for a finale like this.
back - what is it that really happened? Yes, Depeche Mode played two
shows at Waldbuhne, Berlin, the very last ones of the 14 month long
Global Spirit Tour. Seemingly simple, but it was so much more. So
many things happened in such a short period of time and I'm still
struggling to find right words to describe all. How would you
describe the feeling of getting inside the iconic Waldbühne and
seeing the actual stage for the last time on this tour?
feeling of seeing other fans wearing a DM t-shirt in every corner of
the streets. Then the feeling of meeting so many friends that have
known you for ages in a single place. To me they are all beyond
words. It's something that can only be experienced by being there
and living in the moment. If you ask me what I thought of the shows
after all these weeks, all I will do is to smile back and try to
answer everything with that silly smile...
The day we all
waited for so long, yet few wanted it to come. Feeling uneasy we
spent the morning hanging out at the mall of Berlin near Potsdamer
Platz. Funny how certain part of memories fades away and never come
back. Looking back, I do not recall anything else other than that I
had a curry wurst, thinking constantly about the last show!
Literally it was the wurst moment of my life, ha, ha!
Up until this
point, Depeche Mode had played 128 shows around the world, the
latest at Lollapalooza Festival in Paris a few days before. The band
had musically evolved playing a few different songs on every leg,
constantly breathing new life to existing ones like Enjoy the
Silence (longer intro) and Walking in My Shoes (longer
outro). However, to our dismay the setlist got shorter and shorter,
from 22 (summer legs), 20 (autumn/winter), and 15 (festivals).
Then, as if
none of that mattered, they turned the setlist upside down for the
first night here (two days prior on the 23rd July), performing 20
strong songs similar to the first leg. Quite a move given that they
hardly change setlists on the tour unless it's different legs. So
Much Love, one of the strongest tracks from Spirit
made a surprise comeback, as well as Wrong, an absolute
classic from Sounds of the Universe. What other surprises
would they have in store tonight, if they could change the set like
the night before before last? I was optimistic about the show.
passed and it was time to head to the venue. The celebration mood
mixed with strange excitement started building as we took S-Bahn
from Westkreuz, seeing more and more people dressed in black. It was
like visiting a Depeche Mode Museum - you could see all kind of fans
in various outfits; everything from plain casual to chains and
fishnet in black eyeliner, and of course in DM t-shirt of all
periods imaginable. Strangely enough they all looked well blended
in. No matter the styles and characters we all had one thing in
common: to see Depeche Mode for the last time.
from nearby Pichelsberg station, we were greeted by a huge bell
tower and square. Built in 1936 for the Berlin Olympics, Waldbuhne
(a natural amphitheatre) has served for all kind of purposes
including sports, political propaganda, cultural events, and music.
Seeing the sculpture of two naked athletes at the front gate gave me
a strange shiver down the spine. Iconic and almost symbolic of the
Berlin history, I felt excitement running through the body.
Depeche Mode in Berlin four times before, I was eager to see how the
audience would respond to the last show of the tour. The crowd at
the front stage area were well in the mood as I sat down at Block C,
centre of the arena about 40 metres back. After enthusiastic
clapping and chanting fans started making Mexican waves through the
whole arena. What a sight! Again I started thinking that this could
be the last time we would see all of this.
Well on time,
it started with The Beatles' Revolution as the intro music.
Strong energy shooting into the skies over Berlin. Any 'cloudy'
thoughts disappeared instantly as Dave Gahan sauntered onto the
stage, wearing sunglasses, arms open. What an iconic posture! Well
symbolic of Where is the Revolution promo video in which
Dave give a Lenin-like impersonation. Only here they opened with Going
Backwards. He slowly climbed up the stairs and stood in the
middle of the gigantic LED screen. "Ignoring the realities. Going
Backwards. Are you counting all the casualties?"
echoed through the arena, setting the tone for the show. It may not
be the strongest song melody-wise, however, the lyrics is truly up
there among the darkest and heaviest they have done. I guess this is
where their strength lies. Singing dark melodies together bringing
out such redemption and catalysis among listeners… Oscar Wilde once
wrote "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at
the stars." In many ways I think it's true with Depeche Mode's
Just as hoped,
the setlist of the evening changed again. A 1997 classic, It's
No Good instead of So Much Love, Useless
instead of Corrupt, and Precious and Poison
Heart. Again the band delivered them wonderfully. Unlike the
first night, where Dave looked and sounded very emotional, tonight
he looked more relaxed and enjoying himself. Same intensity as in
any nights, but he looked a bit more laid-back asking "How is
Berlin tonight!?" in a playful manner.
Then came the first surprise of the evening: The
Things You Said. Iconic bass-line backed by Martin's just
as iconic vocal, it was received with huuuge applause. Oh how
long we have waited to hear it again! All in all he has never
sung this song since the Pasadena Rose Bowl show in 1988. It was
so moving to hear it for the first time after 30 years that it
almost brought tears in my eyes. I'm sure many felt the same
highlight for me was Never Let Me Down Again. Just
before the massive arm-waving would kick in fans waved their
national flags in the air, showing the boys where we came
from. Another moving moment, a solid proof that their music
knows no boundaries. If there was a peace conference taking
place in Berlin I dare say that it took place at Waldbühne
that very night!
Then came another emotional high hitting my senses. Followed
by the mid-tempo beat, Dave started softly "I wish you
could swim, like the dolphins" Yep, David Bowie's Heroes.
Recorded at Hansa Studio by the Wall, it was so special to
hear it again here in Berlin. Funny, it was this song that got
Dave in the band as he auditioned in 1980. Then almost 40
years later he sang it again at the very last show. What a
show ended with an extra number, cheesy yet almost obligatory
Just Can't Get Enough. At this point the show was
turning into a massive celebration of their 38 year long
career. Therefore ending the evening with this number was like
an obvious call. Again the crowd was ecstatic, singing and
dancing to every word of the song. Total triumph!
was the evening at the lovely venue in the German capital.
After the show I met up my dear friends. Giving each other big
hugs and promising to meet up again we slowly walked out to
meet my family who was also attending the show. Many of us
were deeply moved by the show and in tears.
enough, I was in a mixed feeling. Sad and emotional on one
hand, fulfilled and optimistic on the other. Perhaps it was
because I have seen them many times on the tour that I got
used to it somehow. Then somewhere else - part of me believing
that they would come back again in 4 years. All in all they
have always returned tour after tour, trouble after trouble in
their career. If they could continue for 25 years after the
Devotional Tour, 4 years seem like nothing to worry about,
right? I guess we will all wait and see.
but not least, I also want to add that it was the first time
for Amuro, my 11 year old son to attend a live concert. What a
perfect way to start one's musical journey with their last
show. Looking back 20 years later, I sincerely hope that he
would say it with pride "My very first concert was Depeche
Mode with daddy and mommy!" 9/10
Going Backwards, It's No Good, A Pain That I'm Used To
(Jaqcues Lu Cont remix version), Useless, Precious, World in
My Eyes, Cover Me, The Things You Said, Insight
(acoustic; sung by Martin), Poison Heart, Where's the
Revolution, Everything Counts, Stripped, Enjoy the Silence,
Never Let Me Down Again, Encore: I Want You Now (acoustic),
Heroes, (David Bowie cover), Walking in My Shoes,
Personal Jesus, Encore 2: Just Can't Get Enough
Photos: Yuko Iwatani + Rob Dyer
Here's the full multi-cam of the show, made by my good friend
Janne, partially filmed by me.