Depeche Mode, review: electronica's most enduring band contemplate their mortality

Depeche Mode perform at Twickenham Stadium
Oh what a beautiful mourning: Depeche Mode perform at Twickenham Stadium - Jim Dyson/Getty

“I’ll meet you by the river, or maybe on the other side,” sang Dave Gahan, crypt-deep of baritone and vampiric in a dark, sequinned suit, on Wagging Tongues. Later, during a Scott-Walker-ish mid-set stretch on the mic, Martin Gore - Gahan’s sole surviving cohort from the original lineup of Depeche Mode - would echo the fatalistic sentiment on jazz bar lament Soul With Me: “I’m heading for the ever after… I’m going where there are no cares”. Later still, the pair would appear in the visuals for recent single Ghosts Again, playing chess in cowls redolent of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Scythe pop, it appeared, was upon us.

Having survived their fair share of near-death experiences (Gahan, for instance, died for two minutes from a cocaine and heroin overdose in 1996), Depeche Mode’s London stop around their 15th album Memento Mori was amongst the alt-tronic pioneers’ blackest celebrations yet. Considering it was recorded in the shadow of the death of keyboardist Andy Fletcher last year, it was unsurprising that of their many dark-hearted themes – obsessive lust, hard drugs, evangelism, greed, corrosive romance – mortality would take the fore-front. The crunching industrial My Cosmos Is Mine opened the show like a post-apocalyptic funeral march, yet defiance is embedded in Depeche’s music and, as soon as Gahan ditched the blazer and threw himself into grief-defying dervish spins for Walking in My Shoes, what followed was the very definition of death disco.

Emotions naturally ran high. Fletcher was memorialised on the stage-wide screens during a powerful World in My Eyes, It’s No Good sounded as if it had been fed through life’s industrial grinder and the austere drama of In Your Room reached cinematic extremes. The band’s fight-back attitude was infectious too: the euphoric sing-along to protest pop classic Everything Counts had a scent of uprising, as 82,000 punters felt the song’s “grabbing hands” on their energy bills and rent increases.

Some of the new material suggested the band were going through the motions, but Gahan’s trademark dance moves (the suggestive marionette, for example) and such sleaze rock numbers as I Feel You proved as reliable as ever. An encore relishing the corniness of Just Can’t Get Enough, setting a thrashing ocean of arms swinging to Never Let Me Down Again and stomping the rain away to Personal Jesus went off like a fusillade of fireworks. Oh, what a beautiful mourning.