Fans came from as far as Scotland and as close as Sacramento’s J Street to the Golden 1 Center Thursday night to see the legendary Depeche Mode onstage for their first full-length concert since 2018’s “Global Spirit Tour” (get tickets here). The evening’s revelatory ride through 15 albums and four decades boasted many live debuts and several not-in-a-long-time musical arrangements.
When they last left us five years ago, Depeche Mode were a trio — and now a duo, a result of the untimely death of founding member Andy Fletcher in May 2022. The remaining original band members, songwriter/guitarist Martin Gore and vocalist Dave Gahan, continue on through their new album, Memento Mori, out today, and the tour, which will traverse the world through December. The sentiment behind “Memento Mori” (“remember that you have to die”) appeared everywhere during the almost two-hour set.
Gahan and Gore delivered the show their fans hungered for. Depeche Mode, unlike many legacy acts, don’t shy away from new material — evidenced by the first three songs they played, all from Memento Mori. An instrumental riff from the symphonic “Speak to Me” (and later on a live debut of the full track) welcomed the band, its screeching and grinding hyping up the crowd, illuminating a large letter M with every sonic brush stroke. That intro moved into the live debut of “My Cosmos Is Mine” followed by “Wagging Tongue.” Gahan’s unmistakable voice cried out, “You find it hard to swallow when you watch another angel die,” establishing a sense of comfort and familiarity even though the lyrics might be new. From these early indicators, the Northern California crowd knew it would be a night of firsts.
The visuals to complement each track were haunting, vivid and surreal, switching from the letter M to short interpretive video vignettes.
“Well, well, we are here we are again,” Gahan said in his first address to the crowd before transitioning into 1993’s “Walking in My Shoes” from Songs of Faith and Devotion. He sped ahead to 1997’s Ultra with back-to-back “It’s No Good” and “Sister of Night,” letting everyone know, “we’ve never played that song ever… pretty good.” It was the first non-acoustic version of “Sister of Night” since 2009 and the first time with Gahan on vocals.
“Everything Counts” brought its “grabbing hands” lyrics to life with a sign interpreter — clad in all black with white gloves —featured in a background video vignette as Gahan took the front of the stage for the first time.
2005’s “Precious” was followed by Gahan’s departure from the stage, leaving Gore to perform 1986’s “Question of Lust,” its first time live since 2017, as well as a debut of 2023’s “Soul with Me.” Gahan rejoined for the breakout hit from Memento Mori, “Ghosts Again,” which featured a video vignette of the duo playing oversized chess pieces in hooded cloaks on a rooftop — a reference to Ingmar Bergman’s classic film of death and inevitability, The Seventh Seal.
The most profound moment came when Depeche Mode dedicated 1990’s Violator single “World in My Eyes” to Fletcher. A time-lapse black-and-white photo appeared on the screen in duplicate as it slowly morphed to add Fletcher’s glasses and then his hand over one eye. Gahan turned his back to the crowd and threw up his hands to the image in praise.
“Our friend Andy Fletcher,” he told the crowd.
The main set closed with the high-energy, infectious “John the Revelator” and “Enjoy the Silence,” which, with its accompanying imagery of decaying skulls, feels even more relevant today than it did in 1990.
There are a few songs that every Depeche Mode concert requires and those unspooled in the encore. Gore and Mahan returned to the stage for a duet of “Waiting for the Night,” their first since 2009. The lyrics of tranquility — and an embrace between the two — threw a comforting weighted blanket over the audience in preparation to “kick it up a little” as Gahan promised with “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Never Let Me Down Again,” and “Personal Jesus.”
Depeche Mode could’ve gone on for a few more hours and the crowd of diehards would’ve signed up for it, no questions asked. As the lights rose — a reminder that this too must end — the arena remained full, the audience not willing to admit this first concert stop had itself become “Memento Mori.”
Memento Mori, with its almost two-dozen track list, reminds us all to continue to “reach out, touch faith,” as it’s only a few notes away.
Depeche Mode’s massive 2023 tour continues through December. Get your tickets here, and check out a photo gallery and setlist from the show below.
Speak to Me
My Cosmos Is Mine
Walking in My Shoes
It’s No Good
Sister of Night
In Your Room
Speak to Me
A Question of Lust
Soul with Me
I Feel You
A Pain That I’m Used To
World in My Eyes
John the Revelator
Enjoy the Silence
Waiting for the Night
Just Can’t Get Enough
Never Let Me Down Again