Category Archives: Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode, Concert Going, and Staying Young (Relatively)

I slept a glorious 11 hours last night.  I needed it.  This week was not only a long one filled with teacher meetings but it also featured a little concert.  On Wednesday, a couple of friends of mine and I drove from Madison to the south suburbs of Chicago to see Depeche Mode and back.  The 22 hour day contained 7 hours of meetings, 6 hours of driving and a concert.  I might have been a little tired.  No matter the level of exhaustion I had it was worth it.

First of all, the concert was great!  Depeche is one band that I can always count on to put on a good show.  I had seen them six times before over the course of the years.  Not only does Dave Gahan give it his all as a lead singer but Martin Gore brings a unique spirit to the show.  Looking at the setlist, one element that really benefits them to put on a nice, long set is to have two singers.  While Dave takes the rein most of the time, Martin can step in for a few songs here and there to give Dave a rest.  It is an advantage that few bands have.

That said, it was interesting to watch the crowd during the show.  We had seats in a suite above the crowd.  This allowed a full view of both the stage but the fans below.  I liked being able to see the videos as they often added to the performance but more than that, I was able to watch the crowd.  It seemed clear to me that the majority of the crowd knew the fan favorites of old with songs like Enjoy the Silence, Everything Counts, World in my Eyes and more.  When it came to the newer songs, though, the crowd was less into the show.  I also heard people talking about show, including that they wished the band played song ______________.  To me, this felt very familiar as I see and hear the same thing at a Duran show where many in the audience only know either the hits or songs from years ago.  For some reason, that gave me some comfort that it isn’t just Duran to has to deal with that.

Interestingly enough, on the car ride down, we had a conversation about how Depeche always sounds like Depeche.  Every album has a certain feel to it that is uniquely theirs.  They have always owned their sound and never wavered.  Before the show, I wondered if this is why Depeche still fills big venues.  Maybe so.  Yet, I still find myself appreciating that Duran has tried new things.  Maybe that hasn’t always helped them but I like that every album is different than the last.  I’m willing to bet that some Depeche fans aren’t as into the newer stuff because it feels as if it has been done before and that gets boring.

Despite the fact that the audience wasn’t 100% into every song, clearly people still enjoy themselves.  I know that my friends and I did.  Part of what made the night so good for us was how we did well with the tickets.  If you have been reading this blog for awhile now, you know that the Depeche ticket buying deal was one I criticized.  You can read about it here.  The prices were outrageous, I thought.  I remember on presale day.  I could have bought row 17 or 18 or something for like $175 each, which was before fees.  That just didn’t seem worth it to me.  I chose not to buy and instead looked for tickets on StubHub.  Eventually, ticket prices were such that I felt the price was worth it.  My seat cost about $165 with fees but included a cushioned seat in one of the suites above the crowd.  While my friends and I were third row in the suite, we still had a clear shot of their entire stage.  If that wasn’t enough, we had a nice bathroom up there, close by without real lines and a waitress to take our drink orders.  This was a vast improvement over standing for hours for a GA show!

Of course, driving at 2:30 in the morning felt painful as yesterday filled with meetings that my sleep-deprived self barely survived.  I still say that it was worth it.  Yes, the concert was great as was hanging with my friends!  More than that, though, I love being at a live show, hearing great music.  That atmosphere reminds me that it is good to be alive.  I saw my first concert at that venue, Depeche Mode in 1990.  I also saw my first Duran show there in 1993.  I may not be as young as I was for those shows but I will refuse to go quietly into old or middle age.  I will fight as long as I can to hold onto fun times and going to concerts.  Always.

-A

Policy of Truth

I cheated.  I cheated again.  Yes, this seems to be a pattern of mine lately.  I can blame Duran downtime for my cheating.  I really can.  If they were on tour, for example, I’m sure all of my time, energy and thoughts would be focused on getting ready for the tour or being on tour or recovering from being on tour.  Nonetheless, I will take responsibility for my actions as well.  I went to see Depeche Mode last night in Chicago.  I won’t lie.  I have always enjoyed Depeche and have seen them a number of times in my life.  In fact, my very first concert was Depeche in 1990.  Therefore, when I found out that they were touring close by, I had no choice but to go.

My friend, Sara, and I had a nice plan for the show.  I would pick her up in the afternoon and we would drive down to the concert, stopping to grab food on the way down.  It was going according to plan until we stopped for food at an oasis (a rest area with restaurants).  Then, everyone serving us seemed to go v….e…..r….y slowly.  Finally, we were back in the car and ready to be on our way with plenty of time to spare.  I start backing up and notice that some other car was backing up, too.  I stop and hook my horn to alert the other driver that I’m there.  What does he do?  Of course, he keeps on going.  Of course, he does.  Obviously, he hit my car.  Thankfully, we weren’t hurt and my car doesn’t have a lot of damage but still.  We called the police and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, the police show up, get our information and fill out the accident report.  This takes about an hour.  Seriously?!  At this point, we are frustrated, hot from sitting in the car and stressed about now being on time.  Did we make the show?  Yes, thankfully, we did.  We missed the opening band completely, though.

Due to the lack of time before Depeche started, I didn’t have a chance to really look around and observe the scene too much.  I’m a little sad about that.  I do like to study any situation where fans might be found.  Anyway, we had 11th row seats right on the aisle, just slightly on the left.  These are definitely the best seats I have ever had for Depeche.  As Rhonda pointed out to me, correctly, they were great seats unless they were for Duran.  Then, they would be unacceptable!  (Yes, we are now spoiled.  It’s true.)  This, of course, marks the real deal for me.  I couldn’t help but to watch the entire concert through the Duran Duran filter.  Heck, even if Duran wasn’t my fandom, I would still probably compare simply because I have seen a lot more Duran shows than I have of Depeche.  It is bound to happen.

Depeche puts on a great show.  I always think that.  Always.  You sense that they give everything they have, every time, especially Martin and Dave.  Martin does so much from singing to playing keyboards to playing guitar.  He is constantly working on stage.  While he doesn’t work to get the crowd involved in the same way that Dave does, it is clear that the show simply wouldn’t work at all without him.  Dave, on the other hand, is the true definition of frontman.  He is constantly moving and getting everyone’s attention with his very…let’s say…sensual dance moves.  While we all know that Simon is able to seduce the audience, it isn’t from his dance moves whereas Dave does.  Yet, it is interesting how both men are able to woo the audience so well and get the audience to participate so frequently.  Dave, like Simon, asks the audience to sing various parts of songs, clap, or move arms in a certain way.  At Duran shows, though, John and even Dom, help to get the audience involved.  For Depeche, it really is mostly Dave with small contributions from Andy and Martin.  Duran is more equal in this respect.  While on the topic of Simon and Dave, both feel the need to spit during a performance. I get it.  I’m not criticizing.  I do appreciate Simon’s “spit cup”, though.  It is a lot less noticeable to the audience.  Another very large difference I noticed between Duran and Depeche is the interaction with fans.  Last night, there was no interaction with the fans in the front.  I saw Dave notice one person once.  That’s it.  There was no other interaction at all with those fans.  Duran, on the other hand, is constantly interacting with the fans, especially those in the first 10 rows or so.  There is eye contact, smiling, flirting, etc.  They move to the front of the stage right in front of fans to get the fans into it.  Depeche doesn’t do this.  When they are in the middle of the stage, they don’t move close to the front.  While Dave moved from side to side, he did that to get the overall crowd into it, not the fans that he could see.  I’m sure this is fine for the general audience.  That said, if I was a big fan in the front, I would miss those possible interactions.  Then again, maybe, those fans don’t know that other bands do it differently.

I also paid attention to Andy, the other member of the band.  As I’m sure most of you might be aware, he stands in the usual Nick location of the stage.  I have heard some comments about how Nick doesn’t do much on stage, which is why he is able to take so many pictures and not sweat.  Well, from what I saw, Andy does even less.  A lot less.  There was another keyboard player who did a lot more, which I found fascinating.  In fact, at one point, during the song, Shake the Disease, it was just Martin and the backup keyboard player performing on stage.  Why wouldn’t Andy want to be in the spotlight during a real special moment of the show?  Beyond the backup keyboard player, there was a drummer as well who really threw me, at times.  There were a few songs that my attention drifted towards the drummer when it shouldn’t have.  I wonder how long the drummer had been playing with them.

Beyond what was happening on the stage, I did pay attention to the fans around me.  I was amazed at how many people near me wore wristbands that said VIP.  I’m not sure if those were VIP seats through the more expensive VIP seats, a fan club thing or what.  I would say this…if they were VIP seat purchasers, meaning that they paid a lot more money than I did, I wouldn’t be happy.  The seats were good but not that good!  Depeche’s audience was definitely a mixed crowd with a lot of people around my age but some people much older than me and some people with children.  I also noticed a lot of accents in the crowd.  Thus, it was a much more diverse crowd, at least in nationality.  A lot of people left during the encore to beat the rush of the crowd and the big traffic jam.  I thought that was weird.  I can’t imagine a lot of people in the front of a Duran show leaving during Rio, for example.  Strange.

Obviously, there are some similarities between Depeche and Duran.  They both have dedicated fan bases and definitely put on great shows in which the audience gets involved.  Yet, I wonder if Depeche fans are as likely to travel, especially since I know that Depeche rarely mixes up their set lists at all.  I also wonder if the fans are satisfied with the lack of personal interaction during the show.  Does this mean that Duran does pay attention and do things to enhance the experience for those of us who do travel and do go to multiple shows?  Maybe.  I like the idea of that.  Maybe, beyond seeing a great Depeche Mode show, I can better appreciate what I do have at a Duran show.  That’s definitely worth the price of admission and the price of cheating.

-A

Media Representations of Fandom: Depeche Mode 101

The other day I was searching through some cabinets in my living room in order to gather all Duran viewing material I could find.  In my search, I ran across an old video tape, Depeche Mode 101.  For those not familiar with this video, it is a documentary of their 1988 US tour which ended in a large show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  This documentary not only features a lot of footage from their various shows but also has back stage footage, interviews with the band and more.  On top of the footage of the band, it also contains a focus on a group of fans.  These fans won a contest to go on the road in a tour bus following the band for the last 2 weeks of the tour.  These fans were a mix of females and males and ranged in age from late teens to mid-twenties.  The footage with the fans included some shots from their auditions, to getting on the bus, to getting ready for shows and to attending shows.  It showed these fans on the bus as they traveled and it showed their interactions together.

Before I dive into how this documentary shows fans, I have to ask.  Why hasn’t Duran done this?  I know.  I know.  I already hear the very logical responses to my query.  Would that really work?  Could fans really ride on a bus for two weeks together?  Why would Duran want to do it?  Now, obviously, I don’t really think something like this would ever happen and I am not really sure that it really is a good idea, in reality, but it still intrigues me.  In fact, we jokingly talked about this last summer during the shows.  Could you imagine?  It would make a heck of a reality TV show.  Our discussion came about after driving a ridiculous amount of miles and hours in order to get from show to show.  We longed to have transportation that would allow us a few extra hours of relaxation or sleep.  On top of that ease, riding on a bus together for two weeks would be quite fun or we could make it so.  I’m willing to bet that the fans who participate would develop strong relationships, assuming that they didn’t want to kill each other.  An adventure like that would foster connections that would/could be long lasting.  These connections could ensure that people would want to keep participating in the fandom for years to come.  Certainly, assuming it was an amazing experience, I can’t imagine that those participants wouldn’t want to see more shows.  I bet the fans on the bus bought more tickets to more concerts than if they would have if they were traveling independently.  It would mean that for me, most definitely.  Based on this, I have to give Depeche credit for doing something like this.

The fact that Depeche Mode offered a contest such as this shows an understanding of the importance of fans.  The story of the fans on the bus was just as important as the story of the band on tour.  I appreciate that.  Were the two groups (fans and band) given the same amount of time on the video?  I didn’t take the time to measure that but it seemed to me that the band was shown about 2/3 of the time.  I suppose this is what most Depeche fans would want.  So, then, out of the footage shown of the fans, how were they represented?  Did they show them to be the typical stereotypes of fans, which can include stalkers, groupies, crazy/irrational people, immature people, or people who have no lives?  No, they didn’t.  The footage of the fans included discussions on art and fashion, trying on clothes and doing hair, dancing in the bus, stopping at restaurants and rest stops and more.  There was nothing to indicate that these fans were stalkers or groupies.  They seemed perfectly content to go to the shows and to have whatever perks that came with this contest.  For example, they were calm, cool and collected during a sound check that they witnessed.  Likewise, they were equally calm when the band toured their bus.  Yet, at the same time, they were excited to hear their music or to meet them.  Beyond that, these fans clearly developed friendships among themselves or maintained the relationships they had with each other beforehand.  My point being that they were fans, obviously, but they were also more concerned with themselves and the people actually around them than they were of the band.  I suppose the logical question here is would Duranies react in the same way or would they be more focused on the band?  Food for thought.

While this documentary doesn’t fixate on stereotypes of fans or extreme behavior, I also wished that it showed more about what it means to be a fan.  I would have loved to see these fans discuss Depeche Mode’s music as they did about art and fashion.  Why didn’t they talk more about the shows and the quality of those shows?  Maybe they did but that footage wasn’t included, which wouldn’t make sense to me since a documentary like this is made with fans in mind.  Fandom is all about discussion, conversation.  I am surprised that they didn’t talk about how they became fans or what drew them to the band in the beginning.  Why weren’t there discussions surrounding past experiences at shows?  I think the key with any representation of fandom is balance.  I am glad that this didn’t emphasize behavior that might be interesting but an exaggeration of typical fan behavior.  The stereotypes of fans were not shown at all.  Yet, it lacked some common elements of fandom that I wanted to see.  We knew that they were fans.  Then, they should have shown them to be fans more.

-A

I Won’t Turn You Out if You’ve Got Someone Else

I have a notebook of blog topics that I keep handy as I never know when an idea, a topic might hit me.  Of course, I don’t necessarily know when I might write about these topics as I will gladly move the more general, can talk about anytime topics out of the way for news or, at least, something new.  This weekend, I had hoped to talk about the packaging in the TV Mania vinyl that US fans who ordered it are now starting to receive.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that.  Why?  My vinyl arrived.  Unfortunately, big time, I am missing the booklet that is supposed to be included.  To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement.  Rhonda tells me that this booklet is a must have.  I’m sure.  I emailed Vinyl Factory and hope that they can just send me a booklet.  If they can, it will still take awhile to get to me.  🙁 

As I thought about this last night, it dawned on me why this happened.  It is karma.  It is psychic ability.  It is some supernatural power that Vinyl Factory or Nick or someone has.  What sin have I committed?  What crime have I done to warrant such a thing?  What stupid loser move did I make?  It is simple.  I cheated.  I have cheated on Duran.  How did I do this?  It is simple.  I bought concert tickets to see some other band!  Oh my gosh!  The horror!!!  It’s true.  I did.  I’m confessing.  I bought tickets this week to see Depeche Mode in August in Chicago.  Now, I’m sure it wouldn’t be that big of a deal but…Depeche hasn’t just been any old band for me.  They have a special place in my heart.  You see they were the first band that I saw in concert.  There, of course, is a reason for that.  As soon as I became a Duranie and saw Sing Blue Silver, I wanted to go to a concert.  Yet, I didn’t know about Duran’s 1984 tour as that it is just when I was becoming a fan.  By 1987, for the next Duran tour, I had moved further away from Chicago and knew that there was no way that my parents would drive me hours to go to a concert.  Plus, there was no way that they were going to let their 12 year old go to a concert by herself and they didn’t want to go with.  Nope.  I had to wait until I was old enough to go to a show by myself.  I was declared old enough by 1990 when I had turned 15.  Duran definitely wasn’t touring then but Depeche was.  I did what any inexperienced concert goer did in 1990 to secure tickets.  I called Ticketmaster when the tickets went on sale.  After calling for hours and getting nothing but busy signals, I got lawn seats for myself and two of my friends as every other ticket was sold.  The plan had been made.  My mother would drive us and drop us off.  Then, we would meet up with my mom’s friend’s son who was also at the show.  He would drive us back.  The venue for this first concert ever was also the first venue I saw Duran play in 1993.  Anyway, when I saw the Depeche dates for this summer/fall, I knew that I wanted to go, especially since they were returning that ever-important venue for me on a Saturday night.  Perfect.

Now, of course, I’m a much more experienced concert ticket buyer and goer.  Heck, sometimes, I think Rhonda and I should write a book about what we learned from being Duran fans.  One whole chapter would be devoted to presales, concert tickets, concert venues, etc.  When I was younger and inexperienced, I would just figure out the time the tickets would go sale then go online and let ticketmaster give me the “best available” and move on.  I know better now.  Research pays off.  I truly do believe that.  First thing I checked out was what were the presales and what did they offer.  I discovered that Depeche was doing VIP packages.  Hmm…how much were they and what did they offer?  Now, as much as I like Depeche and I do, I knew that I wouldn’t be going for a VIP package unless it was truly reasonable and it offered just the right stuff.  I wouldn’t want to break the Duran savings account too much for this.  Here are their VIP packages: 

VIP package: Around $350

  • One reserved ticket in the first 10 rows
  • Exclusive pre-show reception, including appetizers, beer & wine
  • One parking spot per order (where available)
  • Specially designed concert shirt
  • Limited edition tour lithograph
  • Official tour program
  • Depeche Mode VIP commemorative laminate
  • VIP commemorative ticket
  • Exclusive tour gift item
  • Early entrance into the venue
  • Crowd-free merchandise shopping
  • On-site VIP host

Tour package: Around $250
  • One reserved ticket in the first 20 rows
  • Specially designed concert shirt
  • Limited edition tour lithograph
  • Official tour program
  • VIP commemorative ticket
  • Exclusive tour gift item
  • On-site VIP host
Now, for me, the most important thing for any VIP package is the seats.  So the VIP package gives a seat in the first 10 rows and the Tour package gives a seat in the first 20 rows.  I noticed that it didn’t say that the Tour package seats would be between rows 11-20.  Thus, it seemed possible to get a seat higher than row 11 by not buying the VIP package.  I also noticed that you wouldn’t know your exact seat until later.  This is how it worked with DuranDuranMusic back in the day.  Now, of course, with Artist Arena, you know your seats when you buy, which I really like.  A lot of the rest of the packages seemed to be about merchandise, which is fine for those big Depeche fans.  In general, though, their packages seem a lot like the old DDM packages with the VIP parties.  The cost were similar as well.  I am surprised that they didn’t offer better seats, though.  With DDM, VIP got you rows 1-5.  Even now, with Artist Arena, you generally get rows 1-6.  In this case, it doesn’t seem like their packages are that much better than Duran’s, in my opinion.  I did think one thing was weird.  You didn’t have to be a member of a fan club or anything to have access to these packages.  This makes me wonder if Depeche’s biggest fans will buy them or will scalpers buy them and sell for more money.  No matter for me as I opted to just get regular seats. 
My research was not complete.  I looked to see what presales were available.  For Depeche, there were three presales:  Citi Card Members, Amazon purchasers and Facebook followers before the general sale.  Interesting.  I didn’t and wouldn’t know if there were some seats in each section that would be saved for each presale or would the Citi Card Members get the best seats, no matter what.  I had to hope that they did save some as I could only try for the Amazon one.  Before the day of the presale, I had printed out a venue map, which was a good one with rows clearly marked as well as seats so I knew exactly where the seats were when they came up on the screen.  I also checked into various ticket brokers to see if there were tickets available from that Citi presale and there were.  Thus, I knew what I could get that way and what the tickets would cost.  I knew that I had options that way and that I didn’t have to just take whatever came up.  
During the actual presale, the first tickets that came up were in the very back section, row XX or something like that.  Horrible.  Yes, they were cheaper but still.  Horrible.  I tried again.  This time, I got tickets in the front section but all the way to the left side, row Z.  Not horrible but not great.  I debated for the 1:30 minutes they allow you to “complete the page”.  I figured I would try again.  This time, I got the center/left section, row 13 with the first two seats on the center section aisle!  I couldn’t believe it!  Obviously, I grabbed them!  This will be the sixth Depeche show for me and definitely the best seats I have had for them.  The best part I think is that I didn’t need to pay for the Tour package to get them!  I also truly felt my research had paid off.  I knew the venue well enough from the map to know what were good seats and what weren’t.  I knew what might be available and what might not due to those VIP packages and the other presale.   Clearly, I have come a long way when it comes to buying tickets from that 15 year old buying tickets through Ticketmaster’s phone system.  All of my Duran ticket buying experiences taught me well!  I am looking forward to the show because I think Depeche gives a good show and I have these great seats, but I’m also looking forward to walking in that venue that started my concert going.  It will feel like returning home.  Now, all of that said, I’m still blogging about Duran.  I’m editing the last research chapter for the book that uses Duran fandom as the case study.  I’m still planning a DURAN fan convention.  I promise that my Duranieness is still solid and isn’t going anywhere.  Can I please get my booklet for TV Mania now?!  Please?! -A