LOS ANGELES, CA-  As a lifelong Depeche Mode fan, I recently had the privilege of attending all four of the recent shows of Depeche Mode’s Memento Mori World Tour in Los Angeles. The experience was not just a showcase of their musical brilliance but also a poignant journey through my own connection with the band, tracing back to my childhood.

My journey with Depeche Mode began in elementary school when I stumbled upon my cousin’s cassette copy of “Depeche Mode 101”, a two cassette live concert recording of the final show of Depeche Mode’s Music for the MAsses Tour on June 18, 1988 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. The music on the cassette tapes opened a whole new world of music to me, a world where the blend of electronic beats, poignant lyrics, and captivating performances became a sanctuary for my evolving, and impressionable, musical tastes. Listening to the end of “Everything Counts” where the entirety of the Rose Bowl is singing along in unison… the recording of those thousands of voices singing, “Everything counts in large amounts” has stuck with me over the years.

Since their emergence in the 1980s, Depeche Mode’s synth-pop and dark wave sounds resonated deeply with the diverse and evolving music scene of Los Angeles. The city, known for its eclectic and vibrant music culture, embraced Depeche Mode’s innovative and emotionally charged music. This was particularly evident during the 1990s, a period marked by a surge in the popularity of alternative and electronic music in Los Angeles. The band’s concerts in the city often turned into major events, drawing in large, enthusiastic crowds. I mean, consider the “Warehouse” event, where a routine in-store signing at Warehouse Records, a popular music retailer during the 90s, spiraled unbelievably out of control.

To promote Depeche Mode’s then-new album, “Violator.” The band, already popular, was reaching new heights of fame, especially in Los Angeles, a city that had embraced their dark, synth-driven sound with open arms. “Violator” spawned hits like “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy the Silence,” pushing Depeche Mode from cult status to mainstream success. However, what was expected to be a standard promotional event quickly spiraled out of control. Anticipating a sizable crowd, the store and the band were utterly unprepared for the overwhelming turnout. Estimates suggest that anywhere between 10,000 to 20,000 fans descended upon the store, far exceeding the few thousand anticipated. Police were called in to manage the situation, but the sheer number of people made it difficult to maintain order. The signing was cancelled, and Depeche Mode was quickly escorted away for their safety.

This incident wasn’t just a footnote in Depeche Mode’s history; it was a striking demonstration of their impact on the Los Angeles music scene and their L.A. fans. It showcased the passionate dedication of their fanbase and underscored the cultural phenomenon that the band had become.

The relationship between Depeche Mode and Los Angeles is not just one of mutual admiration, but also one of significant cultural exchange. The band’s enduring popularity in the city is a testament to their ability to connect with audiences across different eras and cultural landscapes. Their music continues to resonate with the dynamic and ever-changing spirit of Los Angeles, making them an integral part of the city’s musical heritage.

The recent passing of Andy Fletcher added a layer of emotional gravity to the tour. Discussions on various Reddit pages speculated that this tour might be Depeche Mode’s last major outing, with both Dave Gahan and Martin Gore potentially focusing on solo projects. Though Martin has said that “[a]fter Fletch’s passing, we decided to continue as we’re sure this is what he would have wanted“, the general sentiment that fans had that about the possibility Martin and Dave pursing solo venture after Memento Mori added a bittersweet undertone to each performance, making them even more special.

Opening for Depeche Mode, Young Fathers erupted onto the stage, instantly transmuting the atmosphere into a frenetic tapestry of sound and soul. This trio, hailing from Edinburgh, doesn’t just perform; they conduct an auditory rebellion.

Their music, a kaleidoscopic blend of hip-hop, electronica, and alt rock, defies any traditional genre. It’s as if they’ve distilled the essence of a cultural melting pot into a sonic elixir. Alloysious Massaquoi, with his commanding presence, weaves his vocals through the intricate beats, his voice a beacon in the rhythmic storm. Kayus Bankole, a dynamo of energy, bounds across the stage, his performance as much visual as it is auditory. And G Hastings, the enigmatic wizard behind the decks, layers sounds with a surgeon’s precision.

The set is a rollercoaster of intensity. There’s a raw, almost primal quality to their music that conjure emotions, challenge perceptions, and invoke a communal experience that’s both introspective and explosively outward.

Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.
Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.

Throughout the four shows at the Kia Forum and Crypto Arena, the setlist remained fairly consistent, a testament to their extensive discography. They played all the hits, ensuring that fans from different eras of their career were satisfied. From their latest album “Memento Mori,” tracks like “My Cosmos Is Mine,” “Wagging Tongue,” and “My Favourite Stranger” (replaced with “Speak To Me” on December 15th) were included in the setlist. The variation in the setlist came during Martin Gore’s two acoustic performance midway through the set and the first song of the encore, which alternated between “Condemnation” and “Waiting For The Night.”

In the midst of a string of electrifying gigs, each one a meticulously crafted spectacle, the performance 15th brought an unexpected jolt to the routine. Dave, ever the master of ceremonies, had to slam the brakes on the night’s feverish momentum to quash a brewing scuffle, “Nothing’s that important… There’s enough shit going on in the world, without you guys,” Dave proclaimed.  Cut to the 17th, and the script flipped to a more heartwarming scene. The crowd, a sea of adoring faces, united in a spontaneous chorus encouraged by Dave of ‘Happy Birthday’ for a fan lucky enough to celebrate their special day amid the electrifying atmosphere of a live show. It’s these unscripted moments, these deviations from the setlist, transform each concert into a their own individual story.

A highlight for me was Martin Gore’s performance of “Heaven” on the 15th. Originally sung by Dave Gahan and written by Martin, the song took a new life with Martin’s vocals, marking its first live performance since 2014 and the first ever by Martin. While I also hoped for a rendition of “Somebody,” this performance was a rare treat. On each night, following Martin’s “solos”, Dave lovingly reintroduced Martin to the adoring crowd and consistently praised Martin for his angelic voice. Dave was right. Martin was absolutely fine form all four nights.

The tribute to Andrew Fletcher was profoundly moving. “World In My Eyes,” Andrew’s favorite song, was dedicated to him, with his face projected on the huge LED screens, a moment that unified the audience in remembrance and respect. For fans in the know, hands went up imitating the cover art of the “World In My Eyes” single, also a subtle reminder of the fact that Andy wore glasses.

The final show at Crypto Arena was particularly memorable for me. I found myself seated next to an older gentleman who had attended the legendary 101 concert. He recounted the energetic opening sets by OMD and Thomas Dolby, and even a food fight that erupted among the restless crowd. His concerns about this being potentially the last major Depeche Mode tour echoed the sentiments I had encountered online. This sense of uncertainty about the band’s future made the concert experience more poignant.

People love Depeche Mode for various reasons. Their music transcends mere entertainment; it’s a language that speaks of resilience, love, loss, and the human condition. Their ability to evolve while retaining their unique sound is a testament to their artistry. The emotional depth of their lyrics, coupled with their groundbreaking synthesis of electronic and traditional music elements, creates a connection that is both personal and universal.

Attending the Memento Mori World Tour in Los Angeles was more than just attending concerts; it was a pilgrimage through my personal history with Depeche Mode, a band that has been a constant in my life. Their music has been a companion through various stages of my life, and this tour was a reminder of their timeless appeal and the profound impact they have had on their fans. While the future of Depeche Mode may be uncertain, the legacy they have built and the memories they have created are indelible. Let’s hope that this isn’t the last we see of them, but if it is, they have left us with a wealth of music and memories to cherish.

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Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.
Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.
Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.
Depeche Mode. Photo by Ashley Osborn / Kia Forum Photos. Used with permission.