Depeche Mode lights up Cleveland with unforgettable moves on ‘Momento Mori’ Tour

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOUB) – Depeche Mode’s 2023 resurgence – marked not only by the release of their first full-length studio album in six years, but also by a subsequent world tour – feels miraculous.

The untimely loss of Andrew Fletcher last year cast uncertainty over the future of these electronic legends. In the wake of the tragedy, remaining members Martin Gore and David Gahan returned to the studio to create Momento Mori. The album is a solid piece of work, especially for a band that’s been around for so long and freshly dealing with the loss of a key part of their sound.

Truth be told, I’m not as familiar with “new wave” – and therefore Depeche Mode – as I’d like to be. But when my Depeche Mode-mega fan girlfriend suggested I come with her to see the band, I knew I couldn’t pass the opportunity up. Whether I was familiar with them or not, the group is a legend in the genre – and when legends come around, I’m always more inclined to go and see them – because you never know what tour will be their last.

A black and white promotional image of Depeche Mode.
After seeing Depeche Mode, I am happy to report that acting on my FOMO was the correct call. Even as an inexperienced fan, Depeche Mode’s performance at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Field House Sunday night was phenomenal.

The Momento Mori Tour only featured one opening artist, NYC’s DIIV. I found the band a good stylistic choice, with their shoegaze-y sound fitting right in with what Depeche Mode brought later on.

Their utilization of the lights and screens accounted for a majority of their visual appeal, given that the band members weren’t doing a whole lot of interesting showmanship themselves. We could blame this on the fact that this flavor of post-punk traces crucial influence back to Kraftwerk (for better or worse). At least in the case of DIIV (but not in the case of Depeche Mode, as we will discuss later) this means little to no conventional “rock ‘n’ roll” showmanship.

The videos paired with their songs made very little sense – at least to me. Maybe if I knew the lyrics to the songs, they would have; but I couldn’t make those out, so it felt super random. Regardless, DIIV’s set felt pretty quick, and while I don’t remember most of their songs – nor do I feel a strong desire to seek out their music further – I found the band enjoyable enough while they were on stage.

Depeche Mode hit the stage brazenly with two songs off the new record: the ethereal, dramatic The Cosmos is Mine and Wagging Tongue. While it’s not surprising the Momento Mori Tour opens with songs from Momento Mori, it always feels like a risk for a legacy band to begin with their new material instead of warming the audience up with an old reliable. Luckily, the new tracks seemed to go over quite well with the audience.

The third track in the set was Walking in My Shoes, the second single off Depeche Mode’s 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion. It was one of my favorite performances of the night, and its momentum carried through the rest of the set. This was impressive, especially given that Depeche Mode held pretty much all of their most iconic songs (other than World in My Eyes off their iconic album Violator) before the encore.

The setlist of quality tracks spanning the band’s whole career was not the only thing keeping me invested in the Momento Mori tour. Depeche Mode brought great visual stage presence. The gigantic letter “M” on stage allowed Depeche Mode to do more interesting things with their graphics than a traditional screen. Unlike their opener, I felt like the visuals resonated meaningfully with the songs. While not mind-blowing, these visuals did their job well.

The interest went beyond just the screens, however. As artists age, it’s normal for them to turn down the onstage dancing and lean less into sex appeal.

Apparently, David Gahan did not get the memento (pun intended).

He emerged on stage in a luxurious red and black vest, effortlessly dancing through each instrumental section, and displaying what you could call a “bold fearlessness with the microphone stand.” The latter, especially, was much to the delight of the middle-aged women in the audience, who reveled in the suggestive allure of his performance.

Gahan performing like a younger man was something I found extremely charming, and inspiring. I could still feel the passion even after all these years. Gahan quite literally, more than a few times, stuck his arms out like a “T” and just started spinning in circles. How he didn’t get dizzy and didn’t fall over was almost as impressive as how good he still sounds live.

Gahan, along with the rest of the band, sounded right off the record. Instrumentally, I don’t have many notes. Depeche Mode filled the arena with the type of volume you’d expect. They played super tight. Andrew Gore’s moments to sing (and, in particular, his solo performance of Strangelove) proved fantastic.

With every show, some songs always hurt to not hear. For an inexperienced Depeche Mode fan, the most notable absentees were People Love People and Blue Dress, the latter of which stung a lot more than the first. With a setlist this solid, however, it wasn’t the biggest deal in the world.

It’s worth noting I felt a little awkward during World in My Eyes. It’s a great song, but it felt too sexual as being part of the setlist dedicated to the late Andrew Fletcher. The image of Fletcher on the screen contrasted with the performance on stage stunted the emotion I wanted to feel in that moment.

One of the best parts of seeing Depeche Mode in Cleveland was the energy of the crowd. Splurging for floor seats paid off in droves. Having room in the aisles to get up and dance added so much to the experience. I wasn’t the only one compelled to move during the set. Despite Depeche Mode’s fanbase being older, the whole crowd was really into the show. I watched a man a few rows in front of me dance his way around the entire section.

Dancing intensified – of course – during the big hits in the encore. Of course, these were all great to hear. I was so in my world enjoying the music that I barely noticed a man in the row in front of us propose to his girlfriend during Enjoy the Silence. There was no doubt that almost everyone in that arena was enjoying themselves.

While I’ve gone on and on about how great this show was, that energy alone speaks volumes more for the sheer quality of the Momento Mori Tour than I ever could.