When the warlike drums of My Cosmos Is Mine ushered in the arrival of Depeche Mode, it could have just as easily have been Daft Punk or Justice or Bicep who were about to enter stage left at Malahide Castle such was the bombast.
It was an early indication that after 40 years in show business, Depeche Mode are vociferously resisting being dragged into the heritage phase of their career. Their new album ‘Memento Mori’ – their first since the death of Andrew Fletcher – makes up a quarter of the main set and sits comfortably alongside their big hits from their ‘90s heyday.
Surprisingly, the cold war heroes rarely dip into their ‘80s output. There’s a playful rendition of Everything Counts with the svelte Dave Gahan hamming it up on the runway. The physicality of the 61-year-old’s performance is quite something to behold as he twirls and poses like a devilish matador throughout the show. His vocal performance is equally athletic as he powers through the 23-song set.
Martin Gore brings a different emotional resonance to proceedings as he takes centre stage for emotive performances of Soul With Me and Home, which are well-received by the hardcore audience who have travelled from far and wide to be here.
The presence of so many songs from 1997’s ‘Ultra’ is a welcome surprise. It’s No Good is an early highlight and fits snugly beside new songs like Wagging Tongues and recent single Ghosts Again. When Gore moves to guitar, it’s easy to see why Depeche Mode were so influential on the industrial scene. My Favourite Stranger in particular highlights Gore’s abilities, while 2005’s A Pain That I’m Used To is an unexpected highlight of the show with Gore and Gahan in full flow.
The band pay tribute to Andrew Fletcher with a heartfelt rendition of World In My Eyes, with Gahan clearly moved by the imagery of Fletcher on-screen midway through the song. It’s a simple yet effective mark of respect from the quiet man of Depeche Mode who will live on through his vast contribution to pop culture.
Although the heat is great, Irish summertimes can work against outdoor shows as they all too often nullify the light show due to the sun sticking around too long. That can also provide moments of magic in twilight, however, and when Depeche Mode return for a stripped down version of Waiting For The Night To Fall it did just that, providing an exquisite moment of respite before the band hit us with the hits like Muhammad Ali.
The universal existential crisis of the pandemic brought many people back to the music of Depeche Mode, but they proved in Malahide Castle that they never went away. They’ve always been exactly where they needed to be to celebrate our hearts of darkness.