Year is 1997. First album bought : ‘’Ultra’’. First song: ‘’Barrel of a gun’’. Purchasing of all the albums on the black market. Serbia, nineties, economic sanctions, isolation, war, bombing. First concert missed: Budapest, September 2001, ‘’Exciter tour’’, chasing the faculty entrance exam. First successful concert: (again) Budapest, June 2006. Forty degrees Celsius, summer storm, ‘’NEP stadium’’, parterre fence, mass passing out in the crowd, internal breakdown on ‘’Walking in my shoes’’. What’s a fan pit? Doomed concert in Belgrade 2009, online ordering of tickets on the first day of sale, website down, screw online shopping in Serbia. Collecting the tickets one day before going in the hospital, freezing out in front of the ticket office, plastic tickets for fan pit. Cancellation of the concert, Dave, cancer, chemotherapy. One of the worst days in life. Second concert: again (forcedly) Budapest, last cash stack used. Grandstand, arena, internal breakdown on ‘’Walking in my shoes’’, again. Dave exhausted, lukewarm audience, half empty hall.
Announcement for the new album, first single, ‘’Delta machine’’. Listening to the album for the first time. Second time. Third time. Fourt time. FOURTH TIME. ‘’Delta fucking machine!’’ Best album since ‘’Ultra’’. Autism, non mainstream electro-blues. Announcement for the tour. Announcement for the Belgrade concert, once again. Online ordering of tickets for the fan put on the first day of sale, website down, screw online shopping in Serbia. Fifty bloody Euros, but you know that I would give away every last dime. There isn’t even a analogue ticket. Assholes from ‘’Tuborg’’. Fracturing the forearm three weeks before the concert. I’ll immobilize it. I’ll carry it in a wheelchair. Therapies. Friday. Istanbul concert cancelled. Backstab. No, no, no. Damn Bulgarian truck drivers.
They are coming to Belgrade. Touchdown. Hotel ‘’Metropol’’. Rain is going to fall, rain isn’t going to fall. There will be mosquitoes, there won’t be mosquitoes. Getting together with the crew five hours before the concert. Twenty of them. Entrance, search, fence. No jam, chilling out to some electro-Germans. Immobilizing the unhealed fracture. They’re going to start at eight. They’re going to start at nine. They’re starting in a quarter to nine. ‘’Welcome to my world’’. No, welcome to OUR world!. There goes Dave. But there goes Martin. Hey, Martin! They’re five meters away. This is as close as it gets. This is it. Trash suits. Sparkling. The nineties. ‘’Angel’’. Dave is hammering down with its voice. Band is hammering down with their music. Like somebody is playing a CD on the speakers. You know very well what song is third on the set list. Calm down, calm down. ‘’Walking in my shoes’’. You aren’t considered to be a Depeche fan if this song isn’t in your personal Top five. Top of the tops. I’m having a milder stroke. Too much energy is pouring in, transformer burning down. Fuses are blown out. I don’t feel well. I have been preparing, but I haven’t prepared myself well enough. Calm down, you fool. This is only the third song, there are twenty more to go. Others are filming, I am not able to stand up straight, let alone to hold the camera still for five minutes. ‘’Things get damaged, things get broken’’. Good. Chill out. O, look at the puppies on the screen. They’re so cute. ‘’Precious’’ puppies. Self-irony. Nice touch. I need some water. Back of my head doesn’t hurt so bad, stomach is calming down. Let’s go!
Synthesizers. Spotlights are being lowered. The eighties. ‘’Black celebration’’. THIS is ‘’Depeche’’, a dark band with a light in their souls. Here in Serbia, every day is a black one. And we celebrate when we see their back. Guys on the stage don’t know that, but their lyrics sure as hell do. ‘’I’ll drink to that’’. I will, actually. It’ll be only water for me. No alcohol, no drugs. Brain must remain clean. It must record. It must absorb. It must charge itself. Without interference. ‘’Policy of truth’’. This was the favorite song for some good people that are not with us anymore. You could take some pictures now. Everybody’s singing. Stuck in the nineties. Ti-ti-ti-ti-ta. Now, this is some sick stuff. Sparks flying all over the screen. Well, this is one way to interpret ‘’Should be higher’’. The crowd don’t quite dig this. This is stuff for the chosen ones. If Dave manages to sing this, he will sing everything. Just like from the textbooks. People, he is fifty one. For real! Wait, if I remember well, now should be the time for…
Camera is rolling, placed inside the calm hands. I’ve been waiting this for sixteen years. Half of my life. Half! Dave is like a tiger inside the cage. ‘’Do you mean this horny creep, set upon your weary feet…’’ This is it. Finally. They’ve come to your hometown, to play for you your favorite song, the one that has brought them to your attention. The one song that has kept your head on your shoulders on numerous occasions. The one song that has kept their heads on their shoulders. Their song, your song. Dave jumps. Total silence. No. An error has occurred. No. Let’s start again. Sounds just like on the CD. Until the first chorus. Zap. No. This isn’t happening. First, the cancellation of 2009 Belgrade concert. Then, a close miss with Istanbul. Followed by a fracture of the forearm. Somebody’s got to be kidding me. Concert is in a crisis. Dave talks to the audience. They NEVER talk to the audience. I am not making out a single word of what’ he saying. Left ear is shrieking since the ‘’Angel’’. Third time is the lucky charm. Let’s take it down slowly. It’s about time. First chorus, second chorus, third verse. Dave is again vocally perfect. We’ve done it, we’ve done it! We’re not looking back anymore. End of the song, music startles once more, but Dave brings it to a closing. We’ve survived. You have only now officially arrived to Belgrade! And you’ve done it by playing ‘’Barrel of a gun’’ for ten minutes. This one is going on youtube. Even Depeche is made from flesh and bone.
Martin stays with us. ‘’Sorry ‘bout that’’. This must be a historical first, Martin is ‘’communicating’’ with the audience. I wish for that better combo of songs. ‘’Only when I lose myself’’. Alright! Some bands would sell their own mother for a single like this, but Depeche fans rarely have the opportunity to hear it live, because it has to go in line together with all the other classics. You know what I want. I want the unfairly neglected ‘’Exciter’’. ‘’When the body speaks’’. Yes! Now it’s time for some other dear people around me to fall apart. They deserve it. This one is for them. Martin is still claustrophobic on stage. He looks like he would rather crawl up in the backstage and die. Or just wait for Dave to screw every woman in the audience. This is why they are such a great band. Because they have a loud/great looking frontman and a quiet scientist/genius, eternally hidden behind the keyboards. Separated, they are good. Combined together, they represent a machine. The ‘’Delta machine’’. The Depeche machine. And the machine mustn’t stop. ‘’Thank you’’. Martin is happy that he can finally step down. The tattooed beast returns.
A couple of new songs. But most of the audience want older stuff. People, listen how ‘’Delta machine’’ sounds perfect live! ‘’Heaven’’ and I must bore everybody to death with Dave’s vocal superiority. Corbijn superbly guides the song through the video presentation. And then, my personal favorite from the new album and a future concert classic. ‘’There’s only one way to soothe my soul’’. Yes, I know. I’m listening to it and watching it. The crowd is jumping. It’s about time. This is a song meant for Dave to sing it live. A change of rhythm. ‘’A pain that I’m used to’’, only this time without the siren. A dance remix. An odd rhythm of singing. Peter Gordeno is playing the analogue bass. I guess that they’re tired of the same mix, over and over again. It’s time for some classic stuff. And a classic it is.
Spotlights are rushing downwards. A sample suggests some running. Running to catch up with the clock. ‘’I’ve got to get to you first’’. Usce park erupts. The machine goes to fifth gear. Crowd is jumping, perfectly synchronized. Everybody’s waiting for just one thing. Dave’s spin. Microphone stand is high up in the air. Let’s go, old chap! Women are screaming. Second spin is even more confident than the first one. Total hysteria. A bra is flying high over the first row and falls on the edge of the stage. Security slightly shocked. Yes, there are still some women who would gladly donate their underwear to Mr. Dave Gahan. Rock and roll! ‘’Secret to the end’’ is guiding us to the great finale. It’s the favorite song for some dear, dear people.
Amongst the 30.000 people present, at least two thirds are here to hear the next two songs. Depeche know that and this is why they are performing it relentlessly for than twenty years. ‘’Enjoy the silence’’ is a classic even amongst the children brought here by their parents. By the way, respect for those parents! Everybody’s waiting for it, everybody wants it and there’s no fucking way that they will leave this place without playing it. You want ‘’Enjoy the silence’’? Here it goes! Opening notes and the couples are already getting closer. And then, out of the blue, Anton Corbijn! There’s a picture of three intertwined female gymnasts pressed up against the glass floor on the video beams. They’re suffocating. They are silent. You wanted silence? Here’s your silence. They’re silent, right? And they will remain silent until the end of the song. A momentarily dash of claustrophobia spreads around the Usce park. Even the most common verses are sung with some unpleasantness. Lots of people just want for the song to end as quickly as possible. Depeche remain the masters of self parody and taboos. The bar has been risen higher than ever before, if such thing is possible. The song is finished. Thank the Lord for that. The gymnasts are standing up. They’re alive after all. Careful what you wish for, ‘cause you just might get it.
Good old ‘’Personal Jesus’’ is a regular soul healer, this time with a new concert intro. You can not go wrong with ‘’Reach out and touch faith’’. This is the song for all the eternity. There isn’t any controversy on the screens. That would just be too much for everybody. Dave is strolling down the catwalk. Into the fan pit. He feeds on this stuff. We feed from this stuff.
It’s time for the first farewell. And once again, it’s ‘’Delta’’. ‘’Goodbye’’. Great video projection, an unpretentious one. So is the song. Some close-ups of the Basildon three. We sometimes forget that Fletch is here also. Lights are out, but the machine is still humming. It is ready for some more. Are you ready? You bet!
There goes Martin again. Just one more song and his torture is over. ‘’Home’’, of course. People are breaking down all over the place. This is why Depeche is such a grand band. Everybody has some personal emotional breakdown in their opus. A diversity of breakdowns. Theirs, ours, human. And then, an exclusive. ‘’Halo’’, more Depeche than Goldfrapp. Berlin is on the screens. ‘’Violator’’ is in our hearts. Unofficial fifth single from the best albums of all times. There’s no time to waist. We must go deeper in the past. The darkest past. Pathetic beginnings. It’s Eigner’s turn to smash the percussions. The crowd is hopping around. Dave and Martin are again asking themselves: ‘’How awesome the band are we, when everybody still want our trash from the very beginning?’’ The answer is very well known. The most awesome band in the world. ‘’Just can’t get enough’’. So true, we just can’t seem to get enough of this stuff. This could last all night. Unfortunately, we all know that it won’t. It doesn’t matter. We must give everything that’s left. It’s time for some plowing. Plowing of Usce park. Plowing with guitar. ‘’I feel you’’. The machine is running on 110%. The speakers are crying out. Seismologists, everything’s fine. It’s just Martin’s guitar. And some vocals from Dave. Dave, who is dripping wet on the stage. We are dripping wet also. ‘’My kingdom comes’’. He doesn’t sound like in 1993, but that was some unearthly Dave. This is some earthly Dave, clean, vegetarian, hooked up on yoga. And he is still damn good at what he does. Here he comes on our side of the fan pit. Hey, you! Yeah, you! The immobilized right hand is stretched out towards him. Left hand is pounding the heart. Respect! Damn respect for all these years and everything that you and your band have survived. Respect for clinical death, cancer and all the shit in your life. Respect from this fucked up Serbs, who are waiting for you an entire lifetime. Respect from all these people who will talk about his for days to come, who will feed from this for weeks and remember this year as a year that Depeche Mode came to Serbia. Respect back! Dave’s index finger pointed out. Followed by a smile. ‘’Did he just point at you?’’ Sure as hell did! You have spent hours doing the makeup, standing in front of the closet and doing your hair in vain, girls. Depeche is carried inside the soul and not only on t-shirts. Dave sees that. This is why he gives respect only to some truly devoted fans. A heterosexual respect.
It’s time to part our ways. Everybody knows how their end begins. ‘’I’m taking a ride with my best friend…’’ There’s not much left. Arms are in the air. High above. Fingers are fluttering. The field is ready. Usce field. Our place. Dave’s place. On command, the wind is waving the field. It’s good that Dave has ears, otherwise his smile would run around his head. Martin’s happy, too. Only he doesn’t show it. They’re all happy because they know that they’re still Gods. This is the only thing that a man can feel when 60.000 hands are waving to his command. We want more. More, more. We get the message that we will see each other next time. They’ve survived the first and the most difficult time in Belgrade. And they did it in a most memorable fashion! They’ve plowed the entire Usce park in 140 minutes. They’ve kicked the shit out of some 30.000 people. They’ve set out some standards. They’ve charged our batteries full. They’ve fed our souls and our minds. They’ve shone some light in our dark souls. They’ve given us some hope. Hope that we are finally a part of the world. Our world. The Depeche world. We don’t need the rest of the world. We’ve been given all we ever wanted from the world. We’ve been given the gift of ‘’Delta machine’’. We’ve been given the gift of Depeche machine. So that we can hibernate inside it for four more years. Protected from every harm. Until we once more meet with the source of our energy. Endless energy…