Depeche Mode stick with successful formula at arena return

From disco to industrial after-hours, synth-masters deliver club night vibe

Who: Depeche Mode
Where: Scotiabank Arena
When: Sun., Nov. 5
Vibe: ’80s dance party meets industrial club night
Highlight: Hit-packed encore drawing on band’s ’80s chart-toppers
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)

THE FIRST TIME Toronto saw Depeche Mode this year was in April, at the beginning of a relentless global arena tour. When the Memento Mori World Tour rolls back into Toronto Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena, the band shows no signs of road weariness, instead powerfully presenting largely the same show they brought through town in the spring.

But why change it up when Depeche Mode — led by Dave Gahan and Martin Gore touring for the first time without Andy Fletcher who passed in 2022 — continue to powerfully prove themselves an arena act who continue to create relevant music right up to their most recent release?

They lean into the new album from the opening song with the dark and brooding My Cosmos Is Mine and Wagging Tongue from the latest Memento Mori album.

A giant “M” intrudes across video screen backdrops and a magnificent Gahan commands the attention most of the night, his impossibly long limbs, often twirling, sometimes frozen in a pose. With hints of Pee Wee Herman and a healthy dose of Freddie Mercury’s grandeur and Bryan Ferry’s gravitas, he rules the stage all night.

Bandmate Gore spends much of the night behind the band’s trademark synths, though often exchanging the keyboards to wrestle a massive white guitar to drop a few solos and sing a heartfelt solo acoustic lead, Strangelove, towards the end of the show.

Missing founding member Fletcher is remembered as they perform World in My Eyes with his image on the screens before leaving the stage after performing their faux closer, their 2020 track Enjoy The Silence.

After a seemingly endless encore wait —charade? — draining many hardcore fans’ cellphones, flashlight mode lighting the arena and imploring the band to return, they, of course, do.

After singing Happy Birthday to a fan, a regular tour schtick, Gahan asks if we’re ready “to have some fun,” which of course we are. And they deliver dance-party-fun versions of their career-launching hits Just Can’t Get Enough and Never Let Me Down Again before heading off to continue a tour that sees them play Europe for much of early 2024. Unlike some of their fellow acts from the MTV generation, Depeche Mode remain impressively relevant, not cursed to simply be a nostalgia act.