The German capital is a spiritual home for Basildon’s finest exports; it’s where, on the former east side, the band performed to youngsters in the GDR era. In the west, it’s where the band spent formative time at the iconic Hansa studios. More recently, their epic show at Berlin’s Waldbühne, just a few hundred metres west of tonight’s giant venue, became part of the band’s brilliant 2020 documentary, Spirits in the Forest. And not forgetting 2014’s popular Live in Berlin recording.
On a balmy weekend, two sold out nights at the city’s immense Olympic stadium, as part of the band’s Memento Mori world tour, once again capture the hearts of fans old and new. Top sartorial marks to those die-hard fans dressed in Enjoy the Silence royal crowns and crimson cloaks. There’s also a fair few Memento Mori-inspired white angel wings, some relief from the congregated mass of black t-shirts as the sun beats down on the venue’s temporary rubber pitch covering.
It’s the first time Gahan, Gore, Gordeno (keys) and drummer Christian Eigner have played Berlin since keyboard player and founding member Andy Fletcher passed away. His absence is tenderly acknowledged by stunning monochrome images of “Fletch” for one of his favourite songs, World in My Eyes. His bespectacled face stares out as fans touchingly fold their raised hands to make the shape of glasses, just like photographer Anton Corbijn captured in 1990 for the single’s cover.
There’s a subtle transition from the mournful to joyous through upbeat hits such as Everything Counts. Both John the Revelator, from 2005’s Playing the Angel, and I Feel You (from Songs of Faith and Devotion) come with added bite.
Gahan takes a break midway in the night’s main set from his spinning and strutting, giving Gore the spotlight for songs separated by 37 years: A Question of Lust (Black Celebration) and the spine-tingling Soul with Me from Memento Mori. It’s at this point you realise how improved the sound quality now is compared to earlier on in this career-spanning set.
Waiting for the Night, where Gore and shiny-booted Gahan head down the runway stage, is as close to aural perfection as you can get for a venue this size.
But it’s of course the band’s finale that unifies this enormous devoted crowd. An extended Enjoy the Silence, with Gordeno electro remix and groovy Nile Rodgers-esque guitar strumming from Gore, closes the main set. Then an encore of the brilliant Just Can’t Get Enough, Never Let Me Down Again and building Personal Jesus sends more than 70,000 fans away with a whole lot more than just black memento beer cups.