Depeche Mode Pay Tribute To Andy Fletcher During Stunning ‘Memento Mori’ Stop In Chicago

Pausing just past the halfway point of Wednesday night’s performance on stage in Chicago, surviving Depeche Mode members Dave Gahan and Martin Gore paid tribute to co-founding keyboard player Andy Fletcher.

Fletcher (a crucial component in Depeche Mode’s groundbreaking electronic sound who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member in 2020), recorded and performed with the group since 1980 but passed away unexpectedly last May following an aortic dissection.

While the dozen tracks that make up the group’s stunning new album Memento Mori, Depeche Mode’s 15th, were written prior to Fletcher’s death, it’s almost impossible not to view the new record through that prism, a rumination on life, death and mortality influenced in part by the pandemic.

Translated from Latin, “memento mori” means “remember you must die.” And while it could be taken as a dark sentiment on the surface, it’s an idea that can also be embraced as a reminder to live each day to its fullest.

On stage Wednesday night at Chicago’s United Center, Depeche Mode seemed to be doing just that, offering up an uncharacteristically jubilant celebration over the course of nearly two and a half hours, a deft balance between melancholy and joy which ran an emotional gamut.

“Our friend, Mr. Andrew Fletcher!” said Gahan during “World in my Eyes,” turning to view images of Fletcher on a trio of massive video screens, pointing with his right hand as he and Gore sang.

The tribute was minutes removed from the show’s emotional high point during the group’s delivery of its latest single “Ghosts Again,” a soaring cut written for the new album by Gore and Psychedelic Furs vocalist Richard Butler.

While the idea of death lies at the heart of the new song, it’s wrapped up in some of Depeche Mode’s most beautiful music. Sparkling synths took off out of an acoustic take on “Soul With Me,” setting the table for the gnarly Martin Gore riff which informs “I Feel You.”

Gahan smiled wide as Depeche Mode delivered the evening’s most primal one-two punch, playfully striking a cymbal with his left hand from atop his perch on the drum riser during “I Feel You.”

“Well, thank you very much, Chicago! Can we hear you?” asked Gahan rhetorically Wednesday night. “Good evening, everybody!” he screamed over rapturous applause.

Gahan pranced at the front of the stage, turning as he bound across it and behind the drum kit, returning triumphantly with mic stand overhead as the crowd took up the chorus to “Walking in my Shoes.”

Following the first two tracks from Memento Mori (“My Cosmos is Mine” and “Wagging Tongue”) to open the show, “Walking in my Shoes” was book ended by a pair from Ultra (“It’s No Good,” “Sister of Night”) as that album cruises past 25.

“You wanna have some fun? I wanna see those arms!” demanded Gahan, making his way down a runway from the stage to the center of the arena floor for the first time Wednesday as Depeche Mode moved into “Everything Counts.”

Additional synths added an energetic vibe to the contemplative cut, Gore taking a late vocal prior to a stripped down, extended ending. “Oh yeah it does!” assured the singer, making his way back to the stage.

With the band locking in, Depeche Mode built on the momentum, following “Everything Counts” with “Precious.” Gahan delivered a lyrical reference to angels with his arms over his head, keys combining with a late Gore solo to drive the moment.

The religious storytelling that identifies “John the Revelator” further defined one of the evening’s most rocking moments, the group hitting its stride as it tore toward encore with “Enjoy the Silence.”

From the Violator album, “Enjoy the Silence” went gold in 1990 as the group’s highest charting U.S. single, reaching #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Wednesday night at United Center, newly arranged percussion on the classic cut got the Chicago crowd moving, instantly turning a 20,000 seat arena into a sweaty nightclub despite a cool spring night.

Gahan traded poses with drummer Christian Eigner as Gore made his way down the runway for the first time during the Violator highlight. “Thank you very much. Good night. God bless,” said Gahan as the four piece group made its way from the stage.

With record sales in excess of 100 million around the globe, fueled by a still unique fusion of synth, rock and dance sounds, it’s hard to overstate the group’s immense influence – but a murderer’s row of hit singles made the case anyway as the band returned to the stage Wednesday in the Windy City.

“Let’s give it up for Chicago! Thank you,” said Gahan from the runway, moving to the arena floor with Gore as the duo delivered an acoustic take on “Condemnation,” embracing before heading back to the main stage. “Alright. This next song’s fun,” mused the singer. “I like it.”

So did the sold out crowd. Unique percussion and live drumming soon gave way to the familiar synth pop joy that lies at the heart of “Just Can’t Get Enough.” “Woooo!” screamed Gahan with a smile, sashaying left as he cut a whirling dervish across the stage, stopping to draw the crowd in with both hands. “Come on! Let’s hear it!” he said, the consummate frontman. “Oh come on now!” he continued, making the crowd earn it as he pranced down the runway. “Come on, give me one more!” he said, more or less conducting the crowd.

While engaged throughout, nowhere in Wednesday night’s set were the Chicago faithful more responsive than during “Never Let me Down Again,” the entire audience, from the uppermost reaches down to the arena floor, swaying vigorously from left to right with arms raised, a visual as incredible as any that ran on the high definition screens throughout the show.

“Thank you very much. Thank you,” said Gahan, trying in vain to calm the raucous audience as this leg of the “Memento Mori” tour winds down (wrapping up April 14, 2023 at New York’s Madison Square Garden before moving abroad in May with a North American return already set for September through December). “Chicago really is the best. But can you do better?” he asked playfully, Depeche Mode closing up with “Personal Jesus.”

Over the course of a half hour, Welsh electronic artist/producer Kelly Lee Owens set the stage for Depeche Mode in Chicago.

Opening with “Arpeggi,” Owens put a wholly synth spin on Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi,” hood up as she manipulated electronic elements in real time on stage at United Center.

“Things are different in me,” she sang next, following up with “Re-Wild.” Clad in a red dress, both hands were raised as Owens rushed the mic amidst a sonic flurry of sound.

“Chicago! How you guys doing?” she asked on stage Wednesday night. “Thank you for watching! We’re gonna have some fun before Depeche Mode!” asserted Owens. “Death begins with compromise,” she sang, moving forth with “L.I.N.E.”

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