Seeing a Favorite Band For (Probably) the Last Time

Last night I went to see Depeche Mode in Cleveland, accompanied by friends of mine with whom I had not-so-coincidentally seen the band with in 1988. One of our number had earlier in the year suggested seeing the band as again as a bit of a mini-reunion, and, well, why not. The show was very good, with all the spectacle one (at this point) expects from Depeche Mode, and they played a good mix of “imperial era” hits and interesting later songs, including a couple from their latest album, the aptly named Momento Mori. A good time was had by all, or at least by me and my friends.

It also occurred to me (later, once the concert was done and I was back in my hotel room) that this was also likely the last time I would ever see Depeche Mode live. One reason is practical: They’re an arena-sized band, and generally speaking, I don’t go to see many arena-sized concerts anymore; I prefer to be able to sit for my concerts these days, and to have reasonably good acoustics (although I will admit the science of arena acoustics have gotten a lot better since I was a kid; it’s no longer just a messy wall of sound). Theaters, or at most a small outside shed, are my preference these days.

The other reason is more existential: Depeche Mode are 40 years into their career, and down to two members, the third member, Andy Fletcher, having passed in 2022 from a sudden aortic dissection. When he died, it was an open question whether Dave Gahan and Martin Gore, the other two members of the group, would continue on; Fletcher was widely known to be peacemaker and glue of the group, while Gahan and Gore were the more mercurial creatives. Moreover, Gahan had been grousing in the last few years about the fact that doing the Depeche Mode thing was a real hassle at this point in their lives — a world tour sounds sexy and exciting when you’re young, but when you’re in your late 50s and early 60s, it’s a bit of a drag, expensive to mount and disruptive of your whole life (and now you know why U2 is doing a big long residency in Vegas; if nothing else, it’s all in one place).

Gore and Gahan have apparently had a bit of a reapproachment and reimagining of their relationship to each other and their band, which as a Depeche Mode fan of long standing I find both heartening but also, realistically, something one can’t necessarily rely on moving forward. This concert tour is a bit of triumph over adversity, and the band might decide to end on this high note. Or the two remaining members might let everything drop because they’re financially set for life, pursuing their own separate interests and letting Depeche Mode fade out of benign neglect. They might get on each other’s nerves again. Or, bluntly, as they are both in their sixties now, and have led very rock n’ roll lives, one of them might die. Seeing as Gore is the band’s principal songwriter and Gahan the principal singer, it’s hard to see how Depeche Mode survives the death or departure of the either.

Or, you know, they could be just fine and keep releasing albums and touring for the next decade or more, in which case the problem is likely to be me; I could die, or, less dramatically and as previously noted, just decide not to subject myself to the sort of arena setting the band is fortunate enough to perform in. Depeche Mode, I assure you, will not miss me if I don’t show up to the show; last night’s concert was packed. They have enough fans to scrape by for as long as they can and will go on the road.

For whatever reason, it seems likely to me that last night was the last time I will see the band in a live setting. If that’s the case, Depeche Mode won’t be alone in this: There are any number of bands I grew up with who (provided they are an ongoing concern) are now either setting up their “farewell” tours, or will likely be planning to in the nearish future, or who are discovering that the hassle isn’t worth it, or that the audience necessary to tour without running into the red is no longer there. And speaking personally, I’m choosier about what I get out of the house for and in what setting, not to mention that, living in the boonies as I do, going to see any band or musician of any stature takes planning — the last several concerts I’ve seen have required travel to some degree or another. That takes effort and coordination and scheduling, and as someone who travels and tours myself (I am writing this at DFW, on the way to Austin and the Texas Book Festival), this can be trickier than it used to be.

If indeed this is the last time I will see Depeche Mode live, at the very least it was an excellent concert, in the company of good friends. There are worse ways to say goodbye. That said, my friends noted that the last time we saw Depeche Mode together was 35 years ago, and in the extremely unlikely event the band is still touring in another 35 years, we should consider seeing them again. And, well, you know what? If Gore and Gahan, by then in their mid 90s, show up, I at a relatively spry 89 would certainly consider it. Hopefully not in an arena.

— JS

35 Comments on “Seeing a Favorite Band For (Probably) the Last Time”

  1. With band reunions and resurrections, I always get the Theseus’s ship thing: when does it stop being the band and become a cover band? Not a complaint; I’ve seen many excellent concerts comprising only part of the original band, and it’s fine.

  2. I’ve been fortunate enough to see most of my favorite bands/groups with all of their original members, but that’s becoming a vanishingly small group. It’s likely to become an impossibility in the next few years. And sadly, we were out of town when Depeche Mode was in Atlanta, so we missed them.

    I’ve had the same realization of “this is the last time I’ll see them live” after leaving some concerts. Tears for Fears this year was one of those. We were fortunate enough to see ZZ Top right before Dusty Hill died in 2021. And Willie Nelson in person this past summer was definitely a bucket list item completed.

    I’m also with you on the arena vs. small concert venue or club preference. I’ve never loved the big arena shows anyway and now that I’m older (you and I are about the same age, John – I think a year apart at most) I’m positively sure I don’t want to do that ever again.

    Glad you got to enjoy Depeche Mode!

  3. No arenas for me. I gave up the big venues when my bladder pointed out how much not fun it was waiting on lines to get a seat in the restroom.

    But then, I was spoiled because I saw some of the biggest names in rock history before or just as they became big names. It was a letdown to discover I could only see them again in huge venues. For a person who doesn’t like crowds, concerts where I can only see who’s on stage by looking at a huge video screen seems pointless, regardless of what band is performing. I can stay home and enjoy the music with no waiting on lines plus cheaper beer.

  4. Heh. By then our GeezerTronic 9000 assisted-mobility bodysuits will let us crowd-surf with the best of ‘em.

    Until, of course, some prankster in the crowd hacks the bodysuit’s control software (cloud-connected, of course, ‘cause the vulture capital firms funding GeezerTronics insisted) with the result that you hotfoot it out to the parking lot, there to mime being trapped in a box until the stroke of midnight.

    So maybe, yeah, a more intimate venue. With comfy seats.

  5. While not specific to bands, by wife and I are becoming acutely aware of how many aspects of our lives are of the “last time” nature. Whether seeing a show, or visiting a country unlikely to rise back up to the top of the bucket list, it’s a bittersweet element of our mortality. 🖖🏼

  6. This is poignant. Thanks. This tour is the first one of the last few that I’m skipping, for financial and other reasons. For me, it’s hard to imagine that anything but the infirmity or death of Martin or Dave could end the band, at least anytime soon. They truly seem to have been brought closer together by Fletch’s death, and they collaborated to an unprecedented degree on songs on this album (their best album in ages).

    After every tour since the mid-1990s there have been questions both inside and outside the band about whether they would break up or if they would record another album or tour. Eventually though, Martin would write songs and share them with Dave, and Dave would really want to sing them, and hence, another album. That process would have to stop for Depeche Mode to end, I think. But yeah, I can’t imagine that the band would continue with just one of them. They’ve both done well-received solo projects and collaborations – with Martin with Vince Clarke, for instance, and Dave with Soulsavers – and I expect that would just continue.

  7. Glad you had a good time. DM will be playing my town in a couple weeks and I got tickets as I found Memento Mori decent and partly because I was still kicking myself for passing on seeing New Order when they passed through recently (DM probably sounds way better live at this point, especially vocals). Probably my last big arena for many of the reasons above.

  8. I had the same feeling that this could be the last time I ever see Depeche Mode when I saw them in Brooklyn. So much so, that after I got home, I immediately bought another ticket to see them in Manhattan the following weekend.

  9. @ Steve S.
    BTW, I did see New Order when they did their tour with Pet Shop Boys. Pet Shop Boys were absolutely amazing. New Order on the other hand, was a mess vocally.

  10. I enjoyed your article and as a true Depeche Mode die-hard fan, I pray that this will not be DM’s final curtain call.
    Regrettably however, I found that I only like a few of their newer songs and, truth be told, haven’t been able to obsess over any of their music since the release their “Songs of Faith and Devotion” album, circa 1993.
    Today, at the ripened age of 50 years old, realize that I must’ve outgrown my Depeche Mode fandom somewhere along the way. Growing up as a DepecheDevotee, the bands harmonies helped me immeasurably, especially with intimate communications with others, for this I will forever be thankful and feel like I owe a debt of gratitude. During my developmental years, of which sometimes felt as if I were an outsider, didn’t quite fit in at times and typical childhood dramas I thought from which I would never survive, DM songs taught me how to have something bigger than myself with which I could identify or whose music I could find comfort in, and at other times taught me how to put words to my emotions (i.e. 101 album & Songs of Faith and Devotion especially).
    T’is true, the band could call it quits after this tour, or perhaps they’ll find a way to keep touring in perpetuity or one of the remaining members might leave this existence to join our beloved Fletch.
    But one thing is certainly true, DM music will inspire and help people of allages, world-wide, for new generations to come.

  11. I agree with everybody about arenas for music. I’m too old, with all the mentioned problems, to enjoy the experience any more.

  12. I just saw my favorite band, Yes, in Cincinnati, 49 years after I first saw them. Only one person is left from those earlier days, but since it’s virtuoso guitarist Steve Howe, I’m still eager to attend one of their performances.

    They don’t do the arenas anymore, so theater shows, as you suggest, are the way to go. It’s great to have decent seats that aren’t half a mile away from the band.

    Every time I see them now, I realize it may be the last time. So I go, buy the t-shirt, and have a great time. Nothing lasts forever, so I’m taking advantage of their presence while they’re still around.

  13. Can’t get over how massively more expensive tickets are than when I saw them (and similar bands) years ago. This tour the tickets are $300+ just to get in the door. As for arena shows DM is one of those bands that can make the largest stadiums rock! I saw their iconic Rose Bowl show and that was fabulous! Which brings up another point- do you really want toeet the old girlfriend at 60 when you could remember her forever at 18??

  14. Well written article, thank you! My husband and I saw them on Nov 8th in Detroit. I saw them 14 years ago, and enjoyed this show more. I like their new album, and Dave has this Joker swagger that I found incredibly enjoyable to watch! I hope they don’t go away🥲

  15. Glad you went and enjoyed it. As a certified geezer, all I know of Depeche Mode is the name. I could not name a single one of their songs, though I probably have heard one or two along the way. (If I heard them, I might recognize them.)

    Wait until you (fingers crossed) get to be my age in 20 years. We’ve been seeing a lot of 50th Anniversary or Farewell tours in recent years – Bob Seger, John Fogerty, the Doobie Brothers, The Eagles (this year), and it is a strange feeling. If they can still get it done, great. Hey, Dion is 84 and was still touring last year, and not only that but still doing new material. We saw Jimmy Buffett for the last time (#50) last year. We are all getting older ,my friend. You just hope favorites hang it up before their voice is shot (I’m looking at you, Steven Stills and you, Paul Simon, among others(.

  16. I am horribly heartbroken I didn’t see Depeche Mode in concert in Philly. I had tickets….and was going to take my 14 year old son (since I became a DM fan when I was 14 back in 1985)….I had to sell my tickets realizing my ex wouldn’t let me have his ‘custody’ day to take my son. I may be 52 but still feel as you g as years ago when I listen to DM. I have been watching all the concerts on YouTube to feel a sense I was there. I saw them a few times in the years…and come to think of it…when I was married to my ex, I had gotten tickets to 2 of DMs other concerts and he wouldn’t take me. I have been thinking the same about it being the last time they go in concert as it was fitting to go now in honor of the band, their new record and Fletcher. But Dave Gahan says at the end of each concert….’See you next time’. So I’m holding on to hope….they they may do one more concert soon….and nothing is stopping me from going. I will always regret missing this tour….I let others stand in my way. But being a huge DM fan, I pray they tour once more…just as great as they did this time. They have been doing it for 40 years which is awesome and most bands never are together that long. I think the band members, Peter and Christian, fit right in and they sounded amazing. Please pray they come around one more time!!!

  17. Depeche Mode far exceeded my expectations – and that version of “Strangelove” (my favorite DM song) punched me inthe heart.

  18. I’m in the UK and it’s a little different both here and in Europe.

    DM play Olympic stadiums in the summer which I always avoid and wait until they play the ‘small’ 20k capacity arenas.

    On the last tour they played a tiny gig for the BBC in Glasgow in a venue that holds under 2000. They hadn’t played in that place since 1984.

    I was lucky enough to get a ticket(£30!) and never imagined I’d see my favourite band in such an intimate setting.

  19. I’ve been lucky enough that most of the old favourites I really want to see have been touring smaller venues for years now. We’ve managed to see Richard Thompson (of Fairport Convention originally) at least the last five years. And as good Robert Plant who can still sing, we’re going to see him in a couple of weeks at the Civic (capacity 2346 seated, which this concert is) in Wolverhampton (UK) which is his “home” venue, him being a Black Country lad. We don’t live there anymore, but have good friends who still do, so we have combined seeing them with seeing both Thompson and Plant before, and can even walk to the Civic from their house or get a regular bus, all in all very civilised. Plant is playing with a young band, Saving Grace, a couple of years back he put an anonymous ad out “singer wants band to play with” and the youngsters were the answer; they clearly respect him, but equally he respects them and they have made new music together, but best of all they are all clearly having so much fun, which I think makes the best concerts.

    The last stadium concert I went to was Springsteen at the Etiad, seated so a long way from the stage, but the previous time we stood, and I’m really not up to it anymore. I am so grateful that most of the people I like play smaller venues!

  20. My main regret is that the names I would like to hear rarely play our local small venues. The last concert we attended here was Weird Al; the MACC seats 1200, which means none of the seats are terrible and everyone gets a seat. Are there shows I would travel to see any more? Very few.

    From my salad days, I remember seeing Pink Floyd in the OSU stadium, complete with the local Christian fundamentalist-extremists telling us that we were going to hell for worshiping them.

  21. We saw them on the first leg in Vegas, I was worried they would quit touring after a few dates without Fletch. I’m glad my fears were unfounded and we really enjoyed the show.

  22. I feel you on this. In the last year plus, I’ve seen a few “last” shows, and recently was tempted by a couple more, including Depeche Mode. I’m happy I went to the shows I did but also melancholy about it in retrospect, because it is probably the last time I’ll see these bands. I’m a little sorry I didn’t go to the Violent Femmes, if only because I was curious if the audience was going to be a bunch of rickety old ex-punkers like me.

    Ironically, I think the best show I went to was by the oldest musician – Paul McCartney. I don’t know if I’d be willing to shell out for many more arena-sized shows, but this one was great.

  23. I’m a bit older than you (ok, a decade…), and swore when Bowie died, that I wasn’t going to let another staple of my youth go without seeing them live.

    And I’ve been living in England the last few years, so had a little more access than I do at home in Nova Scotia. I got to see Elton John twice. The first time, in a pouring rain, was actually a better show in some ways than the Goodbye tour. I may now be too old to do another stadium show. The bones and joints do still work, but only if I don’t sit still too long.

    My first “last show” was The Who — their “Final Farewell” tour (`1984?) in Toronto. Of course, their final farewell wasn’t, but I probably still wouldn’t have had a chance to see them again.

    I did get to see the Rolling Stones in Nova Scotia (also in a driving rain), but I still haven’t got over them adding Ronnie Wood to the lineup, so not that big a deal!

  24. Seeing them tomorrow in Chicago. Saw Duran Duran in September and am kicking myself for passing on The Cure.
    But yea, my stamina for these shows is gone.
    And even though I’m a HUGE, long-time U2 fan, I just can’t justify the cost of Vegas.
    This getting old thing is for the birds.

  25. Excellent show in Boston by DM. I have seen every tour since the exciter tour in 2001 – been a big fan since 84. I intend to continue attending every tour – I feel they will continue – losing fletch was very sobering- Dave and Martin were still stellar! I was enthralled as always . I’ve now seen them 3 times in tx- LAX-ma and the UK. I am just as wild as ever at my concerts (and I don’t drink) going to see interpol at the beacon theatre in NYC in December. Cannot wait! You are NEVER too old for a concert – and yes I still want to marry Dave -lol

  26. I’m so grateful I went to the Brooklyn show. It was a full body somatic experience. Like you I’ve been diehard since our precious teenage 80’s. I will go see them again anytime anywhere the feel like playing.

    If you missed the American leg of the tour you better take your grown and sexy GenX ass to Europe. I’m serious!
    It’s soul balm!

  27. Bob Dylan has been sounding great recently, but as much as I’d like to see him again when he comes back to Philadelphia on November 19, I’m skipping it because it’s standing room only at The Fillmore. Not something I’m willing to do at my age.

  28. This is the first tour that I’ve seen Depeche Mode playing. I hope it won’t be the last (if they stay fit and healthy I think there’s potential for at least one more album and tour). But, recent history has shown us that nobody is promised tomorrow.
    My bank balance may hate me; my soul doesn’t.

  29. Music keeps us young & vibrant, don’t stop attending concerts.
    And if Alan ever rejoined the band, it’d be bonkers! I’d bet you’d come out of concert retirement for that!

  30. Been a DM fan since I was a pre-teen growing up in a developing country. The thought back then of seeing them in concert was an absolute impossibility. After moving to the states, I saw them twice- once in 2005 and once in 2006. As you so eloquently pointed out for close to two decades “life” kept me from seeing them until this year. Despite fully knowing they were close to 20 years older in my head I was going to see the old school Dave and Martin. The reality was that despite putting on an excellent show the vibe was different. Easily 50% of the people in the venue sat thru the whole concert. 20 years ago the whole place was on their feet for the duration of the concert. The truth: We are ALL older! I realized right then and there this could be the last time l see them and as a result I stood up ,despite most people around me being seated, and I sang and danced to every remaining song. I felt bad for those behind me but if anything I got a few shy souls to feel comfortable with standing as well! I could be wrong but I can see DM becoming one of those bands that will do concerts a few times a year in smaller venues that will get sold out and I will keep an eye for one of those venues being close to me!

  31. Was that 1988 concert you went to in LA, at the Rose Bowl? I was at that concert with my not-yet-then-but-future wife.

  32. They were my favorite band growing up, and I have no desire to see them perform in 2023. I would choose a set of all songs prior to 1990 and take away Martin Gore’s guitar. The Depeche Mode that I knew and loved doesn’t exist anymore. It’s sad. I’m going to go listen to Voices (Any Second Now) off Speak & Spell and cry myself to sleep.