Depeche Mode’s Spiritual Return

Depeche Mode play live on a Stageco structure. Photo: Amanda Rose

In the wake of one of the most stripped down and directly political album releases of their 37-year recording career, Depeche Mode have returned to the road with the Global Spirit tour and this summer’s European leg alone will see them play to audiences totalling more than 1.5 million in 32 cities. Throughout a large portion of this itinerary, in Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK, Stageco is proud to be leapfrogging three steel systems and helping the band to share staging resources with Guns N’Roses for shows.

Emerging from Basildon, Essex as pioneers of the early ’80s electronic pop movement, Depeche Mode matured as a darker, more experimental act by the end of their first decade, with the album Violator propelling them into the premier division of international touring stars. With long-time collaborator Anton Corbijn at the helm of visual content, Global Spirit reinstates Depeche Mode’s reputation as a live act with the highest production values.

Rehearsals initially began at LS-Live in Wakefield’s Production Park before continuing for four days at Stockholm’s Friends Arena, where the tour began on May 5th. Stageco project managers Michael Herbst and Tom Bilsen organised an average of 12 trailers for each system in Europe, liaising with Live Nation site co-ordinator Steve McCalmont.

On Saturday 3rd June, the band – Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, Andy Fletcher and touring musicians Peter Gordeno and Christian Eigner – made their début at London Stadium, the home of West Ham United F.C., and it was also the first time at the former Olympic venue for Stageco crew chief Kevin De Meyer. He said: “My crew colleagues and I arrived here on the previous Monday, and I was immediately impressed with the stadium. Our plan was to start building the next morning, however, one of the trucks containing tools and other crucial equipment for the base out was held up at the Port of Calais and arrived late.

“One of the most positive qualities of Stageco is that over the years we have learned to deal with pretty much every type of problem imaginable, and we always find a way to improvise around it. While we were waiting for the missing kit, I had some hammers in my car and one of our team was able to buy a new measuring laser so we could at least do some levelling and scaffolding. The driver eventually arrived at 3pm on our first build day and day three we had made up so much time that we had completed the job an hour ahead of schedule.”

During the build – which also included construction of the spot/delay towers, two front of house risers and VIP platforms – Stageco’s 11-person team was assisted by local crew and it was reduced to six for show day. Developed by Bart Dekelver from Stageco’s R&D department, the stage itself was a four-tower format construction measuring 26m wide and 22m high with a 16.5m deep playing area. To the sides of the stage, Stageco built canopy roofs for the PA and video wings, bringing the total width to 54m.

As soon as the build commenced, everything went to plan although the venue’s architecture forced a minor change, as De Meyer explained: “Due to the extended junctions in the stadium roof, we needed to move the stage forward by two metres compared to the original drawing in order to avoid hitting our crane.”

After the show, the crew dismantled and loaded out all of Stageco’s pitch structures, leaving the stage in place to be reassembled and rebranded for Guns N’Roses’ concerts at London Stadium on June 16th & 17th. The same approach also followed in Munich and Paris.

“Having Stageco on the tour gives us confidence,” commented Tony Gittins, the production manager who has now been involved with Depeche Mode for 12 years. “We have a few shows in the itinerary that are less predictable, but it’s always smooth when Stageco is onboard. Everything is in great shape and on time. It’s a great company and I couldn’t ask for more.”

Stageco’s summer 2017 tours also include U2, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Robbie Williams, Vasco Rossi and Coldplay, as well as festivals such as PinkPop, Rock Werchter, Hellfest, Electric Daisy Carnival and Download in Paris.