On Monday, March 6th, a couple dozen randomly-selected Depeche Mode North American presale ticket registrants, myself included, were treated to a surprise 40-minute set at the band’s New York City rehearsal studio, where they are preparing for the Spirit Tour, which kicks off on May 5th in Stockholm. Only a few days earlier, a handful of invitation emails were sent with vague details of an event in the middle of the afternoon at Sony Music’s New York headquarters. Lacking any further details, the only clue that existed was that all our phones would be checked prior to attendance.
Given that requirement, the assumption was that this would be an album listening event, of some sort. However, at the event check-in, the waivers winners signed allowing use of our likenesses in filming indicated this would be much more. We were then directed out of the building and onto a coach bus, which drove us uptown to Hell’s Kitchen, where the band has been rehearsing. A film crew captured the experience of the winners as we checked in and rode uptown.
After the short ride, we were ushered into the studio where we were welcomed by Jonathan Kessler and members of the management and publicity staff. A bartender took care of us for the next 30 minutes in a room with wood paneling as preparations were made in the adjacent studio. As there were no phones or cameras allowed, the camera crew continued to film us as we mingled, and a hired photographer took stills. (According to the photogs, winners will be receiving the still photos and the footage of the winners will be culled down into a short video clip for use on the band’s social and digital platforms.) Kessler then talked with the group about what was going to happen – the handful of us in that room were about to watch the band rehearse for the upcoming Spirit Tour, seeing the first performance of some of the music from the album Spirit in advance of its March 17th release date. He also spoke about the North American presale which had begun just a few hours earlier. The audience were very animated with their experiences.
At around 4pm, we were escorted into the studio where the band was mid-song, tearing into one of the tracks from Spirit, a rocker with a very modern vibe to it – this one seems like it’ll be a crowd pleaser in their live sets. The look of awe on the lucky winners’ faces, yours truly included, was priceless. We were in a medium-sized studio, standing just feet away from Depeche Mode as they played for only a handful of fans who, a couple hours earlier, had no idea what they were being invited to. Dave welcomed us before launching into a mini-set of more familiar tracks, including a non-single album track that’s never been played previously, and he even rapped a few lines from a classic hip-hop tune during the outro of one of the older tunes played. Martin looked entrenched in the moment, swapping out multiple guitars during the set, as well as helming the synth banks at his station. Christian Eigner had broken a sweat even before we’d entered – a state that only increased as the set drew on and he pounded away. Fletch was animated on the keys and on the performance as he, Dave and Christian huddled about one of the tunes played. Peter added keys and bass guitar to the set, and he and Martin consulted on sound and mix levels. After a few more tunes, Dave launched into a slower-tempo number from Spirit that began as a quiet ballad and showed off his vocal stylings. In a dramatic turn, roughly halfway through that number, the synth and percussion began undulating and became trance-like. Despite the small audience having never heard it, we were all swaying with the hypnotic tune.
After this one ended, Kessler informed us that it was sadly time to end our experience and the boys clearly planned to continue rehearsing after we’d filed out. We collected our coats and broke off with about half of the attendees leaving directly from the studio and the other half taking the coach bus back, on which the videographer again captured our reactions to the afternoon surprise. Needless to say, they got some great footage from those who remained.
This was by far one of the most unique and thrilling experiences I’ve ever had as a fan of any musician, let alone the stadium-filling Depeche Mode. Kudos and thanks to Sony/Columbia and the band for making this unforgettable event possible.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
Barrel of a Gun
A Pain That I’m Used To
Corrupt (live debut)
In Your Room (album version)
World in My Eyes (new intro)