Gig Review: Speak and Spell – Music for the Masses, Islington O2, London, 23/09/17

❉ We review and chat with Europe’s premier Depeche Mode tribute band, at their Saturday 23 September 2017  gig.

Photo: Richard Price.

Speak and Spell are Europe’s premier Depeche Mode tribute band. Over the past few years they’ve upped their game under the able management of Claire Whatley, and secured this coveted premier position.

A testimony to this is that this summer they were invited to play the ultimate festival of festivals in the UK; Glastonbury, on the William’s Green stage conveniently located in between the world famous Pyramid stage and the acoustic stage.

Speak and Spell play throughout the whole of Europe and are continually evolving their shows, often playing classic era tracks that the real Depeche Mode will never perform live. This seems to be their unique appeal to their ever-growing and loyal fan base.

On the back of their Glasto glory, Speak and Spell have performed two Music for the Masses gigs. The first one was at Sound Control in Manchester on 9 September and this was shortly followed up on 23 September at the O2 Academy in Islington, London.

Music for the Masses (MFTM) is the sixth studio album by Depeche Mode. It was released on 28 September 1987 and was supported by a massive global tour which concluded in mid-June 1988 with a concert at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California, where the band performed the sell out show to an audience of some sixty thousand fans. The Rose Bowl show was recorded and later released in March 1989 as a live album and video release entitled 101.

Photo: Ange Chan.

Speak and Spell manage to achieve an intimacy at their gigs which you won’t have experienced at a Depeche Mode for a couple of decades, especially these days when they tend to play stadium gigs rather than arenas or concert halls.  Despite this, Speak and Spell still managed to play to a capacity crowd at the O2 Academy, Islington on Saturday night.

The gig was a show of two halves with MFTM being played during the first half and classic Depeche Mode songs during part two.  Despite a few technical difficulties, dodgy microphones and re-starts of a couple of songs during part one, the crowd lapped it up nonetheless.  In the second half the band were flawlessly on fire and had the audience in the palms of their hands. Classic songs such as Enjoy the Silence, See You, New Life and I Just Can’t Get Enough were huge crowd pleasers and elicited some very enthusiastic audience participation. We were even treated to a fabulous rendition of Photographic; their very first release on the Some Bizarre album, which launched not only their career, but that of Soft Cell who recorded The Girl with the Patent Leather Face on the same album.

Photo: Ange Chan.

I caught up with the band before their show to ask a few questions.

Hello to Keith Trigwell, who plays the keyboards and undertakes the programming. Why did Speak and Spell choose to play the album MTFM in particular?

We chose Masses because it’s the a very significant anniversary of one of their most significant albums, and of course 101. It’s a huge amount of work but worth it to celebrate this piece of Depeche Mode’s history.

Were there any particular challenges in reproducing the authentic sounds from that album?

Reproducing anything from Masses was always going to be a challenge due to the sheer volume of signature sounds on it. From the Behind the Wheel flute and sitar through to the choir on Sacred. But we’ve had a lot of experience in getting sounds, recreating them, finding the original sources plus we’ve been extremely lucky in that we have a massive library.

Also despite Masses being the album to take them to the stadium, certain songs were never played live because they don’t lend themselves to it. Little 15 being one but the most obvious being To Have and to Hold which has a remix which might work live, but is a 12/16 waltz versus the album version which is 4/4, so we did a hybrid.

But it’s not just about the sounds. We are always looking to take things further which is why we developed the original ‘spookaphones’ and live drum triggering system. Which, in standard style, we have now recently replaced the 86 circular sticks with square pads like Depeche Mode used on the Masses tour.

Do you have any future plans to perform any other Depeche Mode albums in full?

No, not yet. We’ve done four boutique shows of essentially an album playback and we’d like to now focus on our basic live show making a two-hour singles set as relentless as possible. But who knows, we may decide to do another!

It’s a special Speak and Spell anniversary this year. Do you have any plans to celebrate?

2017 is the 10th anniversary of S&S but we haven’t thought about that (or realised to be honest!) because the whole thing is about Depeche Mode and their back catalogue, not us.

Thank you for talking to us Keith and congratulations on your Music for the Masses shows. We Are Cult  particularly looks forward to seeing what’s lined up for Speak and Spell in 2018. 

Thanks. There will be an announcement via our Facebook page this week about plans for next year.  Find us here

We look forward to hearing all your news Keith. Thanks again. 

Set list:

Behind the Wheel



Shake the Disease

Little 15

People Are People

Black Celebration


I Want You Now


The Things You Said

To Have and To Hold


Pleasure Little Treasure

Route 66

Never Let Me Down

Shake the Disease

Blasphemous Rumours

A Question of Time

Everything Counts

Personal Jesus

Enjoy the Silence

Just Can’t Get Enough

New Life

See You


Encore: Enjoy the Silence

❉ To arrange an interview with a member of the band or for further information visit their Facebook page, or contact their management: Claire Whatley at

❉ Website:

Photography: © Ange Chan, Richard Price. Reproduced with kind permission. Header image taken from Depeche Mode Tribute : Speak and Spell Facebook page.

Ange Chan is a poet and novelist.  Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” and her second novel “Baby, Can You Hear Me?” were both published in paperback and Kindle in 2016.  Her third novel will be published in 2017. 

Become a patron at Patreon!