Today marks a historic day in Depeche Mode’s career. Twenty five years ago, on June 18, 1988, the British synth-pop band played the 101st show of their Music For The Masses Tour to more than 65,000 fans at the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. But this show proved to be more special than any of the 100 before it. This show would be dubbed the “Concert for the Masses,” and go down as the band’s most indelible performance.
Thanks to DepecheMode.com, an 18-minute short film was assembled from television news and personal footage boasting several never-before-seen and behind-the-scenes clips from the day of the Rose Bowl concert, which you can watch here.
“This will be a very big occasion for us,” said former member Alan Wilder in a pre-concert press conference (shown in the video). “Not only being the largest but also the most prestigious concert we’ve ever played as a headline act.”
Interviewed just prior to taking the stage, Martin Gore, the band’s chief songwriter admitted, “We’re quite nervous. It’s the biggest event… Biggest crowd we’ve ever played to.” But it is the 101st show [on the tour]. We’re quite rehearsed. We’re quite ready for it.”
According to keyboardist Andrew Fletcher, the band’s biggest audience to date had been 40,000. The Rose Bowl audience would dwarf that number by at least 25,000. The show coincided with the 10th anniversary of Los Angeles alternative station KROQ (a Radio.com station), which had been a longtime Depeche Mode supporter.
“Every other radio station in SoCal mocked us on the air saying, ‘Depeche Mode should be at the Palladium not at a stadium’ and in truth behind the scenes we were all nervous,” Richard Blade, a KROQ DJ at the time of the show, recounted to Radio.com. “I drove into the vast empty arena with Depeche Mode on an overcast February morning to announce the concert and the tickets on sale, and after the live broadcast had concluded I had breakfast with the band and Martin Gore confided in me that he was nervous and hoped they could at least sell out the floor seats – just 10,000 tickets.”
The concert went on sale as planned and was widely considered a sellout.
The concert also featured ’80s alt icons O.M.D., Wire and Thomas Dolby. Interviewed just minutes before they were set to go on stage, Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys of O.M.D. admitted that they were rather nervous. “This is the largest gig we’ve done in America,” Humphreys added.
At the close of the show, the enthusiastic crowd sung the chorus to “Everything Counts” for nearly ten minutes after the band said their goodbyes.
“I sang ‘Everything Counts’ with 65,000 other people as the concert ended, and I felt like I was part of something unique and special, something that would never happen again,” recalled actor Wil Wheaton (best known for his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation) on his blog. “Over the years, I’ve run into other people who were at the same show, and even the ones who weren’t fifteen and given to over-romanticizing things tell me that they felt the same thing.”
“They knew this was a milestone for them and for KROQ, and for two hours they pulled out all the stops and left everything on the stage,” Blade explained. “Backstage, after their amazing performance, I chatted with [singer] Dave Gahan as he cried from pure happiness. He told me that the tears were because he didn’t know if the group could ever pull off anything this great again and for him it was the most emotional concert of his career.”
Blade met up with Gahan a year later in Florida and reminisced about the show. “Dave said, ‘It wasn’t just an important show for D’Mode it was an important show for new music in America.'”
A live album of Depeche Mode’s historic Rose Bowl performance, titled 101, was released in 1989 and available on iTunes. The performance was made into a concert film, also titled 101, which is now a bit hard to find but available here (or in full on YouTube, surprisingly).