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 Depeche Mode fan site DM TV Archives, 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.
“Depeche Mode say they will never forget June 18th 1988, they are not the only ones. For every fan of the boys from Basildon who were there, that day still resonates. It was an amazing event. A little station in Pasadena – or as we used to say Pass-Ah-Den -Ah – was bringing an English band to play the legendary Rosé Bowl. 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.
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 on KROQ 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.
They surpassed that number more than 8 times! There was not an empty seat in the Rose Bowl four months later and as the fans hung for the upper reaches of the cavernous stadium primed for DM by the amazing opening acts – Wire, Thomas Dolby and OMD – Depeche Mode readied for their set. They knew this was a milestone for them and for KROQ and for 2 hours they pulled out all the stops and left everything on the stage.
Backstage, after their amazing performance, I chatted with 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.
A year later in Florida we talked again about the show and Dave said “It wasn’t just an important show for DMode it was an important show for new music in America”.
25 years later the Rose Bowl or concert 101 to the fans remains the defining moment in Depeche Mode’s career and in the history of New Wave. It marked a moment in time when one radio station, one English group and 82,000 devoted fans came together and really did change the direction of music forever.” – Richard Blade