June 18th 1988 – a date that features massively in the now three-decade-plus history of Depeche Mode.
The band had decided to cap the hugely successful tour to support the release of Music For The Masses with a massive gig – their 101st – at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in Southern California.
It was a triumphant night for Depeche, captured by film maker D A Pennebaker for the 101 movie, and proving wrong the many critics who didn’t believe the band could pull off such a momentous event (others on the bill included Wire, Thomas Dolby and OMD).
SoCal had become the heartland of Depeche’s fan base in the US, driven in part by the loyal support of local radio station KROQ.
It was why the band felt they could put on a gig of such size and draw other fans from all across the country (including those on the infamous bus, filmed by Pennebaker for the movie).
But for all the deserved celebration in the Depeche camp following the concert (“for the Masses”), Pasadena did something else – it set a benchmark for which band were expected to follow.
The footage from 101 captures the band at a turning point in their history.
The delirium of the fans. The financial scale at which they were now operating (a young Jonathan Kessler – now the band’s manager – shouting “a lot of money”, stands out). The logistics required to keep a band of Depeche’s size on the road.
Depeche could’ve ended it all there, in mid-1988, and critics could’ve easily congratulated them on a great career.
But they didn’t. Obviously.
That Saturday in Pasadena actually triggered the start of a slow yet fundamental change in Depeche – musically, personally, arguably perhaps in almost every facet of what they did.
The fruits of those changes started coming to the fore just 15 months later, when the first single – Personal Jesus – from an as-yet untitled new album was released.
And it’s why the first chapter of the HALO book is titled “102” 🙂
Check out the montage of footage pulled together by the band’s website a few years back:
Read this great interview with Alan Wilder by The Electricity Club about the film and gig.
And this “making of” documentary which aired on UK’s BBC a year later:
NB: Photo by Anton Corbijn