It’s been a long time since Depeche Mode showed Philadelphia any love. In fact, the last time Depeche Mode played in Philadelphia was during their Exciter tour in June of 2001. They played Atlantic City, NJ during their Tour of the Universe and Touring the Angel tours, but didn’t even come to the general area for their Delta Machine tour.
When Depeche Mode first announced their Global Spirit Tour and Philadelphia was again left off the list, I decided to go see them in NYC at Madison Square Garden. As a band I’ve loved for decades but never saw in concert, they were on my bucket list and I was determined to see them. You can read my blog post about that show here:
Earlier this year, Depeche Mode announced additional dates to wrap up their Global Spirit Tour, and Philadelphia made the cut! I was lucky to snag some great seats, and I got to spend another evening with one of my favorite bands. Keep reading to find out if Depeche Mode brought the same excitement to Philly, as they did to NYC last year.
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The Wells Fargo Center is home to Philadelphia’s indoor sports teams like the Flyers, the 76er’s, and the Soul. It also hosts many concerts throughout the year. If a band is doing an “arena tour” and coming to the Philadelphia area, the Wells Fargo Center is where they will play.
The Wells Fargo Center was built in 1996 to replace The Spectrum, which was where the Flyers and 76er’s originally played. As with many arenas, the naming rights have been bought and sold throughout the years. It started out as the Core States Center, changed to the First Union Center in 1998, changed again to the Wachovia Center in 2003, and finally the Wells Fargo Center in 2013.
The Wells Fargo Center holds around 20,000 for basketball and hockey games. For concerts, depending on the configuration, it can hold an additional thousand or so. The typical set up for a concert has the stage set on the floor in one end of the arena, and either standing general admission or temporary seating on the floor.
Tip #1: As the configuration can change depending on the stage set up of the show, be sure to check on how your specific show will be set up before buying tickets. As an example, we went to see Roger Waters last summer. The set up featured a long screen running down the center of the floor section. For that show, optimum seats would have been on the sides toward the back so you could see the full screen as well as the main stage.
The first concert was held at the arena on August 13, 1996. It was a private concert by Ray Charles, with a crowd of around 12,000. Each person in attendance was given a commemorative key showing that they helped “open” the center. The first public concert held there was Oasis on September 2nd of the same year.
Since its opening, the arena has been home to a number of famous (and infamous) shows. You’ll find banners hanging from the rafters acknowledging Billy Joel’s 48 Philadelphia sell outs, Bruce Springsteen’s 56 Philadelphia sell outs, and Pearl Jam’s “10 show” (which I was lucky enough to attend). On December 6, 2002, Guns N Roses was scheduled to visit the arena on their Chinese Democracy Tour. After the openers played, Guns N Roses never appeared, which led to a riot inside the arena that caused $30-40K worth of damage.
Tip #2: Like many venues, security getting into the Wells Fargo Center has increased over the years. Note that the lines to get through security can be quite long. Give yourself ample time to get in and get seated. Ladies – do yourself a favor and don’t take in a handbag unless absolutely necessary. It just slows down the line.
Tip #3: If you are looking to hang out before the show, just walk over to XFINITY Live. There are several places to grab food and drinks, including Victory Beer Hall and PBR Philly. There are great little areas to sit outside (including several fire pits if the weather is chilly), play corn hole, or just hang out with friends.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) is a multimedia artist and musician currently based on the west coast. EMA co-created “I Wanna Destroy”, which is a multimedia collaboration between her and virtual reality designer Zach Krausnik. The performance combines elements of a live concert and 3D virtual reality technology.
With a posted show start time of 7:30 p.m., EMA took the stage at around 7:45 p.m. Anderson was accompanied by a drummer and another musician who played a combination of guitar, keyboard, and violin.
The first thing you notice about EMA’s music is the bass. In fact, my seat neighbor leaned over and commented about how the bass was so strong, he could feel it resonate in his chest. EMA’s music is what I would describe as melancholy. These are not catchy tunes that you find yourself humming the next morning.
While I wasn’t familiar with the songs and Anderson didn’t spend a lot of time talking about them, I could glean from some of the lyrics and the mood of the songs, that they were mostly about dark subjects. The one song Anderson did introduce, she said was about drugs and the county fair.
The music was solid and Anderson’s voice is strong. It’s just tough to pull in a large crowd that isn’t familiar with your music with those types of songs. I think EMA is much better suited to a small venue, where you can understand the message behind the music.
EMA is currently supporting Depeche Mode on a few of their tour dates. You can find more information about her at www.iwannadestroy.com.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Depeche Mode got their start in Basildon, Essex in 1980. The band consists of Dave Gahan (vocals), Martin Gore (keyboards, guitar), and Andy Fletcher (keyboards), all of whom were founding members. Their first album – Speak & Spell – was released in 1981.
Over their nearly four decades of existence, Depeche Mode has had dozens of hits, sold millions of records, and influenced countless other bands. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
Depeche Mode played their first gig in May of 1980 at the James Hornsby School in Basildon, which is where Gore and Fletcher were students. They made a demo tape and walked into record company offices to hand deliver it. The band had their first top ten hit in the UK with “Just Can’t Get Enough”.
Shortly after the release of Speak & Spell, original band member Vince Clarke left and Alan Wilder joined. It was at that time that songwriting responsibilities went primarily to Martin Gore, which resulted in a change in Depeche Mode’s sound. Gore also tended to focus his lyrics on political and social issues, including the words to their next hit song “Everything Counts”.
In 1984, Depeche Mode released the single “People Are People”, and started gaining recognition outside of the UK. In September of that year, they released their fourth studio album – Some Great Reward. This was followed up with 1986’s Black Celebration.
But, it was their 1987 release – Music For the Masses – that really started to put Depeche Mode on the map. That album contained such hits as “Strangelove” and “Never Let Me Down Again”. The band supported the album with a massive world tour, which was documented in the concert film “101”.
Depeche Mode was at the peak of their success in 1990 when they released the album – Violator. The album produced massive hit singles including “Personal Jesus”, “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth”. While Depeche Mode continued to make new albums and tour throughout the ‘90s and into the 2000’s, they were never able to match the commercial success of Violator.
One big issue following the success of Violator that had a negative impact on the band, was Dave Gahan’s heroin addiction. Today, Gahan is overcome his addiction, but during the mid to late 90’s, his drug addiction had a major effect on him and the rest of the band. In fact, he was nicknamed “The Cat” because he’s survived four near-death experiences.
In October of 1993, Gahan suffered a drug induced heart attack on stage in New Orleans, leaving the rest of the band to perform the encore without him. Gahan attempted suicide in August of 1995, and in 1996 he overdosed on speedball in a hotel in Los Angeles.
With a cleaned-up Gahan and a revived Depeche Mode, the band released their latest album – Spirit – in 2017. Depeche Mode embarked on The Global Spirit Tour in May of 2017, and has been on the road ever since.
The show in Philly was almost identical to the show we saw in NYC last summer. In general, the first half of the show is a bit slow. It’s heavily weighted with songs from the new album and older songs that are more obscure and slower. The second half of the show takes a complete turn. It’s high energy and filled with Depeche Mode classics that gets the crowd singing along.
After taking the stage, Gahan and the guys kicked off their set with “Going Backwards” off of the new album. They followed that up with one of their classics – “It’s No Good”.
Just as he was when we saw them in NYC last year, Gahan is still full of energy on stage. Whether it’s spinning around like a top, dancing around the stage, or running up to the second level of the stage, Gahan is definitely the showman of the band.
Depeche Mode ran through several songs with very little talking in between. In fact, I was a bit surprised that Gahan didn’t mention how long it had been since they were last in Philadelphia. For the first half of the show, the crowd felt a bit subdued to me, which was likely due to the heavy mix of new and slower songs.
As is typical with a Depeche Mode show, Martin Gore always gets a chance to solo on a few songs. Gahan left the stage, and Gore sang “The Things You Said” and “Home”.
Gahan made his return to the stage, and Depeche Mode went into “In Your Room”, which featured a great video being shown on the screen behind the stage.
The next song up was “Where’s the Revolution”, which is the last song the band played in the set from the new album. The energy level of the band and the crowd took a noticeable turn upwards from this song forward.
The remainder of the set was a trip down memory lane for any Depeche Mode fan. We got to hear hits like “Everything Counts” and “Enjoy the Silence”. Everyone around me was singing and dancing along. The main set wrapped with a fantastic version of “Never Let Me Down Again”, which featured Gahan out on the runway shaking hands with the fans and shooting t-shirts into the crowd!
After a short encore break, Gore came back on stage to again take lead vocals on an acoustic version of “I Want You Now”. Typical of a Sunday night show and people who want to “beat the traffic”, the crowd started exiting at this point, including a family behind me that had to drive home to Harrisburg. Unfortunately, anyone that left missed the best part of the show.
Depeche Mode next played “Walking in My Shoes”. I love this song anyway, but the video that they show during the song really brings extra meaning to the lyrics and the message.
They wrapped the set with “A Question of Time” and their mega-hit “Personal Jesus”. Gahan had the crowd dancing, clapping and singing. After taking a long bow and acknowledging the crowd, Depeche Mode left the stage. It was a good 30 – 60 seconds before the house lights came up, which gave the crowd false hope that the guys would come back on stage for one more song. Unfortunately, we didn’t get another song, but before he left the stage, Gahan promised they would be back around. I hope so!
Depeche Mode is wrapping up the last few dates of The Global Spirit Tour in North America, before they travel back to Europe to wrap up the tour at the end of July. For more information on the band and upcoming tour dates, check out their website at www.depechemode.com.
Set List (click on any link to purchase the song directly on Amazon): Going Backwards, It’s No Good, Barrel of a Gun, A Pain That I’m Used To, Useless, Precious, World In My Eyes, Cover Me, The Things You Said, Home, In Your Room, Where’s the Revolution, Everything Counts, Stripped, Enjoy the Silence, Never Let Me Down Again Encore: I Want You Now, Walking In My Shoes, A Question of Time, Personal Jesus
Are you a Depeche Mode fan? Have you caught them on their Global Spirit Tour? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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