Summer spoils us with great choices of fresh flowers -…
I have been thinking a lot, how and what to write about the concert of one of the most iconic British Bands from the 80s, having seen them for the first time on stage. I did not want to write a biased report, or an article that contains a bunch of information that are obvious for fans either. It is not easy, therefore I decided to simply start to write and let it be, what it may be.
Just before we left…
Our departure to the O2 Arena which is in Greenwich, London was scheduled for 3pm. We were just about to leave when someone knocked on the door. It was a young volunteer raising funds for the Alzheimer and Dementia Group. We explained we were going to a concert so not the best timing. “Oh really? What concert are you going to?”, he asked kindly. “Depeche Mode”, I replied. He had absolutely no idea who they were. “Enjoy the Silence, Personal Jesus, Everything Counts, It’s No Good”, I said listing some of the greatest hits, but he kept on waving his head whilst he was smiling. Interesting, I thought to myself. I have always thought more people liked DM in abroad, however, the British do not seem to understand or appreciate their music. Yet, I hoped the name of the band would ring a bell. Apparently, it does not. (Inspite of that, he got the money.)
The O2 Arena
Back to the departure and the O2 Arena. There are obviously thousands or millions of people who have been to this establishment, but for me this evening was the first time and maybe the last one as well. Whilst the concert was flawless, the Arena was a nightmare. There are some interesting details available on Wikipedia about the O2 Arena, such as having 12 poles according to the number of the months, being 52 meters high like the number of the weeks in a year, or the diameter being 366 meter just like number of days in a year. It is also interesting that the plastic sheet roof is 1mm thick only and the acoustic is very good because it was built in a way that there is no echo unlike in many other stadiums. An impressive achievement of the O2 Arena is that it was the busiest venue in the world with more than 1,5 million sold tickets, leaving Madison Square Garden in New York behind.
The entry to the stadium was well organized, although everybody had to go through a detector gate. It was fascinating to see the arena with its roof and the city that is built around it: pubs, restaurants, cinemas. “hm… this is where the big tennis tournaments are held as well…”, I thought, but my excitement was soon over once I saw the seating area. It is very steep, the stairs were sticky, no non-slip strip on them. When we reached our row I turned around and looked down and my heart stopped beating. I do not understand… Where is the famous Health and Safety keenness of the English? To my mind the place is dangerous and you can easily fall over by bumping into the back of the seats in front of you which stick 20cm out of the floor and there is nothing that would protect you from falling. The seats were quite narrow. Although I have lost weight since I have been living in the UK the seat was just about right for me to fit in, but somebody with a slightly bigger size of bottom would have struggled. The worst is yet to come… I was waiting for the air conditioning to be switched on, but nothing happened, neither during the guest band’s performance, nor during the concert or it was switched on but nothing could be felt up there. I was sweating but more importantly struggling to get some fresh air which really did not help my headache to go away.
That’s all about the arena and this is to see that nothing is gold that shines (or a more English version of the saying, all that glitters is not gold) and next time there is a broadcast on TV from the O2 Arena, I would not be envious of the audience.
The guest band played with their backs to the audience (is it a new, trendy thing…? no idea…) which I did not understand just like their songs as could not understand a word of what they were singing. All I could hear was they were from Basingstoke. Maybe…
At last DM is on stage
My pain was eased by Depeche Mode who were fantastic on stage and showed a huge contrast to the guest band. Everything they did was professional. Alright, alright, I know… they have been doing this for the last 37 years… But still. Dave was a real showman and ran up and down the stage effortlessly and although some of his moves reminded me of Freddie Mercury, he was the good old cheeky little boy and sex-god at the same time, called Dave Gahan. I would not have thought these boys in their fifties would do the whole concert without breaks, but they did it. In the second half of the concert they played mainly old songs, which made the audience stand up and dance. Everybody stood up. Even the people in their 60s. No wonder they came to the concert as well – they were young during the Thatcher-period when DM was really in. It was good to see the band attracts old and young. And then there was the moment… The moment when Dave started to wave his hands during Never Let Me Down Again, just like he did at Pasadena, California in 1989 at the 101 Tour in front of 72 thousand people. There are probably lot of fans who have had this experience, but for me this was the first time to wave my hands, and God I waved them with a smile on my face as it reminded me of that little girl who watched the concert film and wondered how it could feel like being part of this collective wave. By the way, this is (Never Let Me Down Again) the most played song on concerts (899), Enjoy The Silence and Personal Jesus take the second rank (807) and Walking in My Shoes is the fourth (719).
“London, you are the best!”
When Dave shouted “London, you are the best” I was proud although I am not a Londoner, let alone not British. But for them London was home despite Martin and Dave living in the US. Their roots are here in the neighbourhood, in Basildon, and even the distinctive Sussex accents is still there, although Dave has a bit of American now (“dawg” vs “dog”). As Andy Fletcher said, it seemed to take ages to get to London those days (50km) and today it takes only 35 minutes by train which run every 15 minutes. I do not wish to praise the band or their music any further as there are plenty of articles available about that and everybody has a different experience, I think. I would not have minded though if the big display had worked but it did not… No idea why.
At the end of the concert the masses were led out of the stadium in a very organized way. No wonder British always organize everything pretty well. I was not disappointed about the concert (I would go to their concert again, anytime it is worth traveling 3 hours ) and the organization, but the arena was a complete disaster.
When the following day my manager asked me how the concert was I said fantastic but the arena was a nightmare. Then he said
I know, the O2 is crap, horrible. The Wembley Arena is much better.
PS: Conclusions: 1) I am not the only one being critical regarding the O2 Arena, others think the same. 2) The English do like DM. All tickets were sold out within a few hours in July.