Tears for Fears
The Rene Au Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Judging by Tears for Fears' performance last night at the Broward Center,
Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal continue to mine a collaboration that they remarked has spanned 31 years -- with a notable break at the height of their success. Since
reconvening in 2004, the year they released Everybody
Loves a Happy Ending, the men have managed to maintain a cooperative
arrangement that's kept the band active and on the road, if not in the
their individual relationship is perhaps a bit less than cozy, songs that represent the essence
of '80s pop made by the band's current incarnation finds them still mining their
fortunes. As Smith insisted in his recent interview with New Times,
the present version of Tears for Fears may be the most potent to date,
perfectly adept at reminding us all of the band's previous glories. Considering the rich production and arrangements that went into
their studio efforts, it was all the more impressive that all it took
was the two frontmen and their three-piece backing band to replicate the
songs so well in concert.
In a set that ran a tidy hour and a half -- including the two-song encore -- the band reprised all its classics, eliciting a thunderous reaction from the nearly sold-out crowd, which was frequently on their feet, waving their arms in unison and swaying along to those infectious refrains. After making their entrance with a languid version of "Mad World," Smith and Orzabal quickly upped the energy level, going swiftly into a vibrant "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," the Beatle-besting "Sowing the Seeds of Love," the sweetly caressing "Advice for the Young at Heart," and a longer, more invigorated reprise of "Mad Love" chief among them.
With such a formidable selection plied so early on, the pace slackened over the course of the next few selections. Fortunately, Orzabal was able to rouse the audience's enthusiasm with some self-effacing humor, referencing all those who had purchased their early albums in their original vinyl incarnation and sheepishly admitting that having initiated their career some three decades prior, any reference to their ages (both men turn 49 this year) is all but inevitable. He also alluded to the fact that there seemed to be a significant representation of family and friends in the audience, which, considering the obvious enthusiasm elicited from that announcement, seemed to bear out that conclusion.
It also helped that the band wasn't above tossing in an occasional twist on its material. Three songs in, for example, its rendition of "Secret World" momentarily meandered when it spliced in a brief snippet of Paul McCartney's "Let 'Em In." Likewise, a slow, solemn cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was altogether unexpected and, frankly, took awhile to register. After that, the show regained its earlier momentum by offering three of its more effusive entries -- "Pale Shelter," "Break It Down Again," and what was the concert's unquestionable highlight, a rollicking run-through of "Head Over Heels."
Still, there was no question that even as the band feigned its initial goodbye, it would return to do "Shout," a crowd-pleasing anthem of affirmation that all but guarantees an obligatory audience sing-along. But first, it offered something of a surprise with the lovely "Woman in Chains," recruiting opening act Michael Wainwright's soaring falsetto as a near-perfect stand-in for the soulful soprano Oleta Adams supplied on the original recording.
Happily, Tears for Fears doesn't merely mine nostalgia to make inroads with their ever-adoring audience. The songs sound as fresh and inventive today as they did nearly 30 years ago, when these two budding young musicians first came up with their sophisticated sound. Yes, they belong to an earlier era, but as they proved so conclusively during last night's performance, any opportunity to shout or sow those seeds of love provides a valid excuse to vent in these troubled times, and is, in itself, cause for celebration.
Personal bias: Opening act Michael Wainwright was a brave soul to open the show unannounced, but his high-pitched vocal was much better applied as a backup singer when he was onstage with Tears for Fears.
Random detail: Speaking of which, that bearded, cane-wielding character who accompanied Wainwright during "Heart Shaped Man," a song he said was written for him by Orzabal, was clearly the composer himself.
By the way: Tears for Fears have no plans to record in the immediate future, and given the relative lack of personal rapport between Smith and Orzabel on stage (and in the somber publicity photo that graced the playbill), their relationship still seems strained. But judging by one of their most recent efforts, "Floating Down the River" -- a bonus studio track from last year's live CD -- they still share a creative spark between them.
Mad World (intro)
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Sowing the Seeds of Love
Advice for the Young at Heart
Call Me Mellow
Floating Down the River
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
Seven of Sundays
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson cover)
Break It Down Again
Head Over Heels
Woman in Chains