It’s been a long-time coming, but Tears For Fears are back. The duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith released The Tipping Point, their first album in over seventeen years, in February, and in it managed to create a record that sounds fresh and current (and not simply a rehash of their 80s heyday), while still sounding distinctly like them. Judging by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd at the nearly sold-out Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD (capacity over 19,000), it was a return that many had been eagerly awaiting.
Orzabal and Smith (or Roland and Curt as they would perhaps prefer, as they noted in between-song banter that they wanted to be on a first-name basis with the audience) bravely opened their set with two from that new album, “No Small Thing” and “The Tipping Point.” For many “80s” bands, opening with new songs would be a death knell from which it would be hard to recover, as so many in the audience are only there to hear the classics. But somehow Tears For Fears has managed to get past that, and both tracks were met with wild enthusiasm. Still, perhaps hedging their bets, the duo launched into their best known song, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” immediately afterward. The appearance of such a major hit so early in the set was itself unusual, but perhaps it set the tone that while the audience could certainly expect to hear the hits, they wouldn’t necessarily be treated as any more important than the new material.
The band made their one nod of the night to their previous, somewhat less successful reunion effort, 2004’s Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, with “Secret World,” and then followed it up with another of the big ones, “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” After this, Curt noted politely that they were going to do several songs in a row from the new record, and he hoped the audience wouldn’t mind. He hardly needed to have worried, as the suggestion was met with a great deal of applause. And from there, he gave what was perhaps one of his strongest vocal performances of the night, with “Long, Long, Long Time.” This was followed by “Break the Man,” “My Demons,” “Rivers of Mercy,” all of which showed that the pair have lost none of their songwriting creativity or skill over their long hiatus.
From there the group delved into the back catalog for a bit. Backing singer Lauren Evans took the lead vocal on “Suffer the Children” and the co-lead with Roland on “Woman in Chains,” making for two of the biggest standouts of the night. Even with two of their best known songs already out of the way, they still had plenty left to mine, including “Mad World,” “Pale Shelter,” “Break It Down Again,” and “Head Over Heels.” After a short break they returned with one more new song, “End of Night,” before closing off with “Change” and “Shout.”
Few bands can pull off a reunion so successfully this late in the game, but Tears For Fears isn’t just any band. The Tipping Point deserves a place in the band’s history right alongside The Hurting, Songs From the Big Chair, and The Seeds of Love, and we can only hope that it is merely the start of another long and productive period for them. If you get the opportunity to see them on this tour, go.
The show was opened by indie rockers Garbage touring for their own recent release No Gods No Masters. They played only two tracks from that release, however, the title track and “Wolves,” and instead concentrated the majority of their set on classics from their back catalog including “Stupid Girl,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “Push It,” and the their James Bond theme “The World Is Not Enough.”
Tears For Fears setlist
No Small Thing The Tipping Point Everybody Want to Rule the World Secret World Sowing the Seeds of Love Long, Long, Long Time Break the Man My Demons Rivers of Mercy Mad World
Suffer the Children Woman in Chains Badman’s Song Pale Shelter Break It Down Again Head Over Heels/Borken