“Is that the new iPhone 6?” Roland Orzabal, early on in the show, as he and Curt Smith looked out over the sea of cell phones in the air, held by an exuberant sold out crowd at the historic Wiltern in Los Angeles last night. Tears for Fears, best known for their collection of timeless and classic New Wave hits from the 80s, do not tour very often, and when they do, the tours are usually not too many dates and cities. So there was a bit of an “event” feeling in the air, and based on some of their comments later in the show, they both seem to have quite an affinity for the City of Angels. As such, it seemed to be one of those special sort of shows, that unfold in a different sort of way. About halfway through the show, Curt even gave a shout out to Richard Blade, who was at the front of the GA crowd in the pit… if you didn’t know him by his own lifetime in music, you would think he was the band’s biggest fan (and maybe he is). Perhaps the development that represented the biggest point of fan service, prefaced by Roland with “nothing like changing it up for L.A.; obviously this is a special place for us…” was the surprise encore opener, a song that “we haven’t done for many, many years”. He said that this version will be included in their deluxe reissue of Songs From the Big Chair in November. He said it has been impossible for them to do live “until now”, and then proceeded to play “The Working Hour”. Definitely a special show by a fantastic band, and the place was certainly buzzing when it all came to a close after upwards of a two hour show.
Who: Tears for Fears
Supporting: Carina Round
Venue: The Wiltern
Presented By: Live Nation
Where: Los Angeles, California
When: September 23, 2014
Seating: Section Loge Main Floor, Row CC, Seat 111 (third row center of balcony; plus photo pass from floor for first three songs)
If I remember correctly, the last time I saw a show at The Wiltern was Peter Murphy in 1995 (with Jewel opening!), so it has been a while.
It is a beautiful place with a great layout and awesome staff.
However, there was some in the crowd that had some issues. When the amazing Carina Round came out to do her solo set early on, there was an inordinate number of people talking quite loudly over her performance (outside drunk at a backyard BBQ kind of loud). At one point, from the stage, Carina even said, “if all the people talking could shut the fuck up”, but somehow it came across quite classy, maybe because it was so completely called for, in my opinion.
Two other crazy incidents (and keep in mind I attend many concerts all over the world…). After shooting the first three songs I headed up to watch the remainder of the Tears for Fears set up in the balcony. Later in the show, the band started playing the intro for “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, and a woman in the next row down to my left excitedly stood up and recorded about five seconds of video, and a man two seats to my left put his hand on her shoulder and pushed her down to her seat. She was stunned, and after thinking about it for a second, said something to him, and he in turn leaned forward, inches from her face, and shouted something back. The man with the woman being pushed around nearly got into a fist fight with the guy. What the hell, people? Well, minutes later, an actual fistfight, bordering on a brawl, broke out at the front left corner of the balcony. Really? What is wrong with people? Who goes to a Tears for Fears concert to push women around or get into fights?
Anyway, other than that (not that that isn’t enough), the crowd was pretty awesome and enthralled with the music experience that happened with those in attendance who love music and good fun.
The opening act was Carina Round, who also performed with Tears for Fears for the main set (with backing vocals). She sounded fantastic, as with the tour last time around, and I find her music comes alive even more in a concert setting. In addition to her voice and music, she has great energy, though I think she puts on two totally different performances, on every level, comparing her opening with her collaboration with Tears for Fears in their bigger set. Definitely an interesting artist.
Her latest release is a cover of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone”, which you can find on iTunes. I’m a huge Duran Duran fan and absolutely love that song, and she’s made it into a totally different and compelling song that has a life of it’s own. It features Aidan Hawken, and she is featured on an EP that he fronts which came out about a year ago and is worth checking out.
Below are some photos of Carina Round from her opening set (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):
Tears for Fears
- Roland Orzabal (vocals, guitar)
- Curt Smith (vocals, bass guitar)
- Charlton Pettus (lead guitar)
- Doug Petty (keyboards)
- Jamie Wollam (drums)
I last saw Tears for Fears with their 2012 tour, at the Masonic in San Francisco (see past review), so it’s been a few years. I loved that show and kind of expected this to be mostly the same show again (which would have been awesome, yet again), but it was truly quite different.
This time around, there seemed to be more attention paid to modern music and a younger crowd, as well as their base of fans.
From the very beginning, before Tears for Fears even took the stage, there was intro music playing… Lorde’s cover version of their “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”.
Later in the show, they did their own cover of Arcade Fire’s “Ready To Start”. They said that last year they started doing covers of their favorite bands, which you can check out on SoundCloud.
For me, the true highlights were of their own music, some of which I count among my all-time favorite songs. Not only great songs, but songs with real meaning in my life, that can transport me back to a wonderful childhood growing up in the 80s (the very best decade for all things pop culture).
Getting back to the band, the founding members of Tears for Fears (and essentially dual front men) are Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. Interestingly, they are each featured on lead vocals on their biggest hits, and I think it is fairly unique that a band can become known and successful with two different (alternating) vocalists. I really love both their voices, and each are so well chosen for the songs that they respectively sing lead vocals. Both have also worked on projects outside of Tears for Fears.
The band was formed in the UK in 1981 (after the pair were involved in a few bands prior to that) and achieved a lot of success before breaking up just ten years later, but that seems to be a common trajectory for bands that were successful in the 80s.
Interestingly, their first hit in the UK was “Mad World” from their album The Hurting circa 1983. This song would lead to a resurgence of interest later in their career…
The second album, Songs From the Big Chair, released in 1985, included arguably their biggest hits – “Shout”, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”, and “Head Over Heels”. Amazing to think that early next year this album will be 30 years old!
Following the first two works, rather than repeating what they’d accomplished, to my ear their music has evolved and changed quite a bit over the years, with some of it sounding more like it was influenced by The Beatles rather than more contemporary works.
As touched on above, the release of the film Donnie Darko in 2001 sparked a resurgent interest in Tears for Fears, as the song “Mad World” was re-imagined as a more somber song and performed by Michael Andrews, and became the signature song on the soundtrack and for the film overall. The original studio version of “Head Over Heels” was also featured in the film, and was utilized in a very clever and stylized way in the film, serving as another highlight for this movie set in the 80s. As my friends who follow me on my other site (the Original Prop Blog) well know, I actually used to own one of the “Frank” masks worn by James Duvall in the film (see my interview), so I am definitely a long-term fan of both Tears for Fears and the film, Donnie Darko (side note: that mask is currently owned by Kirk Hammet of Metallica).
I think what is interesting about the song, “Mad World”, is that the re-imagining of the song in such a drastically different way – it was also an amazing song. And I think it is a testament to how incredibly rich the original song is, that it can transcend styles and mood and sound and still work. Some music just doesn’t sound right or work at all when tweaked even a little, and this song was completely redone in a totally different way – while remaining faithful to the spirit of the original – and it is an amazing song in its own right. Though, if I had to pick, I would still choose the original (Tears for Fears) version hands down.
I listened to an interview with Metric years ago, and in it, they talked about “the campfire test”. Emily and James – brilliant songwriters in their own right – worked on Fantasies with producer Gavin, in which he said that if a song can’t be played on an acoustic instrument, that there is probably something wrong with the song. I found this to be really interesting, and obviously it in some way lead to their Plug In, Plug Out EP. But in the interview, James talked about how their songs had to pass “the campfire test”.
Performing with the band was Charlton Pettus (lead guitar), Doug Petty (keyboards), and Jamie Wollam (drums), with Carina Round on vocals.
Richard Blade posted a photo of Roland’s set list on his Official Facebook Page today (photo credit Richard Blade):
(photo credit: Richard Blade)
Below is the set list for this Tears for Fears concert at The Wiltern on 9/13/2014:
- Recorded Intro – Everybody Wants to Rule the World (as covered and performed by Lorde)
- Secret World
- Sowing the Seeds of Love
- Pale Shelter
- Call Me Mellow
- Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
- Mad World
- Memories Fade
- Closest Thing to Heaven
- Ready to Start (Arcade Fire cover)
- Floating Down the River
- Everybody Wants to Rule the World
- Advice for the Young at Heart
- Woman in Chains (With Carina Round)
- Badman’s Song (With Carina Round)
- Break It Down Again (With Carina Round)
- Head Over Heels
- The Working Hour
Some of the songs sounded a little different/reworked from the last outing, though that is just my recollection.
Carina Rounds put out some unbelievable vocals on “Woman in Chains” and “Badman’s Song”. Incredible. I can’t imagine them doing these songs without her.
In any event, as much as I loved the show a few years ago, they really stepped things up even more with this outing. They are definitely serious about their art, and seem to just get better and better with age.
Below are photos of Tears for Fears performing at The Wiltern (click any image for higher resolution versions of each photo):