Undeniably one of the biggest artists of the ‘80s was England’s own, Tears for Fears. The band initially found success with their 1983 debut album, “The Hurting,” with minor hits “Mad World” and “Pale Shelter.” However, it was their breakout follow-up album, “Songs from the Big Chair,” that would catapult the group into superstardom, cementing their status as rock and roll legends. Released in 1985, the album would go on to be certified triple platinum in the UK, and an astounding five-time platinum in the United States. The songs “Shout,” “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and “Head Over Heels” would become staples of the ‘80s.
While the backing band has changed over the years, Tears for Fears has predominately been the brainchild of two men: guitarist and lead vocalist, Roland Orzabal, and bassist and co-lead vocalist, Curt Smith. After releasing 1989’s “The Seeds of Love,” Smith would depart from the band leaving Orzabal to continue releasing albums, but Smith returned in 2000. The band saw a resurgence a few years ago, and that popularity and nostalgia has only grown as witnessed by Saturday night’s sold-out concert at the (recently renamed) Kia Forum in Inglewood.
Opening the night’s festivities was the always superb Garbage. Although technically billed as the “opener,” I love that Garbage was given the respect of an hour set with plenty of time to display the songs the world has come to know. They opened with “Automatic Systematic Habit,” followed by “No Gods No Masters,” the title track off of their 2021 album. Drummer Butch Vig began a beat that sounded vaguely familiar as “Stupid Girl” began, which makes sense as the song sampled the Clash’s “Train in Vain.”
Lead singer Shirley Manson, donning a flowing black and white gown that made her look like a badass Queen of Hearts, addressed the crowd and said that they had been around for so many years thanks to the fans. She remarked that they first played the Forum 25 years ago, opening for Smashing Pumpkins. She said they were only still here doing what they love because of the fans; for that she dedicated “Special” to everyone in the crowd.
Before their next song, Manson mentioned the recent passing of famed keyboard player, Andy Fletcher of Depeche Mode. She dedicated “Wicked Ways” to him and towards the end of the song, guitarists Duke Erikson and Steve Marker started playing Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” going through about half the song as Manson demanded, “reach out and touch faith!” It was a touching tribute to a band that so many that night, including the band itself, found inspiration from.
Manson pointed out that this was Pride Month to a huge ovation. She said the band had always been supportive of, and found support from, the LGBTQ+ community since their debut single, “Queer,” and appropriately enough dedicated the song to the community before playing it.
Seeing as how they were in LA, Manson said as a tribute to nearby Hollywood, she would play their theme song for the James Bond film of the same name and did a lovely, sultry version of “The World Is Not Enough.”
A packed crowd waited patiently for the night’s headliners to take the stage. They were rewarded with the band starting with the two opening tracks off of their 2022 album, “Tipping Point:” “No Small Thing” and the album’s title track. Opening your show with two songs off an album that was just released in February is pretty gutsy, but Smith pointed out many in the crowd were singing along to every word.
I had first listened to the new album earlier this year and hearing the songs live I was left with this impression: the songs sound undoubtedly like Tears for Fears, but a more modernized version, if that makes sense. Rather than sounding outdated or stuck in the ‘80s, you’re treated to 10 songs that fit right in with any of today’s music playing on the radio with that classic sound you grew up with.
A huge cheer erupted as the opening keyboard and guitar notes to “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” began playing. Smith’s high-pitched vocals hit perfectly. Both members of Tears for Fears are now 60 and sound gorgeous live. So many vocalists that have been singing for a fraction of the time that they have been together have used and abused their voices to the point where seeing them perform live just doesn’t have that magic. It was such a wonderful surprise to hear how they can still recreate the music and vocals of songs that were in some case, written four decades prior.
The band had a giant backdrop of lights and an LCD display that looked like a portal out of the movie “Stargate.” Images, usually pertaining to the song they were played, displayed in the background throughout the night. The band played “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” and the powerful duet of “Woman in Chains” with Carina Round, the band’s backup vocalist. Also played was “Mad World,” which was originally a hit in the ‘80s and gained popularity again after singer Gary Jules covered it for the film “Donnie Darko.” Tears for Fears closed their set with maybe my favorite song of the entire 1980s, the synth ballad “Head Over Heels” mixed with “Broken.”
I do not exaggerate when I say everyone in the entire Kia Forum cheered, clapped, and chanted for the band to return for an encore, which they graciously did. They played one of their newer songs, “End of Night,” followed by “Change” off of their debut album. Smith then introduced the band including drummer Jamie Wollam, and guitarist Charlton Pettus, and keyboardist Doug Petty. He concluded with Orzabal and himself and announced, “We are from a little country called England. We are Tears for Fears. Thank you.” and they closed the night with the anthem “Shout.”
It was a perfect show from beginning to end and provided the opportunity for the thousands in attendance to indeed, “let it all out.”