Tears for Fears frontman Roland Orzabal was nearly moved to tears about halfway through the band’s set at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday.
“Seeing you guys singing along is incredible,” he told the audience during a stretch of new material. In the streaming age, easy access to on-demand music means fans can familiarize themselves with the new music of their favorite artists from yesteryear. Still, Orzabal and co-founder Curt Smith didn’t seem prepared for the reaction.
“That’s very touching for us,” Orzabal said after opening with the rootsy “No Small Thing” and the album’s punchy title track.
The duo’s pride and confidence in their new songs was palpable throughout the evening. Seven of the set’s 19 songs were from the band’s latest album, The Tipping Point, a critically acclaimed and commercially successful collection of all-new material that shows the English duo remain creatively relevant 40 years after they hit the U.K. charts with “Mad World.”
After a trio of songs from their heyday in the ’80s – the Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Everybody Wants to Role the World” from 1985’s Songs From the Big Chair and “Sowing the Seeds of Love” from 1989’s The Seeds of Love, with the 2004 track “Secret World” between them – the band confidently returned to material from its first new album in nearly 18 years. Both Orzabal, now with white, flowing hair and a scruffy beard, and the youthful Smith seemed to have found a creative fountain of youth at age 60. Both on record and onstage, the duo is energized.
“It’s OK to get older, more mature,” Smith said in a moment of introspection before the band confidently tore into a quartet of new songs: the wistful “Long, Long, Long Time,” aided by longtime backup singer Carina Round, the supple “Break the Man,” the bombastic “My Demons” and the soaring “Rivers of Mercy.”
Many of Tears for Fears’ peers from their most successful era are decades removed from compelling songwriting and performing on ’80s cruises packed with one- or two-hit wonders. Orzabal and Smith aren’t a typical ’80s band, though. Their U.S. chart success extended to other decades: “Break It Down Again” from 1993’s Elemental reached No. 25 on the Hot 100, and The Tipping Point reached No. 8 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, equaling The Seeds of Love‘s highest mark (and No. 2 on the Vinyl Albums chart). That new generations of fans discovered the band over the years was evident in the multitude of generations represented by concertgoers – this isn’t a mere oldies act playing MTV hits of yore. The current tour, stopping in arenas and amphitheaters, is a testament to Orzabal’s and Smith’s ability to craft artful music, as well as to their onstage chemistry. Both are skilled musicians – Orzabal on guitar, Smith on bass — and owners of remarkable singing voices that remain resonant and limber.
In earlier tours before the band went on COVID-19 hiatus, Tears for Fears concerts typically had about 16 songs from most of the group’s six previous studio albums and a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” At the Kia Forum, and in the previous eight shows in the U.S. tour, the band dropped “Creep” to make room for new material while keeping what have become cornerstones to their live performances. After Orzabal led the audience in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for his wife Emily, Smith tore into a pulsating version of “Mad World” from The Hurting, one of the band’s best-known songs – thanks in part to the Michael Andrews and Gary Jules version from the Donnie Darko soundtrack in 2001 and covers by the likes of Adam Lambert and Demi Lovato – and a concert staple despite never reaching the Hot 100.
The duo’s longtime touring band helped Orzabal and Smith ignite the crowd midway through the set. Backup singer Round was mesmerizing in “Suffer the Children” from The Hurting and “Woman in Chains” from The Seeds of Love. Guitarist Charlton Pettus, drummer Jamie Wollam and keyboardist Doug Petty were given room to shine in the blues- and jazz-drenched “Bad Man’s Song” from The Seeds of Love. Concert mainstay “Pale Shelter” from The Hurting only reinforced the band’s deftness at switching from American roots to the British new wave of its early history. “Break It Down Again” further roused the crowd before “Head Over Heals,” which reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1985, sent the audience into a frenzy.
“You’re making this one hell of a homecoming,” said Los Angeles resident Smith, soaking in the crowd’s applause, after the band returned for a three-song encore: “End of Night” from The Tipping Point, “Change” from The Hurting and “Shout,” a Hot 100 No. 1 hit in 1985 from Songs From the Big Chair. After the band’s West Coast swing, the tour resumes Thursday night (June 9) in West Palm Beach, Fla., goes north through to Chicago on June 16, and runs from Philadelphia on June 21 to Boston on June 22 before turning back to Holmdel, N.J., on June 24 and Jones Beach in Wantagh, N.Y., on June 25. A U.K. tour begins at the QEII Arena in Telford on July 1.