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Live: Tears For Fears ‘wake up’ to the love as they return to the London stage

Tears For Fears played live in London for the first time in 12 years, on Saturday.

The band were supporting The Killers and played a hour-long set at the BST Hyde Park festival which included tracks from all four albums recorded when both Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith were band members – namely The Hurting, Songs From The Big Chair, The Seeds Of Love and Everybody Loves A Happy Ending.

On a scorching afternoon (Roland later tweeted “that was the toughest show I’ve ever played. Hotter than Vegas.”) there was no messing around as the band opened with their US number one Everybody Wants To Rule The World, with Curt in fine voice.

The only song the 65,000 capacity crowd may not have known was the one that followed, a performance of Secret World  from 2004/5’s Everybody Loves A Happy Ending – the comeback album that didn’t enjoy the commercial success it deserved.

Thereafter, it was largely hits all the way. The complexity of Sowing The Seeds Of Love was deftly handled and it sounded studio-perfect, while four tunes from their 1983 debut The Hurting (including the only none single of the day, Memories Fade) emphasised just how strong that album really is – with its bedsit/new wave appeal – despite being commercially overshadowed by Songs From The Big Chair.

Break It Down Again also featured and is the worldwide smash that never was. It was the lead single from the Curt-free Elemental (issued in 1993). Such is the strength of this number (co-written and co-produced by the late Alan Griffiths), that Curt has presumably decided it would be churlish to try and veto its inclusion, and its been a stalwart in their set lists for years.

In fact, it was on the Elemental tour that Tears For Fears first performed Radiohead‘s Creep and it has (a-hem) crept back into their set list recently and went down very well on Saturday in London.

The show ended with two big hitters from Songs From The Big Chair. The gorgeous Head Over Heels (which suffered from a piano too low in the mix) criminally didn’t segue into to one of my very favourite ‘deep cuts’, Broken (aka We Are Broken). It just sounded weird to me without it, the song seemed to ‘hang’ awkwardly at the end. A bit like hearing A Day In The Life and someone fading it out before that piano chord at the end.

The final sign-off was of course Shout, another song which reached the top spot in America but failed to do so in the UK. It was a slightly rocky performance actually, with the sequencers and synths not dominating in quite the same way as they do on the record.

Vocally and musically the band were very strong indeed and they looked good too with Curt very lean, showing off his LA teeth and tan! I actually think they were better sounding than when I saw them in Hammersmith back in 2005, on the Everybody Loves A Happy Ending Tour. Talking of which, there was quite a poignant moment when Roland mentioned this and he was almost lost for words: “The last time we played in London, it was 2005,” he said. “This is a wake up call… Wake up, Tears For Fears because England quite likes you.”

This was mentioned around the mid-point of the set and at the time, I actually thought the ‘wake up’ line was a cue for the band to perform the title track from Everybody Loves A Happy Ending (which starts with the line “Wake up! You’re time is nearly over…”). But it wasn’t. It was a singer-songwriter expressing apparently genuine surprise that this very large crowd in London was having a great time being entertained by some classic tunes.

Curt and Roland in particular are complex characters and the stage bonhomie of say, Guy Garvey from Elbow (who followed) was absent. There was just a few words from Orzabal and I don’t think Smith said anything. I also suspect they rejected the Elbow slot (who played just before The Killers) purely for logistical/personal reasons with Curt flying back to California the very next day and the band due to play the first of 13 dates in North America tomorrow. They’ve supported Spandau Ballet in the past, a band whose achievements they’ve easily eclipsed, so ego is clearly not an issue.

So yes, Tears For Fears, we do quite like you. Please get on and deliver that new album you’ve been working on for the last few years and approve the reissue of The Seeds Of Love. Also, why not come back and play a proper tour in the UK that goes beyond just the hits?

Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Secret World
Sowing the Seeds of Love
Change
Mad World
Memories Fade
Creep
Pale Shelter
Break It Down Again
Head Over Heels
Shout

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45 responses to Live: Tears For Fears ‘wake up’ to the love as they return to the London stage

  1. vikerii says:

    Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is STILL in my regular playlist. It’s such a great album. Had it been released as the followup to Big Chair, it would have been multiplatinum.

    I really hope their new album still gets released, as well as the SOL reissue. Heck, if Purple Rain can finally get a reissue, then TFF have absolutely NO excuse. :)

    • James Baker says:

      I agree ELAHE is an amazing album which was very much overlooked at the time. It just shows when they work together what amazing results they can achieve. SOL deluxe must surely be in the works as a deluxe release to match the previous 2 amazing box sets. Maybe they’ll release it to coincide with their new album release?!

    • Julian H says:

      Had it been released as the followup to Big Chair, it would have sounded a whole lot better!

      Seriously, I think that there’s some great songs on ELAHE but they are seriously smothered in an overcooked, overly ‘hot’ production. It took me a lot longer to get into the album compared to all their earlier ones and I don’t think that has helped its success.

      I just hope the next album is not another hot mess where you have to strain to properly hear the instruments…

      Honestly, the clips I’ve watched from Hyde Park didn’t convince me. Roland and Curt both sounded flat vocally. Not as bad as their only (!) official live album from 2005, but certainly not as good as some of their best bootlegs. However the Tel Aviv clips sounded fine, Roland was a lot stronger there.

  2. Webvan says:

    Thanks for the write-up, I had no idea they were back together, might try to catch them on their US tour although I see they are playing arenas with Darry Hall…and not theaters on their own.

  3. Nuno Bento says:

    Thanks for the great review, Paul. TFF are one of the bands I’m most eager to see and there seems to be no way that they do an European Tour. Hopefully next year. And hopefully Roland brings back Raoul.

  4. Lee Taylor says:

    Same set list s when I saw them a few weeks ago with Hall and Oates. I thought they sounded terrific as well.

    • Johnny Feathers says:

      I saw them with H&O earlier this year as well. They really did sound good. They were a bucket list one, for me.

  5. Boaz Halachmi says:

    Last week TFF played their first concert ever in Israel. They spent here about a week for a vacation, with Curt bringing the whole family for the trip. The crowd cuddled them with so much love you could see they were shocked. They apologized three times for not being here before (as Curt said: “I really don’t know what went wrong”). They gave a complete 90 min set, including (alongside the above, Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, Closest Thing To Heaven, Woman In Chains, Badman’s Song, Advise For The Young At Heart). They promised to be back very soon.

    The only disappointment was they didn’t stay to meet the fans who waited 25 years to see them (Roland rushed to the van seconds after the show ended and Curt slipping from another door, leaving dozens of fans waiting for more than an hour for him to get out).

    The Creep cover (it was the B-side of a few singles from RATKOS album) was amazing, and a great set up for the Radiohead concert here next week. A few critics wrote that Roland’s performance was better than the original… well…

    Seeing TFF was a dream come true.

    BTW. very limited signed US tour poster is available at their new official store. $100 each. There are only 20 copies for each city they will play in. Most are already sold out.

  6. Kauwgompie says:

    Love TFF, thanks for this write up. I just checked out their North American Tour. Unfortunately it’s all on the West Coast and a little in the mid west, nothing in NYC or East Coast!! Very disappointing, would have LOVED to see them here. Maybe one day.

    • Rob says:

      They did a bunch of East Coast USA shows last month with Hall & Oates. NYC, Newark, DC, Pittsburgh and Boston. I caught the Boston show. It was on Curt’s birthday. Roland got the whole crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Great show despite the abbreviated (75 minute) set. In addition to the songs above we got to hear “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” and “Advice For the Young at Heart.”

      I am dying to hear Steven Wilson’s 5.1 mix of Seeds of Love!!!!!

  7. James says:

    Thanks for the review Paul. They played Toronto with Hall & Oates but I could not justify the high ticket price for a concert where I was only interested in one of the bands. A new album would be most welcome. Roland has long been one of my favourite songwriters so I don’t care if it is a Tears For Fears release (which they have been promising) or another solo release (loved ‘Tomcats Screaming Outside’) as long as there is something.

  8. Lynn says:

    The logistics & the stars have to all be lined up just right for a TFF UK tour. Although Roland Orzabal lives over in Bath area, the rest of the band live in the states. Huge expense getting everybody over to tour. Plus Curt has school aged children to think about. But never say never. It could happen.

  9. Kevin Barrett says:

    Great to see TFF on the move again. Hopefully a UK tour will follow. One of the most underrated 80s bands imo, I put them up there with The Associates and (almost) Cocteau twins.

  10. Carol rice says:

    They did a concert at Newmarket races last year. It was great. We really enjoyed it. Would love to see them tour the UK

  11. Daran says:

    Yes Roland, England loves you. One of the great mysteries of the 80’s revival is why TFF have not done a tour of their albums pkayed back to back. No doubt in my mind that a tour of the first 3 classic albums played in full would sell out the o2 multiple nights. Imagine it, The Hurting, SFTBC and SoL all played, a nice 2 hours or so set. Would be a huge success, but I guess they are not interested in milking it. Which is fair enough.

  12. JuzzyB says:

    I can’t believe how lucky we were to have them at Newmarket – easily the best gig I have seen at the racecourse. Sounds like the London gig was the same set, but hey – I would pay to see it again.

  13. AlexKx says:

    What are the tour dates?!

  14. Greg says:

    Saw them as the headliners at Camp Bestival just under a year ago (31st July). This sounds like a cut down version of that set list, which was the same as Newmarket and their general tour list at the moment. So nothing unique for each night, but as well as the obvious hits it was unbelievable to hear Badman’s Song (so underrated, it’s a work of genius) and Woman in Chains. Wouldn’t mind hearing some of the lesser Seeds of Love, Elemental or Raoul and the Kings of Spain, but they’d have to be in a seriously indulgent mood in their own show to go that far I feel. Depends on the fragility of their peacemaking too I guess, given how much of a hatchet job Fish Out of Water was…

  15. Andrew says:

    Probably the most underrated band I can remember-certainly in the last three decades.
    Criminal how some of their lesser contempories have been lauded whilst they were forgotten.

    Cannot wait for the new album and SOL box set-in fact anything from them!

    Their cover of Arcade Fire blew the original away too.

    Thanks for the review Paul-great as always!

  16. Mark j says:

    I’ve loved Tears for Fears for so long I can still remember purchasing the 10″ I Believe from upstairs in my local Boots store from back in the day, unimaginable now. I’ve thought for along time that no matter how great it would be to tour performing the whole of Big Chair and the Hurting, or sedds or even how about a fantastic acoustic tour, God that would be great. Anyway sadly I just don’t they can be bothered anymore, their based in the US and constantly tour there but mostly that’s it, gutted really but when Curt can’t be arsed to say anything and Roland gives a few words of false luv deep down you know it isn’t going to happen. They can’t wait to leave.

  17. Love TFF but I really hope to see them return to their electronic roots on the new album. SOL was waaay too jazzy for my tastes. Their last album was also a big departure from their early/mid-eighties sound, which is the sound of TFF that everyone fell in love with.

    • Julian H says:

      Not “everyone”. SOL is one of my favourite albums period. I think I’d like ELAHE more if it sounded as good as SOL, but the songs can’t breathe :(

  18. Daniel says:

    I think the set was almost identical to the Hall & Oates opening set I saw in Nashville. I agree they’ve sounded better to me on previous tours, especially (and oddly enough) the tour after Raoul and the KoS without Curt. I did think Memories Fade and Creep sounded best to me this year.

  19. Dan T. says:

    My comment is probably worthy of the gallows, but my favorite TFF albums are the Curt-free ones, and the Orzabal solo album after them. Don’t get me wrong – I adore the 80s stuff too, but the post-Curt albums were much more lush in their production and deep in their songwriting to my ears.

    The only reason I didn’t choose to go to any of the USA shows was because the setlist didn’t touch any of those albums. But it’s GREAT to hear that TFF can fill 65,000 seats!

  20. elliott buckingham says:

    i thought curt was great in the amercian show psych playing himself

  21. http://www.westword.com/music/roland-orzabal-of-tears-for-fears-talks-ahead-of-fiddlers-green-concert-9002721

    It seems we’re really nearing a release, since Roland is mentioning SONG TITLES!!

    PS Paul – “Broken” wasn’t played live since 1990, I think…

  22. Fady says:

    Excellent review Paul! I really enjoyed that. I was fortunate to see them when they played Down Under so would love to see them again if they ever decided to tour Australia again based on your positive review. Cheers.

  23. Mark says:

    Thanks so much for the link to that article The TFF Connection!
    I am hoping that the delay in TFF expanded is merely that they want it to come after the new album and expect that is likely the case
    Cant wait for both especially the expanded SOL if im honest!

  24. Cris says:

    Great review Paul, thanks!
    I too would like to see them live, and a new album would be great but they must remember to stick to the fantastic new wave they were (and are, judging from the recent 10″) able to construct.
    I personally dislike “specific” early-Beatles copies (see Definitely Maybe) but like copies of the “generic” late-60s psychedelic-Beatles (see Standing on the Shoulder…), even so SOL was a complete bore.
    Not to mention the unimaginative Beatles (again!) + Queen style songs of ELAHE… What a disappointment after so many years and so much waiting.
    So yes, just forget a little about your gigantic egos, interplay with audiences a bit more, come back to Europe and release a “Hurting Big Chair 2”, please.

  25. Stevo says:

    Great summary, wish I could have been there but needed to get back home to Australia. Please come down under too, TFF. We’re still big fans too! :)

  26. Daniel (from Adelaide) says:

    They are mighty. saw them supporting Spandau Ballet here in Adelaide a few years ago (Reformation Tour) and they were incredible. They did a set just over 60 minutes long, bang bang bang with hit after hit. When they left the consensus was that the Spandau had best bring their A-Game, which, of course, they did. I still think TFF just shaded them. I’d love for them to come back and headline proper.

    Incredible to think it’s been that long since they’ve played the UK. I thought it was a typo there for a second.

  27. Johnny B says:

    TFF supporting another band? Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

  28. Ralph says:

    I’m sure a piece of Paul McCartney’s Let Em In slipped into the set too

    • Julian H says:

      It’s been in the set since 2005, I think :)

      “Secret World” uses the same bouncy rhythm, so coupling it with “Let ’em In” seems like a logical decision.

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