I was ready. Everyone I know who’s seen Tears for Fears live sings their praises. My anticipation only grew the days before as I listened to their new album, The Tipping Point. It’s a year old, but as co-founder Curt Smith states, that’s not old at all to the band, now in their early 60s – at that creative crossroads between youthfulness and experience.
The Tipping Point is the band’s first studio release in over 17 years. It’s an album with vitality. If a band waits that long, you know they’re not releasing an album for the wrong reasons. Total sincerity is the result, which is one of the hallmarks of Tears for Fears, founded by Smith and Roland Orzabal in Bath circa 1981.
During a performance at The Hollywood Bowl, which was the band’s first time playing at the historic venue, they sang and performed with poppy gravitas and had people singing, dancing, and based on the fans in front of me, smoking cannabis with a passion for the good times.
And Tears for Fears is exactly that: a good time. I didn’t expect how hilarious the group was on stage, joking about how their songs are far more famous than they are – a life of fame that would evoke either envy or fear in pop artists today. A lot of laughs along with the tunes.
The band has been at it for 40 years now, and at this point in their career, it shows. Everything is so smooth. Not only that, no song was played without a zeal for it. Orzabal – who looks a bit like a beautiful wizard you’d see in a flash tattoo – couldn’t contain his excitement. “I’ve been to the Bowl quite a few times to see other acts,” he said. “I always have this excitement and reverence when I walk in. That feeling, if you times it by 100, is how we feel on stage right now. We are extremely grateful for you coming here tonight.”
When Orzabal was singing “Break it Down Again,” among other tunes (including a cover of “Creep”), it’s stunning how close his voice is to those recordings from the 1980s. The same goes for Curt Smith, whose gentle vocals are still as robust as an ox. When listening to the duo’s voices express such enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but wonder, did these English gentlemen never chain smoke or something? What’s the secret to longevity? Whatever partying they’ve done, you don’t hear it when they sing hits, deep cuts, or new songs.
As for the now one-year-old songs from The Tipping Point, it’s only fun to compare to their early work in that, some of their most iconic music captured a young and restless anxiety. Now, we can hear how those artists grew following those life experiences. The relatable anxiety and fears are all still there, don’t worry. “If you don’t know it [the album], you still bought the ticket, which is great!” Orzabal joked. “If you don’t know it, you will by the end of this concert.” Orzabal let the crowd know they were about to hear four songs in a row from the new album, adding, “If that’s OK with you.” It was a welcomed self-awareness, knowing what most people think when they hear, “And this is off our new album!”
Well, thankfully, Tears for Fears played songs off their new album. The first notes alone off the album’s opener, “No Small Thing,” gets the feelings going. Again, even when their lyrics touch on uneasy emotions or world rulers, Tears for Fears makes you feel good about it all… at least until you think about it. They’ve always had that effect for this fan, who admittedly, hoped but did not hear them play “Goodnight Song.”
When the band played one of their new songs, the stadium was aglow with everyone’s phones lit up. Fifteen thousand people, mind you, all shining to the heartfelt and hopeful sounds of Tears for Fears. After a few hits from a STIIIZY pen, yes, it was a welcomed bright sight. Then again, the concert was bright spot after bright spot, if that’s not obvious by now. Charlton Pettus (guitar), Jamie Wollam (drums), Doug Petty (piano and keys), Lauren Evans (supporting vocals), and Carina Round (vocals) made The Hollywood Bowl a house party people didn’t want to leave. Side Note: If you ever get the chance to hear Carina Round sing “Suffer the Children,” run, don’t walk, to hear it.
After 40 years of playing and finally performing at The Hollywood Bowl, Orzabal joked perhaps God saved the best for last. What was a joke might’ve been true for two childhood friends, playing a euphoric show satisfying both old and new fans. If there is a God, no doubt in my mind, he’s a Tears for Fears fan.