Tears for Fears’ two biggest hits from the mid-1980s, “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” have enjoyed a lifespan that has spanned decades. They are still being played at sporting events, on newscasts featuring political commentary, and in advertisements. These two songs refuse to disappear from the mainstream, being constantly rediscovered by generations that were not yet born at the time of the original recordings. Ironically, even when its records topped the sales charts, Tears for Fears never headlined larger venues; 42 years after forming in Bath, England, Tears for Fears’ Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith profited from an unusual legacy and headlined Madison Square Garden for the first time on June 26.
Curiously, a British pop band best known for its role in the 1980s synth-pop movement hardly relied on its synthesizers at its concert at Madison Square Garden. Orzabal and Smith leaned on guitars and vocal melodies for much of the evening, performing old songs while also introducing songs from Tears for Fears’ seventh and most recent album, The Tipping Point, released on February 25, 2022. With guitarist/vocalist Orzabel and bassist/vocalist Smith front and center as the faces of the band, the touring unit also consisted of vocalist Lauren Evans, guitarist Charlton Pettus, keyboardist Doug Petty, and drummer Jamey Wallum – all of whom collaborated extensively on the The Tipping Point sessions. The backing musicians did the heavy lifting and supported Orzabel and Smith by giving the music a full sound.
The concert featured songs from six of Tears for Fears’ seven albums, predictably weighing in heaviest on its 1980s success (10 songs) and its most recent album (six songs). Opening with “No Small Thing,” Orzabal, now 61 and sporting long white hair, played acoustic guitar before switching to electric guitar for the second song, “The Tipping Point.” Smith, now 62 with short cropped hair, then took lead vocals. Sorry to the late arrivals – he sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” quite early on in the set. Both sang well, although Orzabal has always had the more compelling voice. Evans’ lead vocals were the most powerful of all, however, as demonstrated on “Suffer the Children” and “Woman In Chains.” The encore began with a rocking version of “Change” and ended with an elongated version of “Shout,” in which the band and the audience chanted the chorus seemingly endlessly.
As could be expected, “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” were the anchors of the performance. Despite some fine instrumentation and vocals from the band, the rest of the set was pleasant but comparatively unremarkable. In all fairness, Tears for Fears should not be considered a legacy band, and the overall performance was nothing to shout about. The duo will need a stronger catalog to rule the music world like it did in the 1980s.
No Small Thing
The Tipping Point
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Secret World (with a snippet of “Let ‘Em In” by Wings)