Tears for Fears perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 19, 2022. (Photos by Kyle Gustafson; Words by Mickey McCarter)
Roland Orzabal emerged from the shadows with the looks of an aging wizard when Tears for Fears appeared on stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion recently. And he did what you would like Roland to do: He sang a song of loneliness and isolation. He sang of a desire for new beginnings and freedom. And he sang of how maybe we’ll never be truly understood. But his perspective had changed.
When singing “No Small Thing” from the extraordinary new Tears for Fears album, the sense of existential terror that pervaded the band’s early songs like “Mad World” and “Change” was replaced with a weariness. Roughly 40 years after the start of the band, they weren’t protesting, “What is happening?,” as much as they were wondering, “What had happened?”
Despite the shift, the resulting soul-searching remained very satisfying.
At Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 19, Roland and his Tears for Fears co-founder Curt Smith anchored themselves to the stage and summoned the dread of their early songs for sure but they also moored old and new tunes alike in a sense of accomplishment.
Gone was the fear and melancholy of The Hurting and Songs from the Big Chair, replaced by a willful acceptance, resignation, and even understanding of what has transpired as informed by 2022’s The Tipping Point, which Tears for Fears released to acclam in February. The seventh studio album by Tears for Fears finds the duo looking over their shoulders instead of looking around the room. The title tune “The Tipping Point,” presented as the second song of the set, acknowledged the inevitabiity of death and disappointment.
But “The Tipping Point” and “No Small Thing” both avoided being sour through their embrace of mortality and their satisfaction as to having found fulfillment, even if only briefly. It is said the passing of Roland’s wife in 2017 informed the music, and the songs were infused with true feeling in live performance.
Tears for Fears have a big sound that carried a forward momentum. Roland on guitar and Curt on bass were backed by a touring keyboardist, drummer, guitarist, and vocalist, and the band generated a powerful wave of sound that washed through the audience.
Watch Tears for Fears perform “The Tipping Point” live for SiriusXM on YouTube:
The more familiar tunes followed quickly. Tears for Fears played “Everybody Wants to Rule The World,” perhaps their career-defining single song if ever they had one, as the third song in the set, and they immediately set folks to ease that this was the very band they came to see. The show started strong with the two new songs, but it opened wider with the introduction of Smith’s pleasing tenor as the main vocal.
That comforting presence resurfaced later with “Mad World,” a long favored number from the band’s debut 1983 album, The Hurting. Performed halfway through the show in its classic arrangement, “Mad World” carried with it all of the pain and emptiness that ever it had, but Curt’s voice carried the lyrics as a friendly companion, enlivening the sorrow of the song with insight and a degree of comfort.
During the encore, Curt similarly comforted the listener despite unfortunate circumstances with “Change,” another 1983 track. The chirpy refrain of “You can change” stood in contract to the observation that “it’s all too late.” And through Curt’s entreaties, the audience arrived at a sort of catharsis.
Watch the official music video for “Change” by Tears for Fears on YouTube:
And when I say “the audience” found it cathartic, I mean *everyone.* Merriweather Post Pavilion was packed, and the crowd communed in a shared understanding that they would gain personal wisdom from this concert performance — a reassurance that Roland and Curt were still there to understand them. We got that recognition and more. We got acceptance.
Roland took lead vocals again in the encore to cap the night with his affecting declaration of “Shout,” the 1985 No. 1 chart-topper that served as a global mini-therapy session back in the day. When all was said and done, Tears for Fears too departed at ease, relaxed and pleased with their reception.
Opening for Tears for Fears was ’90s post-grunge icons Garbage in all of their glory. Frontwoman Shirley Manson and company got people in the mood to be out with their alternative radio hits, including “Stupid Girl” and “Wicked Ways,” the latter of which they blended with Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” in a nod to the recent death of Mode co-founder Andrew Fletcher. That blending of tunes demonstrated Garbage’s versalility. The band are always at their best when they place surprises in their set, and they have a capacity to stretch in different directions than most other rock bands.
Garbage closed on Version 2.0’s “You Look So Fine” but blended into “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac, for example, to close their 12-song set, and the performance was really fun while showcasing the band’s impressive talents. Shirley talked happily to the audience, wishing her bandmates a happy Father’s Day and applauding Pride month with heartfelt gratitude to the band’s LGBTQ fans, who embraced the band and its 1995 breakthrough single “Queer” (performed at the set’s midpoint) from the beginning.
Watch the official music video for “Queer” by Garbage on YouTube:
Here are some photos of Garbage performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 19, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.
Here are some photos of Tears for Fears performing at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 19, 2022. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.