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Still Sowing The Seeds Of Love: Tears For Fears – Live At The Wiltern


Every concert goer remembers that one show that stands out as the show of all shows, the pure epitome of all live music experiences. It’s the concert that helped to define the musical landscape of one’s youth; it continuously challenges all newcomers and forever conjures fond memories of rock ‘n’ roll legend. For me that concert took place more than 20 years ago: February 1990, Irvine Meadows Amphitheater. The band was Tears for Fears, one of my all-time favorites, then, today and always.

For the unwashed, this erroneously-labeled “80’s band” may be considered a step above a one-hit-wonder. But nothing could be further from the truth. The (originally) Bath, England-based Tears for Fears boasts a prolific musical legacy that has spanned three decades and spawned numerous chart-topping hits in each. The music of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the power duo behind Tears for Fears, is a noteworthy part of the soundtrack of my younger years, and I couldn’t have been more excited as they descended on Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theater Sunday night.

If there’s one thing that Orzabal and Smith proved on Sunday it was that they can still pack a venue. The Wiltern was filled to capacity and buzzing with energy as Curt Smith took the stage alone, opening with a mellow rendition of “Mad World.” Following this soulful opener, the set immediately ramped into high gear as Smith was joined by the rest of the band, including Orzabal, and together they launched into the song that (arguably) put them on the map, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” The boys sounded amazing, and if there had been any fear that the years might have addled the duo’s abilities, those fears were decimated at that moment. I knew then (and I’m sure everyone else at the Wiltern did as well) that I was in for a night of musical wonderment.

One of the most amazing things to me about Tears for Fears has always been their ability to continually recreate themselves and mature as musicians, something that isn’t so common in the music industry. It’s a trait that separates the true musicians from the imitators. None of Tears for Fears’ albums, from 1983’s The Hurting on, has sounded exactly the same. Tears for Fears has always evolved as a band; “Secret World” and “Closest Thing to Heaven” (3rd and 4th of the Wiltern set) from TFF’s latest album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, are two perfect examples of how a songwriting team can improve with age. 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending is arguably the duo’s best and most seasoned album to date; it proved that Smith and Orzabal are much more effective together than they ever could be apart.

As the band continued to make its way through its long list of hits Sunday night, it became even clearer that the extra years have done nothing to impair their abilities. Orzabal’s unique voice (sometimes lilting falsetto, sometimes piercing rock ‘n’ roll scream) and forceful guitar playing beautifully contrasted Smith’s melodic tenor singing. The anthemic “Sowing the Seeds of Love” was still as powerful as I’d ever heard it, and the pair’s acknowledgment of the inevitability of growing older was referenced in the song, “Call Me Mellow,” one of my favorites from the last album.

The energy at the Wiltern (and even my own energy) seemed to build throughout the evening. Even as the set neared its end, TFF brought the house down with powerful renditions of “Break It Down Again” and the nostalgic crowd favorite, “Head Over Heels.” And with that, the band left the stage, but no one was ready to go home. Then came my favorite moment of the night.

As I stated previously, Tears for Fears’ Seeds of Love concert in February 1990 is perhaps my all-time favorite live music experience. At that time, TFF had been touring with a soulful jazz singer named Oleta Adams (also featured on the album The Seeds of Love) as part of the band. Adams added so much depth and richness to TFF back then, and on Sunday night I kept hoping that she would magically appear on stage to sing the stirring duet, “Woman in Chains,” with Roland. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, but I was thoroughly amazed by what did happen. Opening performer, Michael Wainwright, joined Roland and Curt onstage to sing Oleta Adam’s part. I was more than a little dubious at first, but as soon as Wainwright started singing, I couldn’t believe my ears. His clear, high tenor voice was a near perfect match for Adam’s. If I had closed my eyes, I might not have known the difference.

Roland and Curt closed out the show with what could possibly be considered their most well-known and most popular song, “Shout.” It’s the song that made me fall in love with Tears for Fears in the mid-80’s. There was a time when I would have called it my favorite TFF song, but it kept getting replaced as TFF continued to grow and outdo themselves as musicians. But it was still a fitting end to the set.

I was sad that the night had to come to a close. Though the band covered all of their most popular songs, there were many more that I would have loved to hear. Personally, I would have been happy if the band had played every song from all their albums, at least all the ones that Roland and Curt did together. But don’t get me wrong. I didn’t feel short changed, and I would have to say that I’m sure no one else in attendance did either. It was a not-to-be-missed experience that brought back a lot of fond memories and even created some new ones. I’m looking forward to another twenty years of musical magic from the iconic rock duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith. I hope they don’t ever stop making music. I’m certain they have a lot more music in them yet, and I truly hope they’ll be sowing the seeds of love in song for many more years to come.

by Stuart Benedict
Follow artofstu on Twitter

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Photos by Stuart Benedict 3/23/10 at The Wiltern (Los Angeles, CA)


Comments

13 comments on “Still Sowing The Seeds Of Love: Tears For Fears – Live At The Wiltern
  1. Kim Cass - March 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Excellent review. Everything we always knew about our favorite band, it’s cool to be validated. We can’t wait to see them this summer. They are a force to be reckoned with. Timeless music. Huge fan base.

    Reply
  2. Sally - March 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Awesome review! They are bigger than life when you see them in concert.Will always be my #1 band. Rock on Tears For Fears, you bring lots of joy to your fans!!!!

    Reply
  3. barby - March 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    they are our champions, they’ve ruled our worlds over and over with their wonderful abilities to write and delivers their vocals to us!

    Reply
  4. Carolyn - March 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Excellent review, spot on with your comments about TFF and their music. I’ve been a fan since ’83, and they just keep getting better and better. I’ll be seeing them again this summer during their East Coast tour. Thanks for the review!

    Reply
  5. Judi Galzerano - March 24, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Tears for Fears have been and will always be my all time favorite band. Each performance they give, each song they sing makes my heart grow fonder….. Music they perform and write is completely magical, and their voices are truley the closest thing to heaven !! Roland and Curt are so amazingly talented, in solo careers and year after year together, I will love them forever, and travel any distance to see them !!

    Reply
  6. martymankins - March 25, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Excellent review. I followed the link to here from Curt Smith, who tweeted the link today.

    I really wanted to go to this show, but time didn’t permit (I live in Salt Lake City, UT). I did, however, see TFF on the Seeds of Love tour in 1990 here and it was an incredible show.

    Reply
  7. edgar - March 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Music from the 80s still hold up to todays mindless noise.

    Reply
  8. mauricio - March 25, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    everybody loves happy ending…tears for fears return !!!im very Happy

    Reply
  9. Art - March 25, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    This was the third time I’ve seen them live. All in the last three years. They are still as good as ever! The only thing I would change is to add “Mother’s Talk” and “Change” to the set list. “Change” is my all time favorite song!

    Reply
  10. Stephen - March 28, 2010 at 2:57 am

    Almost embarrassed to say that I never saw TTF until the Humphreys San Diego contest last summer/fall. I noticed something in trying to get my tickets that was unusual. In an era of personal cutbacks, lots of empty seats at the shows I was going to and numerous craigslist deals I saw mothing available for the sold out TTF show. I really had to pay up that first night but it was well worth it. I was more prepared for the Wiltern on the ticket front but could don agree with the author more on the energy, diversity and buzz in the room before the show. And of course as stated in this excellent missive the evening was magic. I can not envision myself missing another TTF show in So Cal for many years to come. Anyone know when the tour will return to the states. Also anyone know if there are “fan clubs” that might help access some priorty ticket purchase, Appreciate any and all help.

    Reply
  11. Stephen - March 28, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Almost embarrassed to say that I never saw TTF until the Humphreys San Diego concert last summer/fall. I noticed something in trying to get my tickets that was unusual. In an era of personal cutbacks, lots of empty seats at the shows I was going to and numerous craigslist deals I saw nothing available for the sold out TTF show. I really had to pay up that first night but it was well worth it. I was more prepared for the Wiltern on the ticket front but could not agree more with the author on the energy, diversity and buzz in the room before the show. And of course as stated in this excellent missive the evening was magic. I can not envision myself missing another TTF show in So Cal for many years to come. Anyone know when the tour will return to the states. Also anyone know of “fan clubs” that might help access some priority ticket purchase, Appreciate any and all help.

    Reply
  12. Jazzerholic - May 21, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Fantastic show! Thumbs up and Hands down! Curt and Roland still Rocks!!

    Reply
  13. Dwight - August 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Awesome show…One more check on the bucket list. My younger brothers went too, and it wasn’t the hits they enjoyed. Is was the newer material. When you see a masterful group of real musicians like them. It really contrasts the McMusic thats shoved down there throat every day. Thanks Curt, Roland… wherever you may be tonight. Keep sowing them seeds.

    Reply

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