In 1983, Bath natives Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith captivated U.K. audiences with “Mad World,” the first single off their debut record The Hurting. Calling themselves Tears for Fears, the duo soon had multiple chart-topping singles under their belt and quickly found success across the Atlantic thanks, in large part, to their exposure on MTV. More than 30 years later, and Orzabal and Smith have remained exceedingly popular with U.S. audiences, as was seen last Monday, September 18, when hordes of fans filled the Santa Barbara Bowl to see Tears for Fears play.
They walked onstage to Lorde’s rendition of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” playing over the speakers and received a standing ovation; they then launched into their original version of the song, their #1 hit from Songs from the Big Chair (1985). After their rousing, politically pointed call-to-arms “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” Orzabal addressed the audience, thanking everyone for coming. The Bowl, he continued, was where Tears for Fears shot a live concert film in 1990, and he wondered if anyone had been in the crowd then. And if so, were they thinking now, “What the fuck was I wearing? What the hell was that dance?” After the laughter died down, the band played more cuts from their early years, including “Pale Shelter,” “Change,” and “Mad World.”
Tears for Fears peppered their set with tunes pulled from all six albums, saving two of the best for their encore, “Woman in Chains,” a powerful tune questioning patriarchy, and “Shout,” a call to protest that is perhaps the duo’s best-known song.
Despite a wee hiccup (Smith hit a few flat high notes), the duo presented a stellar evening of meaningful, dynamic music that isn’t simply a pleasant nostalgia trip, but rather still resonates today.