Friendship and Art at its Highest: Tears for Fears in Denver, 2015

Last night, my wife and I—just about to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary—treated ourselves to a concert by Tears for Fears.

For those of you who read regularly, you know that not only do we as a website love the work of TFF, but I, Brad, have been rather obsessed with Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith since 1985.

Yes, 30 years—just four more years than I’ve been in love with Rush.  And, of course, what a comparison.  Can you imagine Peart and Orzabal writing lyrics together?  Tom Sawyer meets Admiral Halsey!

A blurry iPhone picture from last night's concert in Denver: Tears for Fears.
A blurry iPhone picture from last night’s concert in Denver: Tears for Fears.

I came to TFF in the same way almost every American my age did, from hearing “Everybody wants to rule the world” on MTV.  What a glorious song.  Here was New Wave, but New Wave-pop-prog.  Here were intelligent lyrics.  Here, to my mind, was music done properly.  Having grown up on Yes and Genesis and Kansas, I wanted my New Wave to be just a bit edgier than, say, that of the B-52s.  I wanted my New Wave artists to take themselves as seriously as Yes had done on “Close to the Edge.”

Well, as I’ve written elsewhere at progarchy, Songs from the Big Chair has remained in my top 10 albums of all time—ever since I first purchased it in 1985.  Of course, I worked backwards after discovering TTF, finding The Hurting to be a brilliantly angsty and claustrophobic look at the world.  I think I’m just about six years younger than Curt and Roland, and I could easily imagine them as schoolmates.

Since 1985, I have purchased every single thing TFF has released—every TFF studio album, every live album, every cover, every b-side (TFF’s b-sides are every bit as good as the Cure’s; the b-sides for each matter, a great deal), every remaster, every deluxe edition, and every solo album.  No matter the cost, I’ve happily paid the price.  When I switched to CDs in the 1990s, the first two I bought were The Hurting and U2’s October.  I also have Orzabal’s novel.  Yeah, I’m definitely a bit obsessed.

Have I revealed enough of my TFF street cred to move on?


So, despite loving TFF as one of my three favorite bands for thirty years (Rush, Talk Talk, and TFF), I owe the two Englishmen a rather large apology.  For thirty years, I’ve dismissed their live performances as much as I have lauded their studio work.  Not that I really knew much about them live.  I’d never seen them actually in the flesh.  Everything I knew of them live had been recorded, and it always felt a bit “uninspired” to me, with their vocals especially sounding weak.

Well, let me be blunt.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Last night, TFF played their hearts out.  I mean: Played.  Their.  Hearts.  Out.  Holy Moses.  Not only were they amazing live, they were even better live than on their studio albums.  I thought it must be just my excitement at the moment as I listened to them last night.  My very American enthusiasm—the kind that makes the Brits think me “over the top”—can sometimes get the best of me.  But, no.  Right after the concert, I listened to the brand new remastered (Steven Wilson) version of Songs from the Big Chair just to check myself and my impressions.  I wasn’t wrong.  They did sound better live than on Songs from the Big Chair.  But, for thirty years, I’ve been wrong!  So, my apologies.

From the first explosion of sound to Roland and Curt waving their final goodbyes to the audience, they performed flawlessly, with deep emotion, and with a complete (equaled only by Rush fans at a Rush concert) connection to the audience.

And, Roland and Curt loved every moment of the concert.  No English reserve here.  Just pure love of the art.

The show began with what I assume was a taped recording of a number of voices singing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  In hindsight, I’m questioning whether this was taped or not, as the voices might very well have been Roland’s, Curt’s, and the guest female vocalist’s (I apologize—but I didn’t catch her name).  However it was done, it was done well.  From complete darkness and the disembodied voices floating around the venue, an explosion of light and sound revealed the full band, and they immediately played the opening song of “Everybody. . . .”

From that very first explosion and revelation, TFF held the entire crowd (about 18,000—there were no empty chairs or spots in the entire venue) in rapt attention.  I mean, that audience belonged to TFF: lock, stock, and barrel.

Though the band never took a break—expect for a minute or so before the encore—it would be fair to divide the show into two sets, broken by a cover version of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

The first set ran for 10 songs without a single pause in the music—with the exception of some very sincere and humorous banter from Roland, Curt, and the audience—Everybody; Secret World; Sowing the Seeds of Love; Pale Shelter; Break it Down Again; Everybody Loves a Happy Ending; Change; Mad World; Memories Fade; and Closest Thing to Heaven.

Set Two, coming after Creep, consisted of: Advice for the Young at Heart; Badman’s Song; Head over Heals; Woman in Chains; and Shout.

So, TFF played at least one song from every studio album except Raoul.  The first set emphasized The Hurting and Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, while the second set featured The Seeds of Love.

As a three-decade long TFF fan(antic), let me make a few observations—all of which were revelations to me last night, whether minor or major ones.

First, as noted above, Roland and Curt were in top form.  Not only did they sound simply perfect (Roland’s voice only gets better with age), but they were obviously happy and confident.  Indeed, I think they were fairly overwhelmed by the loving response of the audience.  At one point, Roland talked about a recent conversation with Curt.  Roland, remembering their performance at Red Rock’s in 1985, asked Curt when the “best days” were?  Curt responded: “now.”

Second, Roland is hilarious.  He loves adding weird voices on a number of his songs.  This, I knew.  I just assumed it was all studio fun.  What I’d never realized before—not yet having seen them live—is that Roland is very clearly channeling Peter Gabriel from his Genesis days.  No, Roland wasn’t wearing strange outfits, but he was definitely playing different characters throughout the songs, especially in the first set.  During “Break It Down” (featuring a very enthusiastic Curt, even though this song came from one of the two albums Roland wrote without him), Roland pretended to be Paul McCartney’s Admiral Halsey.  It was hilarious and quite true to the art.

Third, set one could’ve been none more prog.  It was just so artfully woven together.  Every song flowed into every other so beautifully.  Really, so TERRIBLY beautifully.  I was riveted.  Whether the songs were in the XTC vein of “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” or the Steve Reichian vein of “Pale Shelter,” everything flowed together so perfectly.  Obviously, Roland and Curt had created, essentially, a whole new album with their choice of individual tracks.  What a tapestry of sound and texture.

Sadly, I never caught the names of the supporting band members, but they performed perfectly as well.  In particular, I was struck by how the band as a whole rearranged songs from The Hurting, changing out the brass for fascinating drum or guitar fills.  Again, it could get NONE MORE PROG!  The transition between “Memories Fade” and “Mad World” was especially powerful, with the guitarist capturing the attention of the audience with a really weird but compelling solo.  It could’ve been a 1972 Yes concert.

Fourth, the real friendship—whatever their past—between Roland and Curt was palpable.  Simply put, these two men belong together.  In a full-bodied Aristotelian/Thomist kind of way, nature meant these two to walk the earth together at the same time.  One of the most moving (of many moving) moments came when Curt sang “Change.”  As he sang the lyric, “What has happened to the friend I once knew,” Roland just looked at him with a knowing and satisfied smile.  All spontaneous, all beautiful.

Fifth.  This wasn’t a nostalgia tour.  This was real.  A real concert with real artists who have made art so well that it breathes freely and readily even after three decades.

What more to say?  13 hours after Roland and Curt waved goodbye to us, I’m still in a satisfied state of mind and soul.  That my wife and I got to share that evening—an evening of art, friendship, meaning, and creativity with one of my three favorite bands over 2/3 of my life—means everything.  I’m just basking in the afterglow.

If you have the chance, do not under any circumstances miss this tour.  I’m already planning on seeing Tears for Fears again in Detroit in September.  When I asked my wife if she’d want to go to see them again, she responded, “Of course.”

27 thoughts on “Friendship and Art at its Highest: Tears for Fears in Denver, 2015

  1. andressaa

    I just want to tell you that the song who opened the concert, is a version that Lorde made for the movie “Hunger Games” – and the girl singing with them is Carina Round. Both girls are very talented.
    Don’t forget to look for Lorde’s version for Everybody Wants to Rule The World.


  2. Brad, One of the finest reviews ever on Progarchy (well, at least since your last concert review)…just one more great band you’ve turned-me-on to; above and beyond liking them back in the MTV glory days.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Paul Askins

    Brad, fantastic review and piece! My two favorite bands are also Rush and Tears for Fears so can relate and appreciate your viewpoint. I’ve seen every Rush tour since ’83 and every TFF tour since ’85 so I can attest that TFF live have always been an amazing experience as with Rush. In the last month I have traveled to Tulsa to see opening night of the Rush R40 tour and caught TFF at a festival in Houston. Both shows were amazing! Again, great review from a fellow Rush and TFF fanatic!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Paul, does this mean you and I are schizophrenic? Rush and TFF! One side represents our “leave us alone” side; the other, “let’s help the world!” Thanks for sharing this. My two oldest kids and I saw R40 in Lincoln. Blown away.


      1. P.S. Brad…………..I just saw them last Thursday in Columbus,Ohio!!! Geddy’s Voice sounded A-MA-ZING!!! Even during his high-pitched notes (which he hit with EASE that night!!!) So ANYONE saying Geddy’s voice is too OLD to HIT those notes any longer,were SADLY Mistaken that evening!!! I simply believe that more “rest” between shows,is the BEST THING to help his voice remain healthy and consistent,rather than their grueling previous tour-schedules!!! Like a fine-wine………..RUSH ONLY gets BETTER with AGE!!! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Yara Nash

    What great feedback on their performance. I too have been a diehard fan since The Hurting came out and was glued to MTV to catch their first videos of Mad World and Change. TFF have always been in the top best bands for me and yes, they are so much better in concert. Jamie Cullum, their drummer, Charlton Pettus (co-writer and guitarist), Carina Round (backup singer on this tour), and Doug Petty(keyboards) are a great ensemble that fit together perfectly with Roland and Curt. Glad you finally got to experience their live show. I try never to miss a tour 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Tears and Kooks International and commented:
    Tears for Fears – Beyond “Cool” in Colorado…
    Over the last 5 days, the praise for Tears for Fears went beyond the usual… It was more than a virtual pat on the back or sweet, loving journalist turned fan for Tears for Fears, it was more than that. Countless reviews and articles were posted stating how absolutely important, vital and relevant Tears for Fears are some 30 years on. We as the travel fans would normally share our own personal experiences at these shows for each re-cap but, I think it’s crucial to include the words of not just global fans but of those who are detailing these musical extravaganza’s for their network and for the news. As a newsie myself, I feel it detrimental to share these fine writers’ emotions. Please enjoy this particular articles brought to our attention by Travel Fan Carolyn. His words on the Denver show hit home.

    Again, as always, thank you for reading, sharing and most important showing up at concerts!


  6. Pingback: Compilation of Praise – Tears for Fears Denver, CO 2015 | Tears and Kooks International

  7. Hi Brad.

    I know, this is such a belated post. I just finished reading all your TFF articles and I realized how much I have missed since the Seeds album. You see, I was a huge fan–me and every Filipino of that generation–from The Hurting to Seeds. All my memories of upper grade school, all of high school, and mid-college are inevitably linked to Curt and Roland and their incredible music. I had all of their…umm…cassette tapes:) I knew all the lyrics, and even wrote parallel verses to Roland’s deep ones. I think I even learned to play I Believe on the keyboard. The girls in high school were neatly divided into two–Team Curt and Team Roland (where I belonged). The boys copped their hairstyles and dance moves. It was an insanely happy time! So when the duo split, I was so disillusioned, and naively I thought, well, that’s the end of the road for TFF. Though for much of the next two decades, one cannot really escape the 80s, as our local radio stations would have retro/flashback Fridays, and always, always, Head Over Heels, Mad World, Shout, Everybody…would rouse us grownups from our stupor:) We would turn the volumes up–driving, at home, at work–and sing along like crazy.

    I rediscovered TFF while I was searching for media to integrate with my English 9 lessons on dystopian literature. I don’t know how, but Mothers Talk and Sowing the Seeds of Love just came to mind. I googled them, and I thought I’d find mostly archived pieces. Instead I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh material–from videos to interviews, and your posts! I started following them on Twitter:) Most importantly, I started listening to, and being very deeply affected by the more recent tracks. What an experience:)

    I didn’t even realize that the boys were here in Manila in 2010 and 2012. I watched video after video of Filipino concertgoers–13,000-strong– turning the venue into a giant karaoke bar. I hope they could squeeze in another Manila tour. This time, I’ll be there:) I am even thinking of staging our annual Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet productions using appropriate songs from all of the TFF albums. I think my 9th graders will benefit greatly from knowing the genius of this band.

    Again, thanks so much for your comprehensive and insightful articles! Looking forward to more:)


  8. I also am one of those who would put TFF and Rush into his Top 3 (the third entry being Pink Floyd). Sadly I got into Rush too late to see them, and for years I thought I’d never get the chance to see TFF live. Now is the time and I’m quite excited…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww Man…………….So very sorry to hear that You were too late to See the FANTASTIC “RUSH” in concert during it’s lifetime!!! I’ve seen them live for Years and in many places,and there wasn’t ONE SHOW where I DID NOT WISH I was there LIVE to view!!! In other words,they were ALL FANFREAKINTASTIC!!! But I digress…………..Lol.

      Anyway…………Yes,by all means…………go see Tears For Fears while their still around!!! Enjoy it man!!! 🙂


  9. It was great, ecstatic (despite the rain!), no question, but they did not sound better than on their studio recordings. They sounded good, great even, but some of Roland’s notes were not quite on point, he had some breath issues (not new, you can also hear it on the “Secret World” live album from 2005, which is definitely not their finest hour) – and Curt has to put a lot more effort into his singing these days than back in the 80s. You don’t hear it a lot but when you watch him you just feel it. Compare that to “In My Mind’s Eye” from way back yonder in 1983 where the vocals seem to just flow out of him.

    And speaking of live recordings, I still don’t get how you could dismiss something as epic as the Going to California live video… Roland’s voice on that is absolutely stratospheric!

    It’s a sad reminder, really… The friendship between Roland & Curt seems to have gone a bit sour since 2015, the “Seeds of Love” box reissue keeps being delayed (although I have heard inside news it will *finally* be released this year – I know what’s on it and it will be amazing!), and the new album they’ve been promising ever since 2013 has not showed up yet. All we got were two new songs, compressed so much that I really don’t find myself reaching out for them. This does not bode well…

    Anyway, I’m obviously happy I got to see TFF in concert, I just wish they hadn’t avoided Europe for so long. Chances are, their late prime just passed us by.



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