More Tears Than Fears: News

Songs from the Big Chair (1985). One of pop’s greatest statements.

Ugh.  I was just looking up Tears for Fears news to find out if the release date of the new album had been announced.  I had thought it would have come out last year, and, admittedly, I was a bit frustrated and surprised when it didn’t.  To this day, Tears for Fears remains not just a favorite band, but certainly my favorite proggy pop or poppy prog band.

Here’s the “ugh.”

I had no idea that Roland Orzabal’s wife, Caroline, passed away last year.

Roland, you don’t know me in the least, but I am so, so sorry for your loss.  I knew that something had happened when the tour got cancelled, but I’d assumed nothing as drastic and horrible as losing a family member.

Caroline had been a major part of Roland’s life and his music as his wife and best friend since the early 1980s.  They married in 1982.

The Express and Star (Andy Richardson, January 13, 2018) writes:

Roland is finding his way into the day. He’s tired. Yesterday was a big day, a tough day. Though he’s still grieving Caroline – and how could he not, they were happily entwined for all of their adult lives, she was his rock – he’s trying to stay in the moment, rather than slip into the past.

Now, of course, my worries about no new TFF album in 2017 seem nothing short of absurd.  Our condolences, Roland.  May Caroline rest safely and happily in the embrace of eternity.

Lunatics United: A Partial and Subjective Guide to the Singles of Tears for Fears

The first TFF b-side compilation, 1991.

Though best known in the prog community for their actual albums–such as SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR or EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING–Tears for Fears is also the master of the single.  Perhaps this is an artifact of the innumerable remixes of the 1980s, the decade of their origins, or, perhaps, the ideas of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith just never stop and cannot be contained by an album. Looking over their history as a band and as individuals, I think I’ll choose the latter explanation.  Throughout the band’s thirty-four year career, amazingly enough, Tears for Fears has only released six studio albums.  In that same period, though, the band has released dozens of singles, each different in style, theme, and genre.  While their albums tend toward the progressive pop of PET SOUNDS by the Beach Boys or SKYLARKING by XTC, their singles range all over the place, traversing and, at moments, transcending, both space and time.

One can, however, effectively divide the singles into three types: covers; rock and pop cinematic outbursts; and prog and electronica experimentalism.  The band has released these in a variety of forms: box sets; cd singles; one compilation album; and as bonus tracks.

Continue reading “Lunatics United: A Partial and Subjective Guide to the Singles of Tears for Fears”

I Love You But I’m Lost: New Tears for Fears

The new greatest hits compilation from Tears for Fears.  Available November 10, 2017, from Mercury Records.

As I’ve had the opportunity to argue many times over on Progarchy, Tears for Fears is my favorite pop band, and I consider Roland Orzabal the greatest living writer of pop music. Huge claims, I know.  But, then again, I’m from Kansas, and I’m a Birzer.  If I didn’t speak with apparent hyperbole, my brain and soul might just very well explode.

My feelings toward TFF have been with me since I first heard SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR, 32 years ago.  If my convictions about TFF and Orzabal have wavered, I’ve not been aware of such.

Seeing them live has only further convinced me in my claims.

The new single–while, to me, surprising in the direction taken–does nothing to alter my previous claims.  Now available on iTunes, the new single is the first music the band has released since the 2014 Record Day exclusive EP of three covers, READY BOYS AND GIRLS?  Before that, the band had released two new songs as bonus tracks on its 2005 live album, SECRET WORLD.

The new single is a rather direct pop-dance single, with rave-like keyboards, high-pitched vocals, and an anthemic refrain.

For those of us hoping for a brand new album, we’re a bit disappointed, as the new single comes with a new greatest hits package, RULE THE WORLD.  A second new single, “Stay,” also appears on RULE THE WORLD (itself, available on November 10, 2017, from Mercury Records).

Let’s hope and pray that the rumored album, THE TIPPING POINT, is still forthcoming.

Forthcoming: THE TIPPING POINT by Tears for Fears

Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal

I’m thrilled to learn that the forthcoming Tears for Fears album has a name: THE TIPPING POINT.  At the moment, the title is a tentative one, more indicative of the band’s desires and aspirations than of any confirmed realizations.

It’s been, amazingly enough, thirteen years since the band’s last studio album, EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING.

Westword has a really good article and interview here:

I, for one, have no doubt that this will be a worthy successor to EVERYBODY and a brilliant album.  I’m pretty convinced that Orzabal is our great living pop musician.


Elemental, 1993.

I’d never lived through a summer quite that humid.  Even the two summers I’d spent in Fairfax, Virginia, seemed tame compared to that summer in Bloomington, Indiana.  I was over at a friend’s house—sans air conditioning—and we were lazily talking as sweat dripped off us.  She popped in a new CD, and I was immediately mesmerized by it, forgetting all of those pesky atmospheric woes.  I knew the voice immediately, as I’d always been rather obsessed with the singer and the song writer, but I’d had no idea that the band had recorded a new album.  The last one had been really good, but I’d not been blown away by it, at least not to the extent that the first two had captivated me.  But, after just a minute or so of listening to the new album in the summer of 1993, I grabbed the booklet of ELEMENTAL and pored over the lyrics and the liner notes.

I’d known that Curt Smith had left the band, but I knew nothing about Alan Griffiths or Tim Palmer.  Their names were all over the notes, almost as prominent as Roland Orzabal’s.

Continue reading “23 Years Later: ELEMENTAL by TEARS FOR FEARS”

Roland Orzabal is Our Greatest Living Pop Artist

imagesIn my post two days ago offering a twenty-year retrospective of RAOUL AND THE KINGS OF SPAIN by Tears for Fears, I made some bald claims:

Orzabal has never embraced the term “progressive,” identifying it with Pink Floyd, but he is certainly the most experimental pop musician alive—rivaled only by Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Robert Smith, Andy Partridge, and Peter Gabriel.  From my perspective, Orzabal is the greatest living pop musician, but I think this would be open to debate.  And, of course, the debate would demand a proper definition of pop.

A good friend of mine (a fellow music lover and a fellow Kansan), Derek, properly challenged this assertion of mine while also admitting how much he loves Orzabal.


I did my best to defend my claim.  Here’s the conversation:

Derek: “From my perspective, Orzabal is the greatest living pop musician…” Wow! I’m still trying to wrap my head around that statement. Not disagreeing necessarily, but wow. I love Orzabal’s work but also equally love Neil Finn’s work, especially with Crowded House (and double especially on the album “Temple of Low Men”).  Oleta Adams with Orzabal on “Me and My Big Ideas” is just sublime. I had forgotten how much she brought to the TFF sound. Hiring her was a stroke of genius on the part of Orzabal and Smith.

Me: Derek–it’s debatable, for sure. But, I think about Orzabal’s willingness to experiment–and his slow but excellent body of work over 30+ years. I’m excluding straight rock and prog musicians in the comment. I must admit, I don’t know Neil Finn’s work beyond a few wonderful songs he wrote in the 80s.  But, for example, Michael Stipe is good, but his music sounds dated to me in a way that Orzabal’s doesn’t.

Derek: All compelling points, ‪Bradley. The point about Orzabal’s “slow but excellent body of work over 30+ years” is well taken.  If you can, give Crowded House’s “Temple of Low Men” a spin. It is downright criminal that that album wasn’t a smash. The song “When You Come” should have been just as big of a hit as “Don’t Dream It’s Over” or “Something So Strong.”  Finn is hands down one of my favorite pop music lyricists, bar none. An example from the aforementioned “When You Come.”

When you come across the sea

Me like a beacon guiding you to safety

The sooner the better now

And when you come the hills

Will breathe like a baby

Pulled up heaving from the bottom of the ocean

The sooner the better now

When you come to cover me with your kisses

Fresh like a daisy chained up in a lion’s den

The sooner the better now

I’ll know you by the thunderclap

Pouring like a rain of blood to my emotions

And that is why

I stumble to my knees

And I haven’t even mentioned the other amazing songs from Temple of Low Men like “I Feel Possessed,” “Into Temptation,” “Sister Madly,” and “Better Be Home Soon.”

Me: The first master was Brian Wilson, in my opinion, but his career, for obvious reasons, faded quickly.

Derek: Agreed 100%.

Me: Andy Partridge is brilliant, but he’s so dark and cynical. It’s hard to take some of his music, especially when he’s not tempered by ‪Dave Gregory. Then, Paul McCartney, but, again, a career that was stunning but relatively short–though some of his best work was with early Wings.

Let me try to defend my claim that Orzabal is the greatest with a bit more gusto and in a larger space.  A few caveats, however.  Yes, I’m an American.  Yes, I’m prone to hyperbole.  Yes, I’m an American prone to hyperbole!  The kind of hyperbole that makes non-Americans uneasy.  Neil Peart is the greatest drummer who ever lived.  George Washington is the greatest American ever.  SPIRIT OF EDEN is the greatest prog album ever written.  KIND OF BLUE is the greatest jazz ever made.  The Aeneid is the greatest story ever written.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.  I plead guilty to hyperbole.

I also plead guilty to wielding strong loyalties.

Reunion!  Beauty and success, too.
Reunion! Beauty and success, too.

So let me try to explain what I mean about Roland Orzabal.

First, he is experimental, and he’s more than willing to take chances, wherever those chances lead him.  He’s willing to embrace high pop (Sgt. Peppers), art rock, soul, gospel, rock, power pop, prog, minimalism, electronica, and dance.  His very output and his very life seems to transcend labels in the best way possible, just writing what needs to be written, when and where it needs to be written.  And, this is just within his individual songs.

His albums, each taken as a whole, are equally diverse:

  • THE HURTING: Minimalist New Wave
  • SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR: Progressive Pop (Art Rock)
  • SEEDS OF LOVE: Jazz, theatric soul and pop
  • ELEMENTAL: Atmospheric and moody pop
  • RAOUL: Autobiographical earnest pop
  • TOMCATS: Electronica
  • EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING: High Art Rock/pop; progressive pop
  • Orzabal’s B-sides: every thing and every genre imaginable.

Second, think about his competition, as I mentioned in the above discussion with my friend, Derek.  Brian Wilson was brilliant, but, for sad and obvious reasons, he has not been able to sustain his career.  Sir Paul McCartney had an amazing run with the Beatles and with early Wings, but, he too, wasn’t able to sustain it.  His pop became more and more bland as the mid 70s became the late 70s.  Robert Smith is a master as well, but, frankly, he’s so much better when he’s writing gothic rock than when he writes pop.  DISINTEGRATION is The Cure’s best album because it’s not pop in any way.  There’s no “Friday, I’m in Love,” to bring the album down.  Peter Gabriel is Orzabal’s greatest rival, but even his music has a sameness (relatively speaking), at least over time, that Orzabal has avoided.  At this point, Gabriel is simply offering (brilliant, of course) reworked versions of his music from the 70s and 80s.  And, as great as Andy Partridge is (my gosh, think about the gorgeousness of a song such as Bungalow), he’s so unremittingly dark and bitter.  He desperately needed a Dave Gregory to temper him.  Other candidates are out there.  Sarah McLachlan?  She made three great albums, then descended into blandness.  Sixpence None the Richer?  Again, wonderful, but lost it after three albums.  Michael Stipe?  So great at one point, but his music seems dated now.

Third, Orzabal’s lyrics.  Whether telling a story, railing against a politician, writing about depression, or simply stringing works together for the love of the words themselves, Orzabals lyrics are always very clever, and so very able to mixed note and/with meaning so perfectly.  I don’t always agree with his politics or religious views (I’m probably as libertarian and conservative as he is liberal; and I’m also a practicing (if poor) Roman Catholic, while I understand he is not only a lapsed Catholic but an atheist), but I always take him and his ideas seriously.  And, whether he’s writing about love, loss, redemption, physics, or anything else that matters, he’s very, very good!  His lyrics mix intelligence with whimsy, but they’re also just so beautifully constructed.

Fourth, his voice.  Granted, you always know when Orzabal is singing.  But, he can vary it in so many ways, and he can make the strangest, weirdest voices, when the music demands it.  For the longest time (well, for thirty years), I thought this was all just studio trickery.  I was wrong.  After seeing him live, I realize just how capable of goodness and weirdness(!) he is.

Fifth, he’s utterly sincere—whether its in his music, his lyrics, his views, his moods, or his first novel.  Whatever it is, it has meaning to him.  One of my greatest pet peeves is when an artist tries to mock his own success or mock those who adore him and his art.  It’s one thing to be humorous and self-deprecating (both of which are wonderful and necessary in this rather insane world).  It’s a completely different thing to mock one’s fans.  There’s nothing cynical about Orzabal’s art.  What you see is what you get, though, of course, always layered and nuanced.

One major admission.  I could not have written this piece a week ago.  As I mentioned in my concert review of TFF the other day, I had assumed for thirty years that TFF was at their best in the studio.  I’d dismissed their live performances as uninspired.  Granted, I did so out of complete ignorance, having never seen them play life until six days ago.

Seeing them perform in Denver last Sunday night made me realize just how wrong I was.  A year or so ago, I wrote about SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR as the best pop album ever written.  Now that I’ve seen TFF live, I can state with conviction and evidence that Orzabal is our greatly living pop artist.

And, I’ll make this prediction.  The forthcoming TFF album will be an unexpected and satisfying work of art that will take the pop and rock world by storm.  Orzabal and Smith aren’t living on or in the past.  They are at the absolute height of their game right now.  And, of course, they’ve earned every single accolade they will receive.

The Catholic Imagination of Roland Orzabal: Tears for Raoul

Review retrospective: Tears for Fears, RAOUL AND THE KINGS OF SPAIN (Sony, 1995; Cherry Red, 2009).

Twenty years ago, Roland Orzabal (born Raoul Jaime Orzabal de la Quintana to an English mother and a Basque/Spanish/French father) released the fifth Tears for Fears studio album, RAOUL AND THE KINGS OF SPAIN.

Overall, we should remember, 1995 was a pretty amazing year for music—really the year that saw the full birthing of third-wave prog.

Raoul's mythic mother.
Raoul’s mythic mother.

Not all was prog, of course, but there was so much that was simply interesting.  Natalie Merchant, TIGERLILY; Radiohead, THE BENDS; Spock’s Beard, THE LIGHT; The Flower Kings, BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES; Marillion, AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT; and Porcupine Tree, THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS.

As the time that RAOUL came out, I liked it quite a bit, but I didn’t love it.  The first five songs just floored me, but then I thought the album as a whole fizzled in the second half.  Or course, when I write “fizzled,” I mean this in the most relative sense.  Even Orzabal’s weakest track is far better than most musicians will ever achieve in and with their best.

So, I’m judging one TFF song only with another by TFF.

There’s a bit of interesting history behind the release of the album.  This would be the second of only two albums that appear under the name Tears for Fears without Curt Smith.  Whereas the first, 1993’s stunning ELEMENTAL dealt with the breakup of the twosome, RAOUL tells a mythical story about himself.

More on this in a bit.

So, not only was this the last album without Smith, it was also the first album on the new label, Sony.  Previously, Tears for Fears had shared label space with Rush: on Mercury Records.  Mercury had gone so far as to release promo copies of RAOUL, complete with different artwork and a different track listing.  I’ve never actually seen a copy of the Mercury promo, but I’d love to get my hands on one at some point.  Instead of the tracks “Hum Drum and Humble” and “I Choose You,” the original listing had “Queen of Compromise.”

Since its official release in 1995, there have been three different versions of the album: the Sony 12-track original; a deluxe cigar box edition; and the 2009 Cherry Red edition—the original release remastered, five b-sides, and acoustic versions of the tracks “Raoul and the Kings of Spain” and “Break it Down.”

Not surprisingly, given Orzabal, the b-sides are every bit as good as the full-blown tracks, and the acoustic version of “Break it Down” is quite moving with its additional line: “No more walls of Berlin.”  My favorite of the b-sides is “War of Attrition,” a martial exploration of relationships that simply slide out of existence.

Though written and produced in a post-LP/vinyl world, RAOUL has, for all intents and purposes, two sides.  Tracks 1 through 5 make up the first side, and the seven remaining tracks, bookended by versions of “Los Reyes Catolicos,” make up the second side.  This isn’t surprising either, given that SONGS FROM THE BIG CHAIR and ELEMENTAL have the same structure.  Orzabal has never embraced the term “progressive,” identifying it with Pink Floyd, but he is certainly the most experimental pop musician alive—rivaled only by Paul McCartney, Robert Smith, Andy Partridge, and Peter Gabriel.  From my perspective, Orzabal is the greatest living pop musician, but I think this would be open to debate.  And, of course, the debate would demand a proper definition of pop.

Side one of Raoul is jaw dropping.  The first time I played the second track, “Falling Down,” for fellow progarchist, Kevin McCormick, back in late 1995, he replied, “Wow.  It’s just so earnest.”  I’ve never read or heard a better description of the song.  It is, utterly and essentially, earnest.  There exist both revelation and humility in the song, perfectly intertwined.

Some of us are free

Some are bound

Some will swim

Some will drown

Some of us are saints

Some are clowns

Just like me they’re falling down

All five songs of side one—again, as I’ve defined the sides—flow so readily from one to the other.  No break in sound.  Essentially, these are five parts of a single track.  While my favorite track is “Falling Down,” “God’s Mistake” is also a standout.

And, frankly, so is the finale of side one, “Sketches of Pain,” an obvious and intelligent allusion to Miles Davis’s “Sketches of Spain.”  As with “Falling Down,” this track is confessional without mere navel-gazing.

Side two, gives the listener snippets of what can really only be described as a mythic autobiography.  And, yet, despite the autobiographical nature of the entire album, side two seems to look at the life of the protagonist from a broader perspective than side one.  If side one is confessional, side two is almost historical and analytical.

What if, as family history has suggested, Roland had been Raoul, descendent of the Catholic kings of Spain?  Naturally, this side begins with a version of “Los Reyes Catolicos”:

When time is like a needle

And night is the longest day

A home is a cathedral

A place where a king can pray

Ghosts all gone

Ghosts all gone

The following track, “Sorry,” explodes into a bitterness that emerges every once in a while in TFF songs.  Accusations and questions fly.  “Do you love or do you hate?  Why do you hesitate?”

“Humdrum and Humble” begins with an experimental loop before transforming into a clever pop song.

“I Choose You,” a piano ballad of emotional depth follows.

Immediately after comes an up-tempo song filled song effects as well as some appropriate absurdities, “Don’t Drink the Water.”  This is pure pop sweetness.

The penultimate track, “Me and My Big Ideas,” sees the return of soul diva, Oleta Adams.  Much as they had on “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” she and Roland offer a meaningful—if not downright profound—duet, balancing the strengths of each other well.

The album ends with a softly building version of “Los Reyes Catolicos.”

My blurry picture of TFF in Denver, June 2015.
My blurry picture of TFF in Denver, June 2015.

Like all of the music of Tears for Fears, this album holds up very well, even after twenty years.  Indeed, the flaws I thought I perceived when this album first came out simply don’t hold up.  I don’t think the flaws have disappeared as much as I simply didn’t understand or appreciate what Orzabal was doing in 1995.

In hindsight, I appreciate the art and the choices he made to make this art.  Not that he needs my appreciation, but Orzabal certainly has it.

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.”