Concert Review: Head Over Heels for Tears for Fears, Hall and Oates at Staples Center

Daryl Hall, John OatesHall & Oates
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At a certain point in a band’s long and winding career, there’s a tendency to stop critiquing the way they sound now and focus instead on the nostalgia they evoke through the experience of being at one of their concerts — that collective emotional and atmospheric journey that becomes as much a part of the performance as the performance itself. Not every band, and not every artist, of course, but with Tears for Fears, the synth-pop-duo-turned-mainstream-pop-rock hit-making machine founded in 1980s Bath, England, by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the general expectation as they hit the Staples Center stage Thursday night was that they would sound pretty decent, perhaps, but not especially great.

But Tears for Fears, a band who plucked its name, as well as the title for its seminal anthem “Shout,” from Arthur Janov’s primal scream therapy, defied any mediocre expectations during their 1½-hour set. The first half of a double-billing date with Darryl Hall and John Oates was rescheduled from July and wraps up a 29-city summer tour, rocking their unique marriage of 1960s psychedelia and infectiously moody quasi-Beatles’ inspired British new wave.

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“Thank you for being the babies you were, thank you for being the children you were, thank you for being the teen that you were,” Smith told the crowd, comprising mostly graying middle-age folk, as well as the occasional sullen tween standing in line for slushies at the concession stand. (’70s heartthrob Leif Garret was seated in the row in front of me.) “And thank you for being the adults you have become.”

The band opened with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a song I distinctly recall echoing loudly throughout the house I lived in sophomore year at Cornell, with its Greek letters on the wall and bathroom mirrors streaked with zit cream. But, on Thursday night, Tears for Fears made “Everybody” fresh and alive again (if not politically relevant) along with a slew of its other monster hits, from “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” “Head Over Heels” and “Mad World,” another track that felt aptly au courant.

Smith and Orzabal kept their self-effacing humor intact throughout the night, particularly during a technological fumble — “that’s what you call a professional f—-up,” quipped Orzabal — but also proved themselves as seriously soulful auteurs, performing a sultry and dark cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” that, honest to God, was almost as spiritual and moving as the original.

Turning their own original tracks into contemporized tunes that resonated just as deeply with the younger generation on hand as the old timers, co-headliners Hall & Oates launched into reliable favorites like “Out of Touch,” “Say It isn’t So” and “One on One,” but did so with a stirring bluesy-jazz-funk twist thanks in large part to their stellar back-up musicians, including Shane Theriot (lead guitar, vocals); Brian Dunne (drums); Porter Carroll (percussion, vocals); Eliot Lewis (keyboard, vocals); Klyde Jones (bass, vocals); and Charlie “Mr. Casual” DeChant, whose wailing saxophone solo on “I Can’t Go for That” elevated the performance to near-apotheotic dimensions.

With such a vast catalog of crowd-pleasers, I sometimes wonder why Hall and Oates bothers with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” a song they covered on their 1980 album “Voices,” and one they revere as one of the “greatest rock and roll songs of all time,” but that, to me, forever feels perfectly adequate, if in a schmaltzy bar mitzvah band sort of way, regardless of who performs it. It’s a tune that turns a concert into karaoke. But it’s a tiny price to pay for everything else the Philadelphia-born duo gave at Staples. The highlight was a lush, gorgeously rendered rendition of the 1976 Grammy-winning “Sara Smile,” which featured Hall at a baby grand piano (bathed in stage lights) and an extended guitar solo that captured everything magic about the original era in which that song first rose to fame, as well as all that’s dazzling in American music today.

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  1. I was there and loved Tears for Fears and Hall and Oates. Beautiful version of Sara’s smile. Wiped a tear away.

  2. Jon says:

    Tears for Fears rocked it out. I love hall and Oates, but they were flat Saturday night. Seemed more of a paycheck concert for them.

  3. Ruby says:

    I can’t wait to see Darryl Hall and John Oats! And to have Tears for Fears open for them, that will be the best night. Anticipation!!!!!!

  4. Klf Barrett says:

    Curt Smith made that comment for his daughter Diva whose 18th birthday was that night. Orzabal sounds better now than back in the beginning of his career. Hall & Oates ruined their songs wandering off into freeform. TFF has New fans due to new artists recording their songs.

  5. Jan says:

    I was there! I’m 19 so I was among a sea of aging concert-goers and I screamed every single lyric. It was pretty magical seeing my idols in concert for the first time.

    • ravynrobyn says:

      Awww, Jan–Im so happy you enjoyed the concert!!!!

      The first time I saw H & O (25+ years ago??) was so exciting. They came out belting “Out Of Touch” and I could barely breathe. Ah, sweet times!

      I do agree that compared to earlier concerts, it pains me greatly to say that H & O ARE flat, their songs all sound the same, and YUP, too obviously paycheck performance. It’s understandable that they’d get burned out after DECADES, but STILL…the joy of their live music is no longer there for me.

      Rather than paying $$$ to see them for the umpteenth time, I go to you tube and watch “Live From Daryl’s House” a SUPER FANTASTIC MUSIC SHOW where DH plays live with a variety of performers. The joy is palpable, and It’s the best DH music I’ve EVER heard.

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