×

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

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.

“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.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Spotify Announces Upgrades to Family Plan,

    Spotify Announces Upgrades to Family Plan, at No Charge in U.S. and U.K.

    Just days after reports emerged that Spotify is aiming to increase the price of its family plan in its home market of Scandinavia, the streaming giant announced an upgrade to the plan — with no price increase in the U.S. and U.K., where it remains at $14.99 and £15, respectively. A rep for the company [...]

  • Mike Vaughan

    Former Venmo COO Mike Vaughan Joins Stem's Board

    Los Angeles-based music distribution and payments startup Stem has appointed former Venmo executive Mike Vaughan to its board of directors. Vaughan was chief operating officer of Venmo from 2011 until earlier this year, and is now executive in residence at Oak HC/FT. “The music industry can benefit tremendously from innovation in the way money flows [...]

  • Troy Carter Jacqueline Saturn Aaron Bay

    Creative Community for Peace to Honor Top Music Execs for Second Annual Gala

    Creative Community for Peace (CCFP), an apolitical organization made up of  prominent members of the entertainment industry that’s dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace in the Middle East, will honor several music business executives at its second annual Celebrating Ambassadors of Peace  gala. More than 200 top entertainment industry leaders are [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Jay-Z Gets Shade From Kaepernick, Support From Cardi B as NFL Fallout Continues

    UPDATED: If anyone expected the drama surrounding Jay-Z’s deal with the NFL to calm down over the weekend, they were mistaken, as controversy and conversation continued to swirl. The situation grew even more intense late Friday when TMZ reported that Jay is looking to acquire a majority interest in an unspecified NFL team, which would [...]

  • Maya Thurman Hawke at the Premiere

    Maya Hawke Debuts Two Singles Ahead of Album Release

    Fresh off her Manson cult role in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Maya Hawke is turning to music. The “Stranger Things” star released two new singles Friday, “To Love a Boy” and “Stay Open,” both of which will appear on her yet-to-be-titled upcoming album. Hawke wrote the lyrics and Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Jesse [...]

  • Woodstock Festival of Arts and Music

    As Woodstock Turns 50, the Fest's 10 Most Sacred Music Moments (Watch)

    Cars were left abandoned along the New York Interstate. Electrical and speaker systems fuzzed and popped. Amps blew then went silent. The rain was endless as the mud sank deep and rank. Young children ran naked and dazed through crowds of strangers. Food was scarce. Water, unclean. Looking back, Woodstock seems a more apocalyptic, than [...]

  • 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band

    Film Review: 'ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band From Texas'

    Settling in to watch “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas,” you may have a burning question that applies to almost no other rock documentary, and that is: Who, exactly, are these guys? The ones behind the beards? If you’re old enough, of course, you probably know that ZZ Top started out, in 1969, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content