LIVE REVIEW: Tears for Fears @ Riverside Stadium, Durham (27.07.19) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The late 1970’s was a wonderfully exotic period for pop music. Wired and fired up with a fresh post-punk energy and creativity, record labels across the country began signing a whole host of weird and wonderful bands crammed full of high art concepts, manifestos and unmitigated originality. One of the most successful, intriguing, and (possibly) misunderstood bands to emerge from this era were Tears for Fears. Formed on a Bath council estate by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal, they fused Dr Arthur Janov’s book The Primal Scream with experimental European electronica, David Bowie, and the synth-pop of Gary Numan to produce a glacial debut album that wrapped psychological issues, fractured relationships, lost childhood, anxiety and depression into a perfectly formed collection of dark and brooding perceptive pop. What followed was 30 million album sales, back to back American number 1s, obsessing about hi-hats, and a fall out that lasted in excess of ten years. Happily, the lads from Bath are back together, and after a gap of 35 years(!), back on a stage in the North East.

As Lorde’s woozy cover version of Everybody Wants To Rule The World washes over the damp and drizzly Durham evening, Orzabal and Smith emerge to a hero’s welcome. Bathed in red neon light, Roland walks to the lip of the stage, acknowledges the far-reaching sea of hands in front of him, and despatches the chiming opening riff of the original. Tears for Fears were always masters of the anthemic chorus and in these vast surroundings, the MTV conquering track sounds colossal.  After a fine jaunt through Secret World, they launch into a note-perfect  Sowing the Seeds of Love and despite its 30 year vintage, sounds more lyrical relevant and on-point than ever. From the outside looking in, Orzabal always appeared to be the more surly and unapproachable of the duo, but tonight he’s on great form. His facial expressions are a joy to behold whilst his between song musings range from the sublime to the ridiculous, always remaining on the right side of charming. Attempting a North East accent in front of a well-oiled Durham crowd is always a risk, but he pulls it off with great aplomb, leaving everyone smiling. They slam into a stupendous synth heavy Pale Shelter, which brings the first big cheer of the evening. Break It Down Again, Advice for the Young At Heart and a simply stunning Woman in Chains shows just how fine a songwriting machine they became. In his hushed tones, Smith announces that they would like to play some songs from their debut album The Hurting. A captivating version of Change is followed by Mad World – the track that turned their Janov manifesto into a hit single. Set highlights Memories Fade and a goose-bump inducing Suffer the Children, featuring the impeccable Carina Round on lead vocals, have the Riverside Stadium positively vibrating. Mothers Talk and The Working Hour are sadly omitted in favour of (Radiohead’s) Creep and Bad Mans Song, the latter wading into over-indulgent waters that threatens to lose the momentum as well as the crowd. The main set is closed with an ecstatic Head Over Heels/Broken, proving again that TFF always had a nifty line in epic pop.

As the stage lights dim, the chorus of Shout is belted out from the four corners of the ground, the insistent chant building to a deafening crescendo, people look around, beaming, part of a real ‘I was there’ moment.  Tears for Fears, clearly blown away by what they’re hearing before them, reappear and  launch into an impassioned and utterly stonking version of the worldwide smash, the audience singing along so loud, they drowned out the substantial PA. As the final chords ring out on a near flawless performance, they take their well-deserved bows in front of a rapturous Riverside crowd. After so many lost years, everybody loves a happy ending. 

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