Friday, August 3, 2012

Tears for Fears concert review: Costa Mesa, Calif.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Such is the modus operandi for Tears for Fears, whose 90-minute Pacific Amphitheatre set mirrored the one played last September at The Wiltern in Los Angeles (and was book ended by the same songs here as in 2009).

Regardless of the running order, Wednesday’s concert contained a sublime mix of astute 1980s New Wave and Beatlesque (think: Sgt. Pepper) pop/rock.

Early in the evening, singer/guitarist Roland Orzabal enthusiastically announced, “We’re back!” Indeed, the English duo is a perennial attraction at the Orange County Fair, having appeared every couple years here since ’05.

Despite no new album since 2004’s excellent reunion effort Everybody Loves a Happy Ending, the band continues to be a major draw. The packed venue had a scattering of people seated on the lawn area. These rowdy fans were definitely in party mode; some even used a bubble maker right in front of the orchestra section.

Orzabal and singer/bassist Curt Smith were equally enthusiastic and fondly reminisced about previous Pac Amp concerts. They were accompanied by four other musicians onstage including guitarist/regular collaborator Charlton Pettus and noted backing singer Carina Round. They all sounded superb throughout the evening. Smith’s hushed enunciation amid his hit single spotlights (the more dancey-than-usual “Change,” clanging synth dominated “Pale Shelter") was particularly crystalline.   

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is the definition of a perfect summer song (though it actually topped the U.S. charts in the spring of ’85) and was a high energy opener in Costa Mesa.

Keeping with the group’s favored earthly theme, the elegant sweep of “Secret World,” contained Orzabal’s usual snatch of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Let ‘Em In.” Smith – a longtime Angeleno - made passing reference to the Olympics and his heritage by pointing out a small Union Jack on his shirt.

Robust female vocals were a welcome addition, especially during “Sowing the Seeds of Love” (where Orzabal dramatically paused while singing the lyric “the politics of greed” and added, “those damned politics”) and the glorious “Closest Thing to Heaven.” Later, Round got a chance to shine even more on the languid “Woman in Chains” and soulful jazzy excursion, “Badman’s Song.”

Elsewhere, the moody, ultra dramatic “Memories Fade” (off the band’s 1983 debut album The Hurting), stomping “Break it Down Again” (a No. 1 modern rock hit) were clear standouts and went down a storm among fans. 

Round’s 20-minute solo opening set on acoustic guitar was audacious. At one point, she told chatty concertgoers to “shut up” and said they “kind of sucked” after not singing along to a previously demonstrated chorus.

The brash Brit has recorded with Twilight Singers and Puscifer (the side project from Tool’s Maynard James Keenan) and released a few acclaimed albums over the past decade.

Tigermending, the latest one, features Brian Eno, Dave Stewart and Billy Corgan. “Set Fire” and “Pick up the Phone” were among the quietly affecting O.C. highlights.  
Tears for Fears, Pacific Amphitheatre, Costa Mesa, Calif. Aug. 1, 2012
Setlist: Everybody Wants to Rule the World/Secret World/Sowing the Seeds of Love/Change/Call Me Mellow/Everybody Loves a Happy Ending/Mad World/Memories Fade/Closest Thing to Heaven/Falling Down/Advice for the Young at Heart/Floating Down the River/Badman’s Song/Pale Shelter/Break it Down Again/Head Over Heels
Encore: Woman in Chains/Shout

All photos by Kelly Swift 

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