Gig review: Tears For Fears at First Direct Arena, Leeds

“Good evening, you beautiful people,” Tears for Fears co-frontman Roland Orzabal tells a sold-out First Direct Arena in Leeds on a blustery February night, a handful of songs into his band’s richly wonderful performance.

By Andrew Steel
Sunday, 10th February 2019, 5:03 pm
Updated Monday, 11th February 2019, 11:39 am
Tears For Fears
Tears For Fears

“Thank you so much for coming tonight,” he adds, before a pause. “And thank you so much for waiting so long.”

This is indeed an overlong date with the Bath duo, consisting of childhood pals Orzabal and bassist/fellow vocalist Curt Smith. Originally scheduled to play West Yorkshire in April last year, their whole run of British dates were shelved for a then-unspecified illness, later revealed to be affecting the guitarist’s wife Caroline, who passed away in July.

Rescheduled to the winter, there’s a natural touch of quiet grief underpinning their already pensive pop bangers – but this form of live musical catharsis is just as preoccupied with delivering uplifting rock anthemics as it is cold synthpop gems, a brilliantly uplifting counterpoint helped by the fact neither man’s vocal lines seem to have aged a day.

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With no new record – there’s not been a Tears for Fears album since 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending – it’s otherwise a comfortable run through the copper-bottomed hits. Everybody Wants to Rule the World and Sowing the Seeds of Love both land inside the first 15 minutes, stadium-sized cuts of euphoria wielding Lennon-Harrison guitar scrawls and, in the case of the latter, Pythonesque psychedelia visuals.

Pale Shelter’s driving melancholia still feels like a dynamic dancefloor jam; Break It Down Again, the lone concession to the group’s mid-90s period following their split and Orzabal’s retention of the name, has a swivel-hipped snarl that’s utterly infectious.

“This is a day of celebration when Leeds United go top of the Championship,” Smith quips to cheers, before hilariously dedicating a quartet of songs from their most moody reckoning The Hurting to the Elland Road club.

Change’s dark discotheque and Mad World’s icy brooding remain hypnotic, though the piano balladry of their rarely-played debut single Suffer the Children, with vocals from backing singer Carina Round, arguably tops the lot. She trumps it straight away with a stunning performance on the spine-tingling Woman in Chains, duetting with Orzabal to magnificent effect.

By the time Shout brings the house down in the encore, over 10,000 people are on their feet hollering in unison.

This isn’t the happy ending just yet, Smith stresses – and thank goodness for that.