Tears for Fears
PNC Bank Art Center – Holmdel, NJ – 6/24/22
Review and Photos – Rebecca Wolf
PNC Bank Art Center was packed on June 24th for the return of the British pop rock band Tears for Fears. It’s been more than 40 years since Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith founded Tears for Fears, and created incredible music that lifted the band to multiplatinum status in the US and the UK. While Orzabal and Smith parted ways in 1991, they reunited in 2000 and have continued to write and perform during limited international tours over the past two decades. In February 2022, Tears for Fears released their 7th album, The Tipping Point. The album has earned rave reviews and entered the UK charts at number 2, and reached number 8 on the US Billboard 200. As the band’s first release in 17 years, the new album is especially important to Orzabal and Smith, who’ve spoken about the album’s theme and its songs of loss and healing.
This May the band embarked on a 22-city US tour in support of The Tipping Point. Fans at PNC Bank Art Center on June 24th were at the 21st show, “the penultimate show”, as Orzabal made sure the crowd was aware. However, this night was special not only due to it being the band’s second to last performance but because June 24th is Curt Smith’s birthday. Smith was celebrated with thousands of voices singing “Happy Birthday” not only once but twice, as the crowd was led in song for the first time by Shirley Manson, singer of the rock band Garbage, which opened for Tears for Fears.
Garbage rocked the crowd from the moment they hit the PNC Bank Art Center stage, led by singer and front-woman Shirley Manson. Manson’s voice is strong and often haunting, like a tone one would use when reading a mystery novel aloud. During songs including “The World is Not Enough” and “Only Happy When it Rains,” Manson’s voice felt calmly mesmerizing, while her vocals were steeped in power during “The Men Who Rule the World,” “Cherry Lips,” and “Stupid Girl.” No theatrics or energetic moves were necessary to grab the audience’s attention with Manson’s unique voice and the poignant topics of many Garbage songs. While Garbage’s lyrics can be heavy, they touch on realities that are pertinent to many across our society.
Proving that the band’s numbers are timeless and continue to resonate with preteens/teens today, a young female fan stood in front of the stage, enthusiastically singing along with Manson. Her enthusiasm only skyrocketed when Manson removed her necklace and gifted it to the young lady, as she expressed to the crowd her appreciation for seeing these young fans. Throughout Garbage’s more than hour-long set, diehard fans remained dancing and singing with voices that could be heard resonating throughout the crowd. This was the perfect foundation of excitement before the arrival of the evening’s headlining act.
Looking back from the front of the house at the PNC Bank Art Center it was like viewing a sea of people; not only were the seats filled within the venue but the lawn behind was packed with eager Tears for Fears fans. Knowing that this was the scene in NJ, I assumed this was also the reaction to the band in the prior 20 tour dates. I wondered if Orzabal and Smith were aware of how beloved their band and music remains, and if this was a thrill to them. I also wondered would this mean they’d be back on the road again soon.
From the moment the musicians entered the stage and began playing the first notes of “No Small Thing,” followed by “The Tipping Point,” both from their newest album, the audience was completely engaged and energized. However, when the band began their third song, the 1985 hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” the crowd erupted with electricity, bringing everyone to their feet and passionately singing in unison. Once the excitement was ignited to this level fans remained standing, singing and dancing at their seats. The enthusiasm was of course at a peak during the band’s hit songs, including “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” “Head Over Heels,” and the incredible finale of “Shout,” which provided the band with a chorus of approximately 10,000- 15,000 background singers.
Orzabal’s and Smith’s voices have remained remarkably strong and very much the voices they began their musical journey with over 40 years ago. While these musicians did not put on a show that incorporated fast-paced, high-energy stage movements, their enthusiasm for performing their beloved music was clearly evident. Orzabal’s passion was apparent not only in the power of his voice, but his facial expressions and body language. Smith, though less facially expressive, passionately played his bass and remained engrossed in the music. The band’s vocals were supported by an incredible background singer, Carina Round, as well as an amazing band, Doug Petty on keyboards, Jamie Wollam on drums, and Charlton Pettus on guitar, that Orzabal noted, “make us look good!”
During the band’s 19-song set there was never a time the audience was not fully engaged and invested in the music. When Smith spoke about The Tipping Point and hoped everyone would be happy to hear songs from the new album, cheers rang out across the crowd. Of course there will always be greater enthusiasm when a band plays their hits, especially hits as beloved as those of Tears for Fears. However, it was obvious that many fans in attendance were enthusiastic about the new album and those less familiar with it were purely thrilled to be experiencing the musical artistry of Orzabal and Smith. As Orzabal led the crowd in singing Happy Birthday to Smith for the second time of the evening, I thought, what a wonderful birthday gift for Smith. After more than 40 years since the creation of Tears for Fears, 37 years since their hit album, Songs From the Big Chair, 30 years since breaking up, 20+ years since reuniting, and the past two decades of finding their way, here Orzabal and Smith are now, with a new Tears for Fears album and packing arenas with adoring fans. What a great birthday gift for Smith, AND what a great gift all of us at the PNC Bank Art Center experienced that evening!