Tears for Fears and Garbage shone bright at The Mann Center - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Earlier this year, seminal synth-pop rockers Tears For Fears released Tipping Point, their sixth record since debuting forty years ago. It’s a genuinely terrific album – not great in the way a music critic will invariably promise you that an older legendary artist’s new material is his best in decades, or whatever – but holding up just fine against the artistic benchmarks they set in their post-punk heyday, as though they haven’t lost a step.

Keep in mind as you consider that, that it hasn’t been the smoothest ride for Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, originally childhood friends whose professional and personal relationship ultimately survived an acrimonious hiatus of nearly twenty years, beginning in 1991, just a couple years after the release of The Seeds Of Love, their third and most commercially successful record. Tipping Point, too, was forged of a calamitous nine years in the making: after the two began production in 2013, the project almost collapsed several times under shearing forces that included unwelcome creative requests from a record label, which the two ultimately rejected, as well as profound personal loss endured by Orzabal, whose wife passed away tragically in 2017.

These are songwriters though who have always capably leveraged dark-art alchemy to transmogrify emotionally sensitive subject matter into anthems that captured and defined an era of pop music, and as Pitchfork reports, when they finally set their sights on finishing production on their latest work, they stripped away the distractions, parted ways with collaborators, management and their label too, and built out their ideas “alone with guitars, sitting eyeball to eyeball.”

Tears for Fears | photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

It’s the way Paul McCartney has always described writing his favorite collaborations with John Lennon, and maybe that’s no accident, given the dramatic impact the Beatles’ music had on the two British natives. That influence is never more evident than in the epic psychedelic pastiche, “I Am The Walrus” drum fills, and “Penny-Lane”-pinched baroque horn interludes of their 1989 single “Sowing The Seeds Of Love,” one of the many hits the two shared with a house full of fans at the Mann Center Tuesday night. (Keep reading, Beatles fans: they played it immediately after “Secret World,” from 2004’s reconcile record Everybody Loves A Happy Ending, a song Orzabal cut with an excerpt from McCartney’s solo hit “Let ‘Em In,” and immediately before a track from their new album called “Long, Long, Long Time,” named with what you could only imagine to be a big wink to George Harrison’s 1968 song “Long, Long, Long.”)

Of course, “Mad World,” “Woman In Chains,” “Break It Down Again,” “Head Over Heels,” “Pale Shelter” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” were played to the requisite reception of a warm roar. And, of course, those were all highlights, along with “Shout,” as a finale. But these beloved hits all had their place, and arguably never outshined all of the newer Tipping Point selections that held their own – including the record’s first three singles, two of which opened their set, as well as standout performance of “My Demons” that swung heavy with swagger and an inexorable kinetic cadence.

It was a testament to the integrity of a uniquely special artistic and personal partnership shared by Orzabal and Smith, and a tastefully understated and uncanny skill they’ve been able to develop, and to their credit to maintain through all these years and all these personal and professional trials: an ability to craft, polish and perform vibrant and accessible pop music. It’s music that still delivers in their singularly harmonic voice their characteristic socially and politically conscious messages that have never been more relevant. And it’s music that still sounds just great.

Tears for Fears | photo by Josh Pelta Heller for WXPN

But hey – can we talk about that opening set from Garbage too, for a minute? Because Shirley Manson came hungry and ready to slay Tuesday night. The Scottish-born rockstar looked so charmingly comfortable, interacting with an eager front few rows between songs, and shuffling her way across the stage under the slithering guitar riffs of early hits like “Stupid Girl,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” and “Queer” – which she personally dedicated to a fan she recognized. Having last visited Philly as part of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill anniversary tour last Fall, Garbage never seemed so electric as they did at The Mann, galvanizing an until-then-seated crowd of – well let’s face it, “old-er heads” – to a well-earned full-scale standing ovation. When’s the last time you can recall seeing that kind of reception for an “opener?”

Tears For Fears
The Mann Center
  • No Small Thing
  • The Tipping Point
  • Everybody Wants To Rule The World
  • Secret World
  • Sowing The Seeds Of Love
  • Long, Long, Long Time
  • Break The Man
  • My Demons
  • Rivers Of Mercy
  • Mad World
  • Suffer The Children
  • Woman In Chains
  • Badman’s Song
  • Pale Shelter
  • Break It Down Again
  • Head Over Heels
  • End Of Night
  • Change
  • Shout
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