There are golden-age MTV acts that haven’t aged well.
Whether because of keytar solos, Aqua Net blowouts or the glamorous excess of the times, some of the music and images haven’t translated to a new generation facing increasing complexities.
And then there are others whose mobilizing anthems and instrumentation – born at a time of intense political polarization – are just as prescient now as they were more than three decades ago.
Tears for Fears is one of these acts, and last night, the reunited duo of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith thrilled fans with its timely brand of message-driven synth pop throughout a beautiful Artpark evening.
On the strength of critical darlings like “Songs from the Big Chair” and follow-up “The Seeds of Love,” the Bath, England-bred Orzabal and Smith found major success with '80s audiences, delivering lyrical commentary against oppressive ideologies and political maneuverings of the times. After a contentious split in 1992, the pair reunited 12 years later to collaborate on the aptly named “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” and have toured intermittently ever since.
One of those appearances was supposed to be at Artpark last summer. But after an unfortunate cancellation, they re-upped for this year’s edition of KeyBank’s Tuesdays in the Park series.
And – regardless of it actually being on a Wednesday – Orzabal, Smith and their band took time off their current tour with Hall and Oates to hand Lewiston a liberal set of crowd favorites as societally topical as at their Reagan-era inception.
Emerging onto stage to Lorde’s haunting cover of its classic "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," Smith took the mic to serve the original article. Wobbly on the vocal, yet backed solid on the instrumental, the jangly song still popped as powerfully as it did in its heyday.
But in contrast to Smith – whose singing grew crisper as the night wore on – Orzabal’s voice sounded as deep and dynamic as ever, steering 1989’s “Sowing the Seeds of Love” with the same bellowing snark existent on the original.
These two tracks were indicative of the rest of the band’s set, full of '80s classics that don’t sound like they’ve aged – both lyrically or instrumentally – as much as they’ve marinated, now seasoned and savory as ever. You could hear remnants of the myriad artists now riding the radio waves of The Edge and Alternative Buffalo in the dark synth notes and dancing Fender chords in these and the trio of cuts off the band’s 1983 debut, “The Hurting”: “Change,” “Mad World” and “Memories Fade.”
If this link to the current zeitgeist of millennial indie pop wasn’t enough, Orzabal and Co. tossed in some reverence to Radiohead with an impressively mopey cover of “Creep.”
And whether fans were moved by this tribute or the band’s encore fist-pump of international smash “Shout,” all got the chance to reconnect with the ongoing impact of the still-impressive duo.
Before Tears for Fears, the evening began with a brief set by singer/songwriter (and Tears for Fears collaborator) Carina Round. Delivering moody and gorgeous acoustic tracks "Set Fire" and "I Miss You" as part of her four-song performance, Round struck a morose tone to start the beautiful evening of music.
But before finishing, she left the lively crowd with the rousing "Girl and the Ghost," wailed simultaneously with the artist's furious down-picking.