Tears For Fears, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

"It's all too late/ What has happened to/ The friend that I once knew/ Has he gone away?" That's Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith on "Change", from their breakthrough album The Hurting.

They don't play the song tonight (more's the pity), but the old schoolfriends from Bath - who started playing together at 13 - are back performing after 16 rather unsuccessful, not terribly productive years apart.

Their comeback is due, in no small part, to the huge success of Gary Jules's cover of their best song, the cerebral, gloomy "Mad World". His stripped-down acoustic version perfectly elevated the melancholy lyrics: "And I find it kind of funny/ I find it kind of sad/ The dreams in which I'm dying/ Are the best I've ever had."

This duo's reunion is not exactly Simon and Garfunkel-like, but it's still quite, well, sweet. To emphasise the goodwill, their new album is named Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. Ahhh! Although, frankly, there wasn't much evidence that the two actually get on; there was little interaction between them. Nevertheless, stood in front of a silly faux Sixties psychedelic backdrop, their choirboy voices still blend well.

Orzabal, sweating profusely, resembled a podgier Michael Hutchence. Smith has barely changed, retaining his svelte good looks. But Orzabal was the more engaging, thanking his audience for travelling from such far-flung places as Belgium and Sweden (the devoted Swedish fan held his tiny banner up all night).

"We're only doing songs from our new album tonight. The old ones will be tomorrow night," Orzabal said. It was a ruse, of course; they launched into another of their biggest hits, the Paul McCartney-esque (more Wings than Beatles) "Sowing the Seeds of Love", a song that features the memorable and lamentable line: "There's egg on your face and mud on your shoes/ One of these days they're going to call it the blues."

And there's the rub. This Eighties outfit, always musically a notch above the pomposity of Duran Duran, can't match the lyrical punch of darker contemporaries - Depeche Mode, The Cure, New Order. The new material serves only to show that their words can be lightweight and foolish: "They tell you on the phone to give your god a bone/ And grow a set of wings like a butterfly" (on "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending").

The mid- to late-thirties crowd remained suitably enthusiastic, rising as one from the get-go in the all-seater arena. Swaying politely to the hits - the anthemic "Head Over Heels" and "Shout", the rousing "Woman in Chains" (an irritating tune that works remarkably well live) and the atmospheric "Pale Shelter".

The only awkward moment came with "Mad World". The Bath boys decided to pander to the public and play a bastardised version, which more closely resembled the Gary Jules cover. It was met with a muted response from the Tears for Fears faithful. So, not a completely happy ending after all.