On an evening at Red Rocks that felt like the tipping point between the tail end of summer and cool start of fall, Tears for Fears caught the perfect weather for its music. The band fuses fond memories, melancholia and a celebration of life — a mood also tapped into by the 2001 film Donnie Darko, which featured its music. Last night, Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal looked older than they did in those original '80s music videos, but their warm presentation and tastefully cheeky sense of humor did not give the impression of a band with more than thirty years of hits under its belt. Instead, Tears for Fears seemed like a group that was still trying to earn the audience's favor.
Robert Delong opened the show with his mix of pop and dubstep. To Delong's credit, the mash-up wasn't utterly perplexing. He seemed genuinely thrilled to play the venue, and he took chances that set him apart from other DJs or pop artists. He played live drums for a song or two, and even at the workstation, it was clear he was doing more than hitting a space bar and trying to hype the crowd. It may not have been for everyone, but Delong's effort to try out a broad range of musical ideas and methods live was a brave choice while opening a big show at Red Rocks.
Before Tears for Fears came out on stage, Lorde's cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” played over the P.A., and then the original artists emerged with their version of the song. The set list only included fourteen tracks with the encore, but this worked better than a greatest-hits parade best suited for the state-fair circuit. Though slower songs like "Woman in Chains" and "I Believe" didn't really seem to fit the Red Rocks environment, "Head Over Heels" was sonically engulfing in a way that the recorded version never fully could be. Certain songs that had been reworked came off well, especially "Mad World," whose piano roots were emphasized, revealing how Michael Andrews and Gary Jules used that song to great effect in Donnie Darko.
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Before playing "Change" and the more obscure "Memories Fade," Smith casually asked if anyone was old enough to be an original fan of the first album. Plenty of people cheered. Then he joked that it was too bad that none of those songs would be played tonight — before asking permission to play three songs from 1983's The Hurting.
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Overall, the show had an easiness and underlying sense that the musicians found joy in revisiting songs they had performed countless times, but also simply in playing in front of an audience. That kind of innocence in a long-popular band allows them to endure, singing about love and emotional aches without being trite, sentimental, maudlin or nostalgic.