When a show features two co-headliners who peaked commercially way back in the ‘80s, it can feel kind of like a “county fair” lineup. But Tears for Fears’ and Hall & Oates’ recorded output is spotless and everything sounded fresh -- even timeless -- to the crowd in the very full Xcel Energy Center last night.
Tears for Fears didn’t mess around: They immediately hit the audience with 1985’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and their sound was rich and soulful. Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith traded vocals throughout their set, reproducing their classic Beatles-meet-Pink-Floyd-who-were-already-hanging-out-with-Oingo-Boingo style.
During “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” with its musical nods to “I Am the Walrus,” two huge rectangles loomed above the stage, lit to look like they were menacing the band below.
“It’s good to be back in the Twin Cities!” Smith said. “Which one is this again?”
Smith went on to confess that he’d terrorized the staff at a Dunn Brothers that morning. Apparently, his poor barista told him she was excited to see Tears for Fears that night, not knowing who her customer was.
“They suck!” Smith shot back.
“Change” was all syncopation and stabbing spotlights, and “Memories Fade” featured Orzabal’s reaching vocals and echoing guitar work.
“Good evening, and thankyouverymuch,” drawled Orzabal, a la Elvis. He thanked Hall & Oates for taking them on “this fucking long tour!” and apologized to the coffee shop for his bandmate’s antics.
Orzabal then sang a spare, smoothed out version of Radiohead’s “Creep” that became a crowd whisper-along toward the end. A spirited “Break it Down Again” featured a marching breakdown during which Orzabal and Smith activated the concert staple handclap-above-your-heads initiative. Finishing off the main set was the monster 1985 hit “Head Over Heels,” and it brought out the phones. All of the phones.
Returning to a darkened stage, Smith said “Let’s have those lights back on, shall we?” Tears for Fears encored with – there was no escaping it -- “Shout,” exorcising some demons along with the audience. This song has always been bad ass. It felt angry. It felt hurt. It felt right.
Hall & Oates opened with a percolating, funky “Adult Education.” “Our blood is up!” Daryl Hall informed the audience. “We are right at the beginning of the tour, and I want to kill people and shit.”
As John Oates told us, Hall & Oates is not a jukebox. They play their hits, but they change up the arrangements. “Maneater” was slower, almost lounge-y, as was their spacey version of “Out of Touch.” (Promise delivered.)
“When we first started out, the Twin Cities sort of adopted us.” Oates recalled.
The band covered the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’” and I couldn’t help but think of Top Gun. Hall & Oates sang it better, obviously, and Hall called it “one of the best songs ever written.”
“One on One” brought Hall’s voice to the fore. Simply put, the man can sing. He can scat a little and he soul screams with the best of them.
The jazzy, slower, sometimes downright jammy versions of their hits occasionally sapped a little of the songs’ power. But some tunes, like “She’s Gone,” benefited from the more easy-going arrangements.
Oates praised the audience, “You seem like a musically adventurous crowd” as he eased into “Possession Obsession.” And the fans in attendance loved “Sara Smile.” Sitting at a grand piano, Hall seemed genuinely satisfied by the crowd-band interaction.
There were a couple deep cuts, including “Is It a Star” off 1974’s War Babies. Hall jokingly described the album, “It was a departure… from a lot of things. Like music.”
Oates agreed, “It was the ‘70s.”
Then it was back to hitsville with “Method of Modern Love,” which was sparkly, effervescent, and included an extended dance break. During a solid reading of Private Eyes’ “I Can’t Go for That,” Hall dropped some improvised wisdom, “Sometimes you gotta say hell no! Say no can do!”
The crowd started straight-up jumping for set closer “You Make My Dreams.” There were no jammy flourishes on this song, and it shined as a result.
Hall & Oates encored powerfully with a bubbly “Rich Girl,” “Kiss on My List,” and “Private Eyes.” They rocked with purpose, and left the crowd on their feet wanting more.
Tears for Fears setlist
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Sowing the Seeds of Love
Advice for the Young at Heart
Everybody Loves a Happy Ending
Break it Down Again
Head Over Heels
Hall & Oates setlist
Out of Touch
Say it Isn’t So
You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling
One on One
Wait for Me
Is It a Star
Method of Modern Love
I Can’t Go for That
You Make My Dreams
Kiss on My List
The Crowd: An arena full -- and I mean full -- of women wearing tops with the shoulders cut out, and men wearing scowls and whatever they were told to wear.
Overheard In The Crowd: “It really is like the 80s, when I could put away 60 beers in a night.”
Random Notebook Dump: Two completely different stages, lighting and effects-wise. Roadies really are heroes.