Tears for Fears draws from life lessons for ‘The Tipping Point’

“Everybody Wants to Rule the World” has received rapturous response for decades, and the band still relishes performing it.

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 Curt Smith, Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears. 

Curt Smith (left) and Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears.

Frank Ockenfels Photo

British band Tears for Fears last visited Chicago in 2017, when the ‘80s pop chart-toppers led by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith appeared at Allstate Arena alongside Daryl Hall and John Oates.

Orzabal said it was the band’s first time in town for ages. “Why?” he asked at the time, gazing into seats filled to the rafters.

Chicago became an essential stop for the group’s first North American tour since then, which will bring it to the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater on Thursday.

For the first time in 18 years, the band also brings new songs in addition to hits like “Shout” and “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” Its new album “The Tipping Point” confronts personal turmoil and celebrates redemptive forces. It’s receiving a warmer reception than 2004 reunion effort “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending.”

tears for fears

Tears for Fears

With special guest: Garbage

Where: Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, 19100 S. Ridgeland Ave., Tinley Park

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $29.50+

Info: livenation.com

“It’s a different world now than when we put out ‘Happy Ending’ in so many ways — the crisis after crisis that seems to be happening at the moment, echoing the crisis in my life recently,” Orzabal says. “I think that we’re just tapping into the zeitgeist more than when we were doing ‘Happy Ending.’ We’re really plumbing the depths. The material consequently is far deeper, richer and more emotive than ‘Happy Ending.’ I love ‘Happy Ending,’ but ‘The Tipping Point’ is up there with our best work.”

“The Tipping Point” had a long gestation. Work on the album began in 2013. An earlier version was prepared in 2016. Orzabal had withdrawn to care for his wife Caroline, who died in 2017 after a difficult illness. Following his own health setbacks and rehabilitation, Orzabal emerged with new material grappling with his experiences.

The process connected “The Tipping Point” to Tears for Fears’ acclaimed first release “The Hurting.” The debut album drew inspiration from Orzabal’s interest in psychotherapist Arthur Janov’s work and established the band through songs including “Change,” “Pale Shelter” and “Mad World.”

“The Tipping Point” by Tears for Fears Cover Art 

“The Tipping Point” |

Capitol Records

The title cut is intoxicating and haunting, reflecting Orzabal’s experience during his wife’s decline. It’s fraught emotional territory to revisit nightly in concert.

But Orzabal says: “I don’t struggle with ‘The Tipping Point’ whatsoever because it’s really about being in a situation where you have no control. When you’re watching this person flicker like a candle between life and death, you don’t have any control. You don’t know where they’re going. You let them go. Singing that, I almost feel like a scientist or a doctor, with that detachment.”

The expressive “Rivers of Mercy” places dark and light side by side, reflecting 2020’s season of civil unrest and lockdown. The soothing arrangement recalls Peter Gabriel’s “Blood of Eden.” The song began as music by longtime collaborator Charlton Pettus and Tears for Fears keyboardist Doug Petty.

“There was a feeling of such immersive calm that it was very easy to come up initially with the chorus, with the idea of ‘drop me in rivers of mercy,’” says Orzabal, making a comparison to Al Green’s “Take Me to the River.” “Then, we had the BLM protests and riots and a lot of rage and anger. I think that we do have an immense and deep desire for peace, but there’s really only one way to reconcile things, which is probably the most difficult one. That is the path of forgiveness. I find that song more difficult to sing live, to be honest with you, because it involves such yearning.”

The album’s troubled moods are balanced by the upbeat sounds of the McCartney-esque “Masterplan,” the swaggering single “My Demons,” Smith’s club-friendly ode to female strength “Break the Man” and the rejuvenating optimism of “End of Night.”

“For every ‘Working Hour,’ and every ‘Shout’ or ‘I Believe,’ there is an ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World,’ ” Orzabal says. “We’re known for pop music. That’s what we do.”

The band’s biggest hit, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” has received rapturous response for decades, and the band still relishes performing it.

“The song is structured so brilliantly, it plays itself,” Orzabal says. “But it’s not just that. Because it’s become this megahit with all of the plays on Spotify and countless cover versions that people have done, it also feels like you’re singing someone else’s song. So that’s another thing that’s quite joyful.”

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