Nocturne Live, Blenheim Palace
22th June 2019
Tears for Fears have a history with Blenheim Palace. Roland Orzabal explains that they once did a live broadcast from here to Japan after playing four nights at Hammersmith Odeon. This was presumably a double dollop of Britishness for the Japanese, though the duo – as their name suggests – managed to translate their more international influences of Arthur Janov and existentialism into chart success. In fact, in tonight’s show – part of the Nocturne Live concert series – the duo prove that their status in British pop music’s heritage is befitting of the beautiful surroundings. Their most well-known hits – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, “Mad World”, “Change” and “Shout” – are tonight welcomed by a respectful but enthusiastic audience, with the heavy cold-afflicted Curt Smith’s voice is still distinctively clear.
It’s not simply a stick-the-greatest-hits-on-and-play-long performance. Their cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” – appropriate given the locale, but actually currently a mainstay of their live show – is menacing in a way their other songs aren’t, not reaching a crescendo or really ever giving in to its fury. A few songs have different formats to their original counterparts: “Head over Heels” is the medley version with “Broken” from Songs from the Big Chair, and “Secret World”, from the charmingly titled post-reformation album Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (Roland and Curt having parted ways after The Seeds of Love), is somewhat bizarrely punctuated by snippets of Wings’ “Let ‘Em In” (more recently known from the Postcode Lottery advert). “Woman in Chains” has an abstract funk intro, with the Oleta Adams slot filled by Carina Round, who complements Roland’s vocals in a different but no lesser way than the deeper-voiced Oleta did.
The sprawling “Badman’s Song” might have fitted in on the famously troubled epic jazz/blues jumble that was The Seeds of Love, but it feels self-indulgent tonight; they can be forgiven though, given the strength of their back catalogue, and the fact that they’re still here, together and smiling.