Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:19 November 2021 


It has often been said that songwriters transform their pain into art, and that is spectacularly true of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, the duo who formed Tears For Fears in 1981. Except their art is not miserable, but polished, shiny 80s synth pop.

Their first album, The Hurting, brought the band a degree of success, with spare synth-based arrangements and a surprising level of depth to songs chronicling their emotional journey. What no-one saw coming was the worldwide acclaim and massive sales that followed release of their second album, 1985’s Songs From The Big Chair.

"Shout" was a number one single in half a dozen countries (including Australia) though only reaching #4 in their British home. The song was seemingly inspired by Arthur Janov’s primal therapy (of which John Lennon was also a devotee) but, according to Orzabal, actually about political protest. If you say so, Roland.

Then came "Everybody Wants To Rule The World", equally successful around the globe.

With a hit album and chart-topping singles, an extensive tour was natural. And with both singles being #1s in Canada and the US, North America an obvious destination. Which brings us to Live At Massey Hall Toronto, Canada / 1985.

Released on vinyl for the first time for RSD 2021, this double live album presents all the key songs from the first two Tears For Fears albums to an enthusiastic crowd of Canadian fans, some of whom camped out overnight in chilly Spring conditions to secure tickets. There are six songs from The Hurting, with Big Chair being thoroughly mined for all but one of its songs. Mixed from multi-track tapes, the sound is pristine with the crowd back in the mix.

The first disc offers three songs from Songs From The Big Chair followed by four from The Hurting. On disc two, a couple more from the debut are interspersed with a run of four more from the current (1985) hit LP. The duo being in terrific vocal form, the concert flows well and fans of the albums will enjoy hearing the music in a live context. Despite a textural sameness to the sound (synth-based rock is a bit like that), excitement builds on the final side where the loping "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" brings forth both guitars and screams of appreciation from the audience. A fine version of "The Hurting" (clearly displaying the band’s kinship with Ultravox) and a storming "Shout" takes us out.

The first two Tears For Fears albums are strong and enduring 80s musical statements and this live recording does them justice.


© Bruce Jenkins 2021

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