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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Tears for Fears: Polished Set, but Little Substance

September 02, 1993|RICHARD CROMELIN

Tears for Fears is the Billy Joel of synth-pop--a band that assimilates elements of more substantial, original forces and processes them into a polished, palatable sound.

It finds its identifying tone in a blustery insistence, it slides from one mode to another without a sense of commitment, and there isn't always a lot of depth to the music. At the same time, there are earnest efforts to say meaningful things about the human spirit and modern times, and it can be inescapably pleasant to listen to on a pure pop level.

At the Wiltern Theatre on Tuesday, the group--singer-guitarist Roland Orzabal is running the show now, his original partner Curt Smith having departed--was more bland than overbearing. Maybe it was a product of dwindling fortunes. Three and a half years ago, Tears for Fears headlined the Forum on the strength of a hit catalogue that included "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." Tuesday, it played to one-tenth that crowd as its new "Elemental" album sells modestly.

Tuesday's performance by Orzabal and his five musicians was a straightforward, efficient showcase of TFF's oeuvre, a place where Beatles trumpet fanfares coexist with sultry funk, where lightweight, Duran-like dance-pop gives way to an urgent, Pete Townshend-style rocker (the current single "Break It Down Again"), where "I Am the Walrus" and "Pet Sounds" are evoked so graphically that they amount to Beatles and Beach Boys homages.

Orzabal presided with a combination of grand gestures, nerdy dancing and toothy grins, but he never asserted an involving presence or enlarged the scope and scale of the music.

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