At the KCCC, ABC and TFF came to delight a 5K audience. Two days south of the summer solstice, on a warm but cloudy evening, at the home of Kent’s county cricket team, Tears For Fears, ABC and Max Restaino played upon a stage set up on the historic Spitfire Ground cricket pitch.
After entertaining the Forest Live crowd in Delamere on Friday, and prior to taking their ‘Rule The World Tour’ over to Europe, Tears For Fears made the trip down to Kent to join fellow 80s band ABC. The double header of much loved acts on the same bill brought out the nostalgic, the curious, the super fans and a much larger proportion than expected of those that clearly could not have been born when both bands were formed, or even had their biggest hits.
Prior to Tears For Fears or ABC taking to the stage it was the turn of Max Restiano to entertain the gathering crowd. In his double white shredded denim, white t-shirt and white hi-tops he looked like he was channelling some sort of retro Peter Andre look, minus the ripped abs. With repeated dance ‘moves’ that may, or may not, have been learnt on an arcade dance machine, and some pumped up posturing it was a little hard to take him too seriously. In between asking the audience if they were OK and still OK after every other song, he did get the crowd’s attention with covers of Elton’s ‘Your Song’ and the Beatles ‘Hey Jude’ mid-set, as well as some of his own compositions. ‘Sugar Rush’, ‘Girl Of My Dreams’ and an impressive sax solo at the end of ‘More Than Life’ ensured that Max got a warm reception in Canterbury.
Following Max onto the sizable stage were ABC. With a drummer, percussionist, bassist, keyboard-cum-sax player, guitarist, backing singer and The London String Quartet assembled there was only room left for the man himself, Martin Fry. Looking as dapper as ever in his black shirt, black tie, black slacks, silk print lounge lizard jacket and carefully coiffured hair, Fry looked every bit the 80s icon.
Rather aptly Fry and his band started at the beginning with the first track from the band’s debut album, ‘Lexicon Of Love’. ‘Show Me’ headed up ‘(How To Be A) Millionaire’ and the rather more recent ‘Viva Love’ before a very well received ‘Poison Arrow’. Martin Fry took time to address the crowd; “Does anyone remember the 80s? You’re all children of the 90s, you’re too young”, he commented. His voice has stood the test of time and the arrangements of each of the tracks gave a suitably sumptuous and layered feel to the lavishly adorned tracks.
“We’ve got chance to open up the ABC songbook tonight”, said Fry before breaking into an impassioned delivery of ‘The Flames Of Desire’. The combination of Fry’s vocals and the subtly choreographed London String Quartet together with some stand-out guitar and sax solos made for a captivating performance. ‘Many Happy Returns’ and ‘Valentine’s Day’ saw ABC revisit Lexicon Of Love; he dedicated ‘All Of My Heart’ to “all of you New Romantics out there” and delivered an energised version of ‘When Smokey Sings’.
Arguably it was the band’s first single (and their biggest single success) released back in October 1981, ‘Tears Are Not Enough’, and ABC’s final song of the night, ‘Look Of Love’, that stood out as highlights of a very entertaining set. Fry was on good form, clearly enjoying the night himself, and his extended band embellished the set to great effect.
Ahead of Tears For Fears’ appearance, the stage was enhanced with numerous vertical lighting columns, a larger, very impressive drum kit and three sets of keyboards. The backing curtain was dropped to reveal yet more vertically suspended lights before the brooding and sinister sounding Lorde version of ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World’ rang out into the night to herald the start of the Tears For Fears concert. Curt and Roland followed the backing track straight onto stage and immediately set about their own, original version of the same song to the clear delight of the large crowd.
Tears For Fears hardly paused for breath during the opening three tracks as they played some of their best-loved songs from the off. ‘Sowing The Seeds’ saw the crowd in great voice before Roland took time out to recognise an “important date in the Tears For Fears calendar”. “Tomorrow we get to fly to Luxembourg”, “We’re not playing a show tomorrow… It’s Curt’s birthday”. A rousing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ was sung as a cake was brought out and Curt blew out the candles. A truly brilliant version of ‘Pale Shelter’ followed with the spectacular light show combining with a great vocal from Curt, some deftly delivered guitar from Roland and some very impressive percussive flourishes from the drummer.
The second surprise of the evening was to come seven songs in. Roland took centre stage for vocal duties as he slowly and gently played out the opening chords to ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. There were audible woops from the crowd as they realised what they were hearing. The audience sing-a-long didn’t take long to kick in as Tears For Fears played out the remainder of the song in their own style. An upbeat and rhythmic ‘Change’ headed up a rapturously received ‘Mad World’ with Curt in particular giving one of his most impressive and passionate performances of the evening.
Two more tracks from Tears For Fears’ debut album ‘The Hurting’, ‘Memories Fade’ and ‘Suffer The Children’, followed. The latter track was transformed by one of the stand-out moments of the night as the ‘backing singer’, Carina Round took on lead vocal duties in spectacular style. Round, an established singer-songwriter in her own right, gave a vocal performance that made the hairs on your arm stand up; she was superb.
As Tears For Fears came towards the end of their set they rocked out to a lively, extended version, of ‘Badman’s Song’ from 89’s ‘The Seeds Of Love’ and closed with a pumped up ‘Head Over Heels’ before returning briefly for a one track encore of ‘Shout’. Tears For Fears delivered a polished set full of big hits, crowd favourites and the odd surprise. Curt and Roland were engaging throughout and the crowd, of all ages, were thoroughly captivated.
An excellent night of largely 80s nostalgia was brought back to life in spectacular style by two of the biggest bands of the time for a great evening’s entertainment in Canterbury.