BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
It doesn’t matter that Daryl Hall and John Oates haven’t released an album of new material since 2003 or that their tour mates Tears for Fears beat them by a year, with their most recent coming in 2004.
What matters is that the quality of their top hits – in the ‘70s and ‘80s for Hall and Oates and the ‘80s and ‘90s for Tears for Fears’ Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal – has remained undiminished by time and trends.
The two duos are about halfway through a shared summer tour that packed Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth Sunday night and likely left the audience hoarse by the end of the 3 ½-hour night.
After a brief opening set by Washington soul-pop singer Allen Stone, TFF took the stage to a gorgeously haunting recorded version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” before breaking into their cheerier take of the 1985 smash.
Their grand Beatles homage, “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” soared, with rhythm guitarist Orzabal adding impressive vocal theatrics at the end of the song, and it was a treat for longtime fans to hear the pretty “Advice for the Young at Heart,” a minor hit for the band in 1990.
Though the guys, backed by a drummer, keyboardist, guitarist and backup singer, mostly stuck to their MTV-era output, they also shared mellifluous vocals on a crisp rendition of “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending,” the title track of their 2004 album that shares an obvious blueprint with the John Lennon/Paul McCartney approach to combined vocals. And that’s a very good thing.
Tears for Fears last played Atlanta in 2010, and Smith and Orzabal seemed humbled by the generous response they received from the crowd. They also frequently expressed their gratitude about sharing a bill with Hall and Oates.
“We get to play for a lot more people than we normally would,” Orzabal said from behind his trademark thatch of inky curls.
The band also brought a cool, understated light display with them, from the white beams that danced along to the keyboards of “Change” to the ominous red sheet that blanketed the stage during “Memories Fade.”
Bassist Smith ditched his instrument to sing lead on “Mad World,” his free hands now able to punctuate the visceral lyrics with finger points and chest pats. While “Pale Shelter” was a vocal misfire for the quietly affable musician, he and drummer Jamie Wollam held down the muscular groove of “Break it Down” with ease, as Orzabal’s voice nailed every peak and valley.
Orzabal also shone on a gentle, appropriately hazy cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” his vocals both low and angelic at points in the song, and the ever-lush “Head Over Heels.”
The band ended its set with its biggest worldwide hit, 1984’s “Shout,” which arrived with jangly intro and built-in singalong chorus intact.
Tears for Fears is reportedly working on a new album for release this year – let’s hope it isn’t another seven years before we see them again.
The enduring sounds of Hall and Oates – the most successful duo of the rock era – arrived with their hit version of British musician Mike Oldfield’s “Family Man” and continued with 90 minutes of comfortable familiarity.
The pair, which visits Atlanta nearly every year, effortlessly rolled through a hit parade including “Maneater” (with another fabulous saxophone solo by Charles DeChant), “Out of Touch” (with another fabulous guitar solo from Oates) and the achingly catchy “Did it in a Minute” (with another rugged vocal performance from Hall).
On Saturday evening, Oates held court at Taco Cowboy in Virginia Highland to engage in a Q&A session and sign copies of his new memoir, “Change of Seasons.” It’s a vivid, thoughtful book that focuses on his life, but shares enough about his partnership with Hall that fans can better understand their relationship – yes, they like each other just fine and enjoy playing what they created, but no, they aren’t bosom buddies who hang out when not onstage.
Their business-like partnership is evident during live shows, but it hardly detracts from those gorgeous soul-infused ballads “Sara Smile” and “She’s Gone,” or the shimmering funk that courses through “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).”
With six musicians complementing their own guitar and keyboard talents and a trio of video screens broadcasting Hall’s fan-swept locks and Oates’ furrowed brow concentration, the duo provided ace musicianship behind a slate of songs that have become, in many ways, timeless.