Tears For Fears Live, Berlin Tempodrom – From the viewpoint of a fan
They handed me a Czech vinyl:
As I was listening to the album “Songs From The Big Chair” for the first time in the late summer of 1986 – so about a year after it initially came out – there was a party going on in the other rooms of the apartment I lived in, since my parents were away that night. But still, I chose to not partake for a few minutes, because two of my friends had just handed me a Czech pressing of that album and in that moment, I could not and would not do anything else but to listen to it.
That was all due to the fact that, up until that time, only the songs we now know as classics were broadcast via radio. But I really wanted to know how the rest of the album sounds, so what then transpired in my room I lived in as a teenager, I can hardly describe now. I probably noticed right away, that most songs were already published as singles, but especially “The Working Hour” and “Listen” really blew everything I had heard up until that moment out of the water. I remember vividly how often I got goosebumps while listening to that music, and that still hasn’t changed today.
What has changed, though, was what big a part music would play in my life and what kind of music I would listen to after that. Without a doubt, I learned a lot about music from “Songs From The Big Chair”, showing me what music can express, what it can do to a person listening, how music feels.
Although my musical taste soon broadened and I began to favor Heavy Metal in all its shades and types, I always remained a fan of the band. My interest for Tears For Fears never faded, it even grew in the past 10 years and I was always on the lookout for a concert to experience them live.
The only realistic chance I have had was after the fall of the Berlin Wall in March of 1990. That I just plainly missed since I hadn’t known about that at the time. Because during that time for a 20-year-old, the world seems to turn three times as fast around all of its axes, if you get the gist. Since the 90s, Tears For Fears seemed to avoid any tour in Germany – or the whole of Europe for that matter – and played mostly in North- and South-America. 30 years passed.
When in the fall of 2017 a message reached me and I was told that Tears For Fears are going to play two gigs in Germany, I almost went crazy and put everything into motion to get tickets, which worked out. I was so darn close to it, and in May of 2018, the time should have finally come.
It should have come – but it didn’t. Both shows were moved due to health issues and were to be held in February of the following year. So I had to wait nine more months and doubts began to creep into my mind, questioning whether or not it would actually happen.
It’s all about the moment…
A few days before the concert I reached out to the PR agency, asking for permission to take a picture of the band for my “rocked through” photo-series – I simply had to ask for it, even though I knew how absurd my inquiry was. As expected, they could not give me positive feedback on that, although I was asked if I wanted to photograph the rest of the gig. Of course I wanted to, even if it meant that I wouldn’t get to enjoy the first three songs of the concert fully – but my very own photos of my favorite band?
Three days before I made my way to Berlin, I got the okay, but it said in the e-mail that I was going to photograph FOH (front of house), which meant I wasn’t going to be directly by the stage, but somewhere more distant instead. This particular scourge of concert photography had always alluded me so far, but just drop the subject because of that?
The only problem: I wasn’t equipped for that type of long distance photography, since I work with a wide angle most of the time. I actually only own one lens I work with, a 18-35 f 1.8, that’s it. So I had a Nikkor 70-200 f 2.8 sent to my via an online rental place and it actually arrived on Friday in the afternoon. I attached the “boulder” to my D500, checked the settings, charged my batteries and formatted my SD-cards. The rest of how all of this would play out wasn’t in my hands anymore. In about 24 hours, it would be time.
The day of the concert
Compared to the fans of Kate Bush – who had to fly out to London if they wanted to admire her presence for the first time after 35 years in 2014 (many of which flew in from Germany) – I had it comparatively comfortable. It’s Saturday and Berlin is about 150 kilometers away from my home place. My accompanying friends reassure me that there won’t be any traffic jams along the way, the weather should stay stable for the time being (we also experienced the opposite when we went to see Triptykon or had to deal with 20 centimeters of fresh snow on the way back from a Kreator gig in Berlin). I actually felt pretty good, apart from that weird feeling I had since about noon that day. It was a sort of tension that I hadn’t had before. Was it fear? If so, what was I afraid of?
Around five in the afternoon, our small group set out to Berlin. With me, my beloved J., as well as my friends Lehmie and Evil (Evil luckily took over the task of driving) began our travelings. I wonder if I would have been able to drive safely that day? Probably yes, but I was glad that I didn’t have to.
And off we went as we drove right into the setting sun. Lehmie and J. opened their first beer, I refused, thanking them. That was their last clue that I was being very serious about the events. Also, I was way too excited.
Two hours later, around 7, we were making our last steps toward the Tempodrom. That was the first time I was there since 1991, when I attended the stadium for a Saxon concert. Back in the day, a large (circus kind) tent spanned the whole area. Nowadays, a structure emerges where the tent once was, still alluding to the looks of it.
My task ahead was getting my camera bag checked into the venue, my friends and I should reunite later inside. At the press entrance, there was uncertainty about my situation. I had a photography pass, yes, but I was also to receive a ticket. I replied no, I brought my own ticket. The personell didn’t seem so sure as to why I bought my own (since I had a photography and press pass), but then they pointed to the entrance on the right.
I was finally inside of the venue now and although that hadn’t been a primary concern, I could breathe a little better after that. Soon the group of four was reunited and of course, now it was all about getting some cold beer down our throats and damn it, I was all for it! Before we would go downstairs to do just that, we had a look at the merchandise. I decided to get one tour poster for my music room at home. Before my beer was emptied, I was back there again and bought the second edition.
While the singer of the supporting band starts doing his jam, we gather around one of the tables and talk about the kind of visitors we have so for seen. Nothing extraordinary so far, some young man with a Type O Negative hoodie, with whom we shared a short talk at the beer stand.
We support Tormentor, Black Label Society, Demon and Canibal Corpse on our shirts 🙂
Okay, let’s go in and check out the supporting band, was our next thought. I warned the others ahead of that idea. I listened to their stuff on Spotify and clicking on three different songs, I could never stomach more than four seconds of any given track. That impression then also crept up on my entourage as they listened to the first sounds. There was no need to wait long before the steward told us to either sit down or wait in the foyer. It was bad. Like, very bad. But to be honest: We are not the type of fans who actually have to throw our piss at very supporting act. Lehmie then remarked, that, when we were standing there, he saw four seats next to each other that weren’t taken, though 😉
I looked up the time more often now. At 8.30 p.m. I had to be at the photographer’s meeting point, the concert should begin around 8.45.
Again our paths separated, but not before I asked them to have a fresh beer ready after the first three songs to calm my nerves.
In the foyer, eight fellow photographers stood and waited with their heavily equipped devices, one sported a Canon with 400mm f 2.8 lense plus monopod – the lens alone costs 9000€. Okay, if they make money with it, it’s probably okay to pack such a thing. Or maybe it was a rental, like mine.
Ute (the concert manager) gathers everybody around, gives everyone their photo pass stickers (which I of course didn’t stick to my leather jacket) und we follow her to the entrance a few steps up, where we can stand on a sort of gallery, from where the stage is about 40 meters in the distance. I get my camera ready while my pulse shoots up. I look to maybe see the others and they actually see me first, waving. The light gets dimmed and the show doesn’t start at the exact scheduled time, because the “big ladder” has to be extended first once more onto the stage.
9.54 p.m. – the stage is immersed in red-orange light – Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith enter the stage after their fellow musicians. They were only silhouettes, walking around as shadows, while “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Lorde was played through loudspeakers.
Although I experienced the now following three songs almost exclusively through my camera, from the first moment onward I was very touched indeed to finally experience “my band” live. That I was there, up on a gallery with a tele-lens on the railing while “EWTRTW”, “Secret World” and “Sowing The Seeds of Love” mark the beginning of the concert, made it a bit more surreal. In that moment I truly was in a photographer’s mode, taking 1000 pictures in a steady stream to get even a few truly great images out of the scenery. There isn’t much room for creativity when you have a set perspective and distance to the show. You can zoom and pan, of course, with 230 mm and 200 mm respectively allowing for some freedom of choice. Sometimes, I looked past the camera to see the concert hall and the 3000 fans it contains.
To the last beats of the third song it was time for an orderly (for me it was also a rather hastily) way back to the foyer. I stowed away my equipment quickly and put it in the cashier’s office – hoping that no one also checks their bags as “popper” That really only took a minute or so, but in the meantime I actually missed one of the very rare announcements by Roland & Curt (it seems like YouTube has to help me out on this one).
Finally I enter the hall and go directly to our seats – row 12. Everyone of the 3000 fans find themselves seated, although after the first few seconds, no one wanted to sit and enjoy the concert. It would be weird for me – same as it would have been for me weird in the December of 2018 when we went to see Slayer – to sit during these concerts. I simply can’t imagine a reason to, it also seems quite disrespectful to the artist.
Finally, during “Pale Shelter” and “Break It Down Again”, I find myself relaxed and immersed with a beer in my hand. I can simply take the music in – it is that moment, that first time of really watching the show, that is most impressive to me today in retrospect. I close my eyes and try not to shed a tear, but to no avail. I arrived. That event I had wished for a very long time has finally come. It has become a reality.
When it comes to the albums played, „The Hurting“ (’83) and „The Seeds Of Love“ (’89) are most prominent. Basically, I can enjoy any Tears For Fears Song, but then, at about half of the concert, the dreaded Radiohead Cover “Creep” creeps around. I was hoping they’d skip that one, like they have done in the last few concerts according to setlist.fm, but they decided to go for it. I mean, it’s not like I absolutely can’t stand this song, but I find that TFF have tons of great original material they could be playing instead. Like “Raoul and the Kings of Spain”, but maybe Curt wouldn’t have fancied that so much – because he wasn’t involved with that particular album at all 😉
Doesn’t matter, the show is still great. Evil mentions that TFF sound so perfect, they might help it with a little technical stuff – after the gig, on the way to our car, he admits that the things he has seen and heard were probably genuin, and Evil is the kind of guy whose opinion I trust without a doubt. I was a real fan that day, asking my opinion would have been pointless anyways.
During the last third of the concert, every single musician on stage showed what they got. “Woman in Chains”, “Badman’s Song”, and “Head Over Heels” are performed with such love and skill, that I alternate between banging my head, simply listening and staring in awe. By the way: besides of a huge video screen and some light effects, which support the performance, there’s nothing more to it. No pyros, no confetti, no fire, nothing. Only the band and their music. And as much as I enjoyed such things while watching Slayer and Behemoth rip, I did not miss it at all with Tears For Fears.
The knowing fan now recognizes, that the concert is coming to an end. The musicians disappear behind the stage – the Tempodrom trembles with applause, whistles, shouts – just to have them come back for the same, “Shout”. At the beginning of the possibly most well known Song, Roland animates the crowd to sing along, and we mustn’t be asked twice. The song gradually becomes more intense and finally culminates in the striking solo, which Roland Orzabal tends to perform live these days (that has not always been that way). The solo washes over and gives us the final impression of the concert by my favorite band ever.
What is held dear:
So I had the chance to experience Tears For Fears live. Besides from Metallica, who I saw in 1988 in Budapest (behind the Iron Curtain), this was the most important concert of my life. Some might say: It’s just music! Yes… and no. Music can be so much: it can accompany you in your life, it can console you, it can be the trigger for happiness or frenzy and for me, this concert was not way to look back to my youth. I have not seen it as some sort of glorification of the events that transpired over 30 years ago, no.
To see Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith perform on stage was a real, inner need, which was created by deepest respect to their artistic creations as well as their talent to write this unique music, to give it a sound and to perform it live.
Thank you so much for this.
Many thanks to Moritz Seipke for the translation into English