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Dispatch from Las Vegas: Tears for Fears, new Michael Jackson slots and the arrival of Tim and Faith

Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith sounded record-perfect at their Las Vegas show last weekend. Photo: Courtesy PR Plus

Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith sounded record-perfect at their Las Vegas show last weekend. Photo: Courtesy PR Plus

Greetings from Las Vegas, where it might be 105 degrees, but still feels cooler than Atlanta.

Over the weekend, the husband and I trekked to Sunset Station Hotel & Casino in Henderson, Nev., to check out Tears for Fears, who were performing a rare U.S. date this summer. I missed the guys when they played Chastain in 2010 because I wasn’t living here yet, and since they’re one of the few ‘80s bands I’ve never seen, hitting up their live show was a priority.

The outdoor venue at Sunset Station might not have been ideal for the guys’ brand of sumptuous British pop, but TFF still sounded record-perfect.

Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith both joked about the excessive heat, with the chattier Orzabal smiling that the last time he was someplace that hot, he was wearing a small towel around his waist, while Smith wryly noted that the band is always asked to play Vegas in the summer. “How about a winter date?” he asked no one in particular, though everyone in the crowd had to agree it sounded like a good plan.

The band’s almost 90-minute set touched on all of the expected songs, starting with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and journeying through all of the usuals that you hear on SiriusXM’s 1st Wave channel – “Pale Shelter,” “Change” and the original “Mad World.” Yeah, Adam Lambert’s soulful rendition is stirring, but it’s hard to top the ominous synthesizers that punctuate the original.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that Orzabal’s high range is completely undiminished, and blended beautifully with Smith’s smooth vocals. The duo — joined by backup vocalist Carina Round, and three musicians on drums, lead guitar and keyboards – also looked nearly the same as they did during their MTV years.

The show was also a striking reminder of how much TFF owes to The Beatles; the bouncy “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending” includes a familiar-sounding alarm clock that prefaces Orzabal’s command to “Wake up!”, while the mellifluous “Secret World” even offered a snippet of Paul McCartney’s “Let ‘Em In.”

But aping The Beatles is certainly nothing to be ashamed of when it’s presented so expertly by Orzabal, Smith and Co.

While the set included the not-heard-enough “Advice for the Young at Heart” and “Floating Down the River,” which many in the crowd of a couple thousand seemed to appreciate hearing, the highlights for a typical casino audience (i.e., those checking out the band because they were comped tickets or happen to be staying at the casino’s hotel) came toward the end of the show with a punchy “Break It Down Again” and the requisite sing-along of the beautifully glossy “Head Over Heels.”

Right now, TFF doesn’t have any other U.S. dates planned — they head to the Philippines and Japan the rest of August – but they’d be a great candidate for next year’s “retro” slot at Music Midtown.

Also of musical note in Las Vegas:

  • The Venetian has opened the Bourbon Room in preparation for the December arrival of “Rock of Ages.” The super-slick bar features a wall of high-def video screens that play ‘80s hair band videos all day and night (from 2 p.m.-4 a.m., actually). Though I was thrilled to see/hear David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose” the first time, by the time I saw/heard it for the third time in a five hour period, I was a little tired of those “bright lights and your city lights.” I also felt sorry for the older folks playing video poker near me who could not have been thrilled with the exceedingly loud sounds coming from the nearby bar. I’ll never complain about a Firehouse or White Lion video, but I’m guessing some might.
MJ is immortalized in slot form. Photo: Courtesy Bally Slots

MJ is immortalized in slot form. Photo: Courtesy Bally Slots

  • A couple of new slot machines are on the floor at several casinosMichael Jackson’s “King of Pop” and Elvis’ “The King.” This is the first time Jackson has been immortalized in slot form, joining a select group including Elvis (obviously), Frank Sinatra (I recall playing that one years ago, but it’s long disappeared) and, for whatever reason, The Monkees. While playing the Jackson slot, the ominous music (vocal free) of “Dirty Diana” plays in the background, unless a video of Michael from “Bad” or “Beat It” appears randomly on screen to award various freebies. The new Elvis, meanwhile, offers quotes from Presley scrolled across the top of the screen and bonus rounds with names such as “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”

I wish I had more luck on either to tell you more.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

4 comments Add your comment

Pamila Paynes

August 7th, 2012
6:24 pm

Toledo Dan

August 8th, 2012
3:01 pm

Good report. Is this your first trip to Las Vegas?

Melissa Ruggieri

August 9th, 2012
10:54 am

Toledo Dan – Maybe once or twice or…50 or so times. Go Mud Hens!

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