If a rock and roll sportsbook existed, the betting odds would have been long that headliner Tears for Fears and opener Garbage would include the same song at the same point in their respective sets on June 24.
But that unlikely coincidence did indeed occur at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel. After three songs, both bands broke from their regularly scheduled programming to lead crowd-supported renditions of “Happy Birthday” in honor of Tears for Fears singer Curt Smith, who was marking his 61st.
Other personal moments took place onstage — most notably commentary from soft-spoken Smith and outspoken Garbage singer Shirley Manson on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade that day — but signature songs ruled the night, in more ways than one.
For Garbage, that meant “Stupid Girl,” “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Special,” along with the band’s James Bond theme, “The World Is Not Enough,” and portions of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” (Choice material from the latest Garbage album, 2021’s No Gods No Masters, fit in well, too.)
Tears for Fears sneaked in a bit of Wings’ “Let ’Em In” during “Secret World,” a deep cut from 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending and their fourth song of the night. It was preceded by two tracks from this year’s The Tipping Point (a welcome addition to their catalog) and their first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Smith and fellow singer Roland Orzabal (who with his gray beard and long hair could pass for Dave Grohl’s older brother) touched on all periods of the band’s career, including the 1990s stretch when TFF was just Orzabal, and that was represented by the well-received “Break It Down Again.”
Both bands benefited from crisp, clear sound (never a given at this venue), and the clarity was especially noticeable on the 40-year-old, Smith-fronted “Mad World.” Like many of the best Tears for Fears songs, it is deceptively complex lyrically and musically yet relatable, still retaining its appeal decades later.
The Tears for Fears/Garbage U.S. tour wraps June 25 in Wantagh, New York, after which Orzabal and Smith will begin a stretch of U.K. dates July 1 with Alison Moyet as their opener.