Earlier this month, I experienced a surreal evening at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. Sure, you say, pretty much any night inside what used to be one of the hippest hotels on the Sunset Strip might be described as surreal, but bear with me.
The less-hair-having half of former chart-topping English duo Tears for Fears, Curt Smith, played two sets of music inside the lobby of the Standard -- free. Oblivious guests walked by on their way to the pool, unaware of the pedigree of the English guy singing nearby. Fewer than 40 fans were in attendance (the room itself, the hotel’s wicker-furniture-laden Cactus Lounge, holds just about the same number). Smith has been in residency at the Standard for a few weeks now, performing every Wednesday, and hotel reps recently announced that they are extending the run all through March.
"I'm doing the residency because I enjoy performing," said Smith via e-mail earlier this week. "It's intentionally an intimate show, in keeping with the nature of my solo record. Not having a cover charge means that people who only know me from Tears for Fears and aren't familiar with my solo work might take a chance and check it out."
Fans drove in from as far as Azusa to see Smith the night I was there, hoping no doubt to hear a little "Head Over Heels" or perhaps even "Mad World." And Smith, though oddly shy for a man who has performed in front of countless fans during the course of his career, was happy to oblige. He sang "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" in a semi-acoustic setting (with Doug Petty on keyboards and Charlton Pettus handling guitar/backing vocals duty), and performed songs such as “Aeroplane” from his solo record of the same name.
"My daughters prefer Tears for Fears songs as they're more upbeat and generic," Smith said. "Dad's songs are 'a little too sad' for them, which just means that they're harder to understand."
What's not hard to understand is Smith's enduring appeal for his small but devoted fan base. Tears for Fears remain a criminally underrated band that you seldom hear about these days from the current crop of British bands, acts that were clearly influenced by them (we're looking in your general direction, Coldplay).