It is rare to attend a show where all three acts could very well be the headliner. Yet, this is exactly what we got to witness at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena when the impressive line up of Allen Stone, Tears For Fears, and Hall & Oates rocked the massive basketball venue to near capacity. The generational fan and the college student alike were drawn in by the three diverse acts who all have their own cult following. It was a special night in Cleveland that will not be soon forgotten.
Stone opened up his criminally short three-song set with a classic cover of “I Say A Little Prayer” from the godmother of soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Abandoning a full band, he stood alone behind a rose covered microphone stand. Mixing layers of looping with his own brand of flawless blues, the crowd responded warmly as they shuffled to their seats. “This is a night of two firsts for me” explained Stone. “This the largest crowd I have ever played in front of and the most nervous I have ever been without blacking out.” This only further endeared him to us. By the end of his third song, he was sure to have won over a few thousand more fans.
It is of my belief, as well as the belief of many in attendance that night, that Tears For Fears are criminally under appreciated. Seeing them in person only solidified this conviction. The band was preluded by an industrial cover of their timeless “Everybody Wants to Rule The World” while the band took the stage casually and amidst a roaring ovation. It took no time at all for those in attendance to sing, dance, and clap along to every nostalgic beat. Running through a few popular numbers, Curt Smith then slowly pealed back his guitar to do a rendition of “Mad World” that only the duo can execute. It was a performance of industrial pop that showed their grasp of genre as well as how layered their sound is. This was shown true in their interesting cover of “Creep” which delighted the crowd and was bookended by Roland Orzabal’s career anecdotes. It was the perfect song for the duo from another era. The lyrics are bleak and have the same style of soaring declarations that make for hit songs. As I was ushered through the forbidden tunnels of the arena to set up for the headliner, the closer “Shout” burst out after a five-minute musical build up. It was a testament of their transcendent sound to see security guards of all ages and backgrounds mumbling the chorus while we passed each other.
The show could have ended there and I am sure the crowd would have found the exits in jubilation, but there was still one best selling duo to come. The music of Hall & Oates has a strange ability of being able to build bridges while making even the most hardened of audience members smile. From my position on the floor I could see neatly put together middle aged couples dancing with beer wielding frat brothers and everything in-between. Opening tune “Family Man” came complete with dueling electric guitars and set the stage for the hit heavy setlist to follow. Waving hands and giant sing alongs accompanied “Maneater” and “Out of Touch”. It is a true art form to write songs that are so catchy, even those who fail to care about your sound are still able to spit back every lyric and guitar solo. Hall & Oates are a national treasure, which will only become more revered as new generations continue to discover and appreciate their style of pop goodness. Their set was by far the longest and somehow it still didn’t feel quite long enough. They gave the city of rock and roll something special that evening and will continue to be on tour across the states. If you get the chance, make sure to relive your younger years or discover what you missed by being born too late. You are definitely not going to regret it.