Tears for Fears

The Tears for Fears show at Lisner Auditorium on Tuesday should have been more fun.

But frontman Roland Orzabal showed no glee while performing in front of a loyal, fervent and near-capacity crowd so many years after his franchise's commercial viability had expired. He rarely smiled or spoke. An arch reference to the new "Everybody Loves a Happy Ending," the duo's first record in nine years -- "We're extremely prolific," Orzabal said -- was his only attempt to bond with the flock.

Curt Smith (who fills the Andrew Ridgely role, to Orzabal's George Michael, in the Tears for Fears pecking order) was only slightly more engaging while the band went through almost all of its new release. The title tune shows more of the influence of Wings than the Beatles. "Call Me Mellow" recalled Squeeze, though with more whimsy and production.

But the crowd came determined to, well, party like it's 1989. And whenever the Tears boys cued a golden oldie, despite the stars' lackluster 'tude, that's exactly what the fans did. "Everybody Wants to Rule the World," which holds up surprisingly well for such a synth-saturated song, and "Mad World," a tune that was remade for the film "Donnie Darko," had gaggles of late-thirty-somethings gathering in the aisles and in the back of the theater to dance. The almost 1,500 fans couldn't help but wave their arms toward the sky while "Sowing the Seeds of Love" was coming from the stage.

During the encore, the audience politely stood through "Last Days on Earth," a humdrum tune from the new CD, before a smashing and show-closing rendition of "Shout," the megahit from 1985 that was responsible for the presence of probably half the fans. Based on this sampling, it's true that everybody loves a happy ending.

-- Dave McKenna

Keith Urban

Keith Urban's music is played on country stations, where he has built a sizable female audience and garnered not just massive record sales -- his new album, "Be Here," debuted on the Billboard Country Chart at No. 1 -- but also major awards.

But to be honest, the considerable talent on display Tuesday night at the Patriot Center had about as much to do with country music as does Tom Petty, whose music Urban covers. It was rock-and-roll, flat-out, and had very little relation to Urban's somewhat bland recorded output. Which was a relief.

Urban, who was born in New Zealand and became a star in Australia, specializes in plaintive ballads that have the impossibly adorable singer -- blond hair, thin build, self-deprecating humor -- singing about how he's going to treat the listener like a queen and will always be there for her. His "Your Everything" is what they call country these day. When he hit the line "I'll sleep with you forever," the largely young, female audience squealed as if at a Hilary Duff show.

But as pretty and earnest as his vocals are, Urban's real skills are as a rock guitarist. He easily switched from Telecaster to Stratocaster to acoustic guitar, blasting off blistering solos and impressive jams as his new five-piece band (he fired his previous road band last month) painted vaguely country accents into the melodies with banjo, Dobro and mandolin.

Urban would seem poised to be a crossover star. He lost his Australian accent to make it in Nashville. Perhaps he can lose the Tennessee accent to advance further into the musical mainstream.

-- Buzz McClain

Sondre Lerche

It was telling that, at his sold-out show at Iota on Tuesday night, singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche covered a song he had found on a Bing Crosby record. If there were a music category for indie crooners, the 21-year-old Norwegian would be at the top of the heap.

Lerche sang "Moonlight Becomes You" without accompaniment, making pretty work of an already pretty, if somewhat mawkish, song. That description, unfortunately, fits too much of Lerche's own material. Like other modern-day crooners -- David Gray, Jamie Cullum, even Harry Connick Jr. -- his songs are mostly slight affairs, no matter how hard they try to be otherwise.

Still, Lerche is a gifted singer and an appealing showman. His sweet and obviously heartfelt songs of relationship angst and soul-searching were easy enough to listen to, even if they fell short of being memorable or particularly poignant. Despite a cold that provided many of the evening's jokes, Lerche played a 90-minute set that was as much self-deprecating humor as it was music. He dryly introduced "Living Lounge" as a song that "unfortunately has had to live a life in the shadow of my other, more world-famous songs."

Lerche played most of the set -- and the better part -- solo, accompanying himself on electric guitar. Beginning with "Track You Down," he served up many of the songs from his two full-length albums, "Faces Down" and this year's "Two Way Monologue." There was no brighter moment than "Modern Nature," which included one of the loveliest audience singalongs in this reviewer's memory. Even Lerche seemed taken aback by the pretty harmonies coming from the crowd. "Did you rehearse? Did you all get together?" he asked, a big smile on his face.

-- Joe Heim

Keith Urban proved to be quite the guitar slinger at the Patriot Center on Tuesday.