“The fun part of the first week to two weeks of touring is, you may not have got it right,” he tells Billboard’s Behind the Setlist podcast. “And you may want to change things for the first bunch of shows. So until you get in front of an audience, you don’t know 100% what’s going to work.”
Smith and bandmate Roland Orzabal first hit the charts in the U.K. in 1982 with “Mad World.” For a time, the band performed the song to sound like the darker Gary Jules and Michael Andrews version that was featured on the soundtrack to the film Donnie Darko in 2001. They have also performed the song acoustically and with a full choir.
“To me, it’s the strength of a song that allows it to be done in many different ways,” says Smith. “If the song doesn’t fall flat, then obviously the song itself is the strength, it’s not necessarily the recording.” To his point, “Mad World” has been covered by Adam Lambert, Kelly Clarkson, Pentatonix, Susan Boyle, Brandi Carlile and Demi Lovato.
These days, fans will hear the 1982 version of “Mad World” at concerts. “We’ve gone back to the original now, because I think people aren’t familiar enough with the original. Some people even might thing that song is a Gary Jules/Michael Andrews song. We have had people when we played ‘Memories Fade’ from The Hurting come up and think, ‘That was cool you did a Kanye song.’ So, you know, it’s always good to play the original.”
Smith and Orzabal have an embarrassment of material to work with on their current U.S. tour and a U.K. tour that begins in July. “Change,” “Pale Shelter” and “Suffer the Children” are setlist standards. So are “Break It Down Again” from 1993’s Elemental and two songs from 1989’s The Seeds of Love: “Woman in Chains” and “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” Fans will also hear the band’s hits from the group’s 1985 smash album Songs From the Big Chair: “Shout,” “Head Over Heels/Broken” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”