Here are my impressions.
It was a truly excellent concert. We wormed our way as close to the stage as possible, and had just two people and five feet of stage between us and Neil Finn. Probably the closest I’ve ever been outside some of those tiny bars and coffee houses I’ve seen bands perform at. The brothers Finn were using a rather non-traditional stage set-up. They were seated at the front of the stage with a bass player behind them. In addition to manning the acoustic guitar all night, Tim Finn had a bass drum in front of his right foot and an upright snare near his left foot. Oh, and he had to alternate between harmonizing and lead vocals all night. I can’t play one instrument or carry a tune. He managed to play three instruments and sing at the same time. If I hadn’t enjoyed the show so much, I would have realized I really suck.
Anyway, like I said, the show was fantastic. They did a nice job of focusing in Finn Brothers material while still giving Crowded House and Split Enz songs some love. They even threw in a cover of Van Morrison’s “Irish Heartbeat”. Despite the lack of a drummer or a full-time keyboardist (Neil slid back to an electric piano for some songs), it was actually a fully electric and loud show. Where songs are glorious, deep, and layered on their albums, in this live setting they had a hard edge to them. Even some of their happy-go-lucky songs got nasty guitar treatments from Neil. I was in awe of his guitar playing ability. It seemed as though he used a completely different style on each song, alternating between three different electric guitars, a couple traditional acoustics, and one 12 string guitar.
The crowd was rather subdued in a typical respectful, Midwestern manner. There wasn’t a lot of singing or dancing, outside of the big songs everyone knew. Mostly warm, polite, friendly feedback from the crowd throughout the night. Oh, and there were clearly some people there that discovered either Split Enz or Crowded House in the late 70s, early 80s when they were my current age. The Finn Brothers are known for their between song banter, and in Tuesday’s performance they shared past experiences in Indy (Neil had been there, Tim had not), quizzed the crowd on what key is better; D or E-Flat; and fielded requests. One intrepid fan tossed a paper airplane towards Neil early in the night with what appeared to be dozens of songs scribbled onto it. He opened it, laughed, and said, “We’ll probably get to a few of these tonight.” Like all good music geeks, I had a list of songs I wanted to hear. Five in fact, since I didn’t know how many non-Tim CH songs they would play and I wanted to cover my bases. They didn’t play a single one, yet I didn’t go home disappointed.
Highlights of the night were the Jack White-like treatment of “Won’t Give In,” which Neil gave an interesting half country, half garage feel on his guitar; “Weather With You” which turned into a sing-along; the classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over” which got an interesting and pleasing new treatment, and the night’s closer “I See Red” in which Tim jumped off the chair he had been perched upon all night and despite being 52, launched into his manic stage style that made the Splitz so popular back in the day.
I could go on and on about other things that happened over the hour and 45 minutes they played. I would have loved another encore with a couple more songs, but I can’t complain about anything I heard. It was amazing to see how easily the brothers adjust and find each other mid-song when their eyes are closed or they’re looking away. They certainly proved that they have the rare combination of insane raw musical talent, the ability to write songs that touch people, and the charisma to make every show interesting and engaging.
There was an opening act, a woman named Bic Bunga, who like the Finns, is from New Zealand. This was her first night on the tour, and she performed by herself with only a guitar. We talked about how difficult it must be to be any opening act. But to have to face a crowd in a small club with no one else on stage to support you has to be daunting. To be opening for the biggest musical act that’s ever come from your homeland can’t help. (Fun Split Enz fact: Their album True Colours sold what was equivalent of one copy for every ten Australian homes. I’m no math major, but to have an American band do that same amount of sales in proportion to the US population you would be talking about a shitload of records.)
Finally, S. thinks I should grow my hair out like Tim Finn’s. I informed her I didn’t think my hair could do what his does. I will say this, though: If I was 52, touring full-time, and had grey hair, I wouldn’t mind going with Tim’s look. I’ll try to figure out how to post a picture of Tim’s locks.
The Finn Brothers promised a large venue tour of the States in the summer. Be watching for them.