Finn funnishes intimate show on a high|
By JO ROBERTS
Friday 22 June 2001
Review: Neil Finn
The Forum, June 19
It was the least we could do. For all the years of music Neil Finn has given us, first in Split Enz, then Crowded House and now as a solo artist, here was our chance to perform for him. In a moment that encapsulated the mood of Finn's sold-out show at the Forum on Tuesday night, about halfway through the set, Finn and band played the Crowded House hit, Something So Strong. Finn didn't have to sing a word. The entire Forum was doing it for him, every word, in remarkably good tune. It was magic. It was intimate, it was funny. And above all, reverential.
That was Neil Finn, playing the Forum as if it was his lounge room. And the privilege was ours.
The crowd had been warmed up before Finn by a stellar set from Melbourne band Even, and a curious, but engaging, short solo set, much in the spirit of Johnathan Richman, by an American called Golden Boy, who entertained the crowd with some delightfully whimsical tunes on cheesy keyboard and guitar.
He was joined at one point by a couple of members of Finn's band, including Finn himself, hiding in the shadows on the drum kit.
Golden Boy, aka Shaun Sullivan, appeared again a short time later as the guitarist for Finn's all-American band, which boasted some impressive talent, including Lisa Germano, formerly of John Cougar Mellencamp's band (Germano also played on Finn's latest album, One Nil, on keys, guitar, ukulele and backing vocals), and Sebastian Steinberg, of the now-defunct Soul Coughing, on stand-up and electric bass. It was such a great band, you almost - almost - didn't mind that only New Zealanders got to see Finn's recent one-off support band that boasted Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr and two Radioheads, a combo that offered fair indication of the high regard Finn is held in the world over. As this one also did.
The enviable dilemma of not having one, but two, great previous bands' material to draw from, as well as his own impressive solo catalogue, was met with ease by Finn, striking a great balance between old and new. He began proceedings on a high note with Now We're Getting Somewhere, then, almost seemingly on a whim, launched into Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, which Finn also played on his previous tour. The singles from One Nil were ignored, Finn admitting in an interview on Triple R the following day that he'd simply forgotten to play Taking the Rest of the Day Off and Don't Ask Why. But in the bigger picture, it didn't matter. We got to hear Wherever You Are, Driving Me Mad and Turn and Run from One Nil. Even better, we got to hear One Step Ahead, I Got You (what a song) and the beautiful-beyond-words, Private Universe.
What often doesn't come across in Finn's recorded work is his keen sense of humor. On Tuesday night, he offered it in spades, in some endearing onstage banter between his band members and the audience. At one point, he tried to hush the crowd before one song. "Don't shoosh me," shouted one good-natured renegade in a deeply threatening voice. Finn laughed, retorting with equal threat, "I'll take on any man in Melbourne," adding, a well-timed pause later, "by e-mail". Lists of requests were handed up to the stage. Finn laughed at the fact someone had been organised enough to make copies of one list, handing the original and duplicate up to the stage.
No one could have been dissatisfied with his choice of material. And to end his two-encore show with Don't Dream It's Over, prefacing it with the comment, "It's a good finisher - it always was", the night was indeed finished. Or, as the New Zealander (who's good-humored enough to call his website Nilfun) might say, the night was funnished. And good fun was had by all.