Perth Concert Hall
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Neil Finn was last seen ‘round our way in January helping locals Pond haul their amps off stage at Southbound and is currently doing a victory lap of theatres and halls on the back of his very good indeed new album Dizzy Heights. There must be a great deal of head scratching when it comes to picking a set list. If songwriting comes easy to the younger Finn, there lies a greater challenge picking which songs to perform from a close to 40 year career.
A relative unknown in this country, Nebraskan singer-songwriter Joshua James played a 30 minute opening set featuring highlights from his previous four studio albums. Accompanied by long time accomplice Evan Coulombe, the duo immediately warmed to the audience with their folk tinged country songs. A touching version of the George Jones standard “Choices” closed out their brief set in sublime fashion.
Opening with two tracks from the album Dizzy Heights, Impressions and Better Than TV, Neil and his newly minted six piece band (half of whom look fresh out of high school) proceeded to dip into every corner of his catalogue over the next two hours. Split Enz were represented early with One Step Ahead. A Countdown favourite for many in the crowd and a song which has stood the test of time greater than other new wave hits from that era. Following swiftly with Distant Sun from Crowded House’s acknowledged masterpiece Together Alone and Only Talking Sense from the Finn Brothers’ ‘95 Finn record, it becomes clear this show is running like a veritable lucky dip of classics, new songs and left field oddities. Older numbers were often reinterpreted while cuts from his Pajama Club project with wife Sharon Finn (who also supplied bass tonight) sat comfortably. A solo at piano selection mid show saw I Feel Possessed, Don’t Dream It’s Over and a gorgeous reading of Message To My Girl get the bare bones treatment they deserve.
This tour clearly wasn’t intended to be a nostalgic trip down memory lane but a celebration of a catalogue that has soundtracked many experiences and, along the way, inspired new ones. Sinner and She Will Have Her Way (both from Try Whistling This) took on a new life under the psychedelic backdrop (courtesy Enz cohort Noel Crombie) with the band visibly excited to be in the presence of such strong material. Locked Out drew the main set to a rollicking close before the inevitable first encore gave us a faithful Weather With You, a superb run through title track Dizzy Heights and certified classic I Got You. The latter track sent the crowd into a frenzy (albeit a seated one) and inspired a further encore which resulted in a rare and touching solo airing of Love This Life and an audience participated Better Be Home Soon.
Under his own moniker Neil Finn is free to choose what he plays and how he plays it. At 55 he is making music many half his age would be envious of. If tonight’s show is any indication, Finn’s next move will likely be unexpected and no doubt melodic and graceful.
STUART LOASBY | Photo: Rachel Barrett