Neil & Liam Finn: Chevron Gardens, February 15, 2018 (Pic: Matsu Photography)
It’s fucking hot tonight! And I’ve got a cable tie sticking in the back of my neck. Don’t ask. Got buzzed by a screaming banshee helicopter on the way into the venue. What has become of this city of mine? I’m feeling anxious. That’s good right? I’ll tell you after the show.
The lights go down. That’s better.
When did the Fender Jaguar become so popular with members of a certain kind of band? Johnny Marr’s got a lot to answer for. But in a good way, because there’s nothing wrong with the janglefuzz and female/male vocal fronts of The Money War. And don’t forget the sort of slide guitar scientifically proven to break hearts. They’ve got it and they brought it tonight in a tight set packed with melody, yearning and reverb-drenched whimsy. A well deserved support spot on the big stage for this Perth outfit. Cheers, Johnny!
A bit over 10 years ago I also was feeling anxious. Not because I was being buzzed by a helicopter. Back then I was hoping to smuggle my not-quite-18-first-and-only in to see Crowded House on a borrowed ID. He just had to go and I just had to get him there. Long story short, we cherish the memory of that night and always will. Finn brought us to the show; Finn and his collaborators in the House burnished our memories with their music. It was a brilliant night. A father-son thing. Cheers understanding security person. ‘That’s not him.’ ‘Yes, it is, he’s just had a haircut.’ The audacity of it!
It’s a father-son thing tonight, he’s with me again, no fake ID required this time. And it’s a father-son thing on stage, too: Neil & Liam Finn. We’re ready. Hope they are.
Finn the elder sauntered on stage wearing a jacket, sleeves, everything. It’s still 40 degrees, even more, maybe. More audacity! And then broke into the opening chimes of Distant Sun. It was on.
‘It’s a pleasure to be here with my father’, Liam told the sell-out crowd a few songs in, and father son banter ensued. For the uninitiated, we learned that Finn the younger is a father, too. ‘I’m the Papa, you’re the Daddy,’ retorted Neil. Few other performers could have held the audience through such an extended family love-in on stage. We were here for the songs, but the love was a well-received bonus that helped make the music crackle across tropical air.
And, of course, the audience couldn’t help but join in. ‘I love you, Neil,’ called out one heart-struck, I’m going to say, middle-aged woman. ‘Thank you for letting me know in such a private setting,’ was Neil’s cheeky response.
Then, back into the music.
And, what a catalogue. We shared in the old and the new, through a career-spanning, two-hour set that showcased the songwriting and performance chops of both Finns individually, as well as their collaborations.
Chameleon Days from Neil Finn’s latest long player, Out Of Silence, saw Liam shift from bass to drums, while Neil gave us his distinctive falsetto. Slip into Where’s My Room and Liam’s now doing the full Animal behind the drum kit, throwing shapes while Neil holds down the melody and the keyboard-driven grooves. What we’re learning is that Liam is every bit the performer and musician his Papa is and the new stuff is the equal of the old stuff.
Right then, the Finns could have taken their audience anywhere, and they knew it.
Liam: ‘Don’t worry, we’ve only got 17 more.’
Neil: ‘And they’re all bangers.’
The first of the night’s inevitable singalongs came during Fall At Your Feet. At the close of the song, Neil stood at front of stage and let the audience take it away. This is what live music is about, the sharing of energy, love, togetherness. There was a quiet comfort and familiarity on stage, and between the artists and audience. The music flowed like fine, clear honey. Next, they took us with them into their Private Universe, which saw the band stretch out to deliver an extended jam banger.
Given the vintage of some of the songs that surfaced in tonight’s set, it was a testament to their enduring that the Finns didn’t feel they needed to mess with the arrangements too much. There was plenty of spontaneity in the set, especially when Geraldine the theramin died mid-solo and couldn’t be brought back to life. The music went on while Liam rendered the kiss of life. They’re made of tough stuff these Finns; remember it’s Neil who wrote: ‘It would cause me pain / If we were to end it / But I could start again / You can depend on it’. More on that later.
The main set ended with a raucous, joyous Enz sing along with the six-piece band delivering History Never Repeats and I Got You. The encore gave us six more songs beginning with the anthemic strains of Together and Liam’s Cold Feet and Fire in Your Belly. Then, the band stepped back to give Neil the spotlight at his keyboard to the right of stage, drawing us closer with a cover of The Shirelles’ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, reinterpreted as a piano ballad, that segued into Better Be Home Soon, Neil still at the keyboard, accompanied only by the unison voices of the crowd.
We’d have been satisfied if it all ended there, but the band had one more trick up their sleeves. We got a cover of The Beatle’s I’ve Got A Feeling, before Neil finished us off by conducting the massed choir in a refrain of Better Be Home Soon.
We smiled, we sang along, joined in the loved up banter. We bonded and the Finns burnished some more beautiful memories for us. The Finns are always worth the anxiety, the trouble it takes to get to their shows.
Cheers Neil and Liam! See you in another 10? We’re up for it.
And Neil never took off his jacket all night.