25 Sep 2021
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Gig Review: Crowded House @ Claudelands Arena, Hamilton - 23/03/2021

24 Mar 2021 // A review by Brendan McCarthy
The Crowded House To The Island tour strolled into Hamilton last night and took a seat at Claudelands Arena. A strong crowd of 4000 fans, comfortably arranged in a theatre style setting waited patiently for this long overdue performance from our favourite sons. Given the early start time of 8:30pm, the fact that it’s a school night and the vast majority in attendance being fifty-somethings, the atmosphere is cultured.


Right on time the darkness is extinguished with a punch of vibrant colour and the air is instantly filled with the familiar jangle from the opening sequence of Weather With You. Straight down to the business of entertainment the band are here to sing and encourage the audience to do the same. Liam Finn now expertly delivers the signature high harmony in this song, normally sung by Tim Finn.

The Finn family legend is in safe hands.

Neil greets the crowd explaining that this is his first time playing Claudelands and pays respect to the currently closed Founders Theatre. “It’s great to be back in the Waikato”, he exclaims and then expertly steers the conversation around to the fact that he is a local. This is a perfect introduction to the next track Mean To Me where he pauses with perfect timing and great applause at the line “and the sound of Te Awamutu had a truly sacred ring”.

With the crowd settled in, it's time for the band to get down to business. Crowded House business. A business that is now well established and thus has considerable catalogue on offer.

Drawing on the full range of albums Neil progresses the set through well-known tracks; World Where You Live, Fall At Your Feet, When You Come, Whispers and Moans and Pineapple Head. I did wonder if Liam might sing the line “For pleasure the pineapple head” given that he is credited on record as having been lyrically inspirational when Neil wrote the song and that this could be an opportunity for the inspirer to become the deliverer. It was not to be.

Interweaved into the show were new songs Whatever You Want and the tours theme song To The Island. Both tracks fitting nicely into the Crowded House sound given that they are the new kids on the block and surrounded by so many legacy tunes.

The line-up for this tour includes founding member Nick Seymour on bass and associated producer Mitchell Froom on keyboards plus both Neil’s sons, Liam Finn on guitar and Elroy Finn on drums.

Given the roles the younger Finns are fulfilling or indeed the shoes they are being asked to fill, (Mark Hart and Paul Hester) one may conclude that a herculean task is at hand. It’s one thing to be asked to be session musicians in arguably New Zealand’s greatest band but the addition of the relational expectation must indeed be a challenge. However, Elroy dispatched a performance on the Drums that sat perfectly in my mind with the requirements of so many great songs and Liam brought both the 'Rock Star' attitude and humble excellence in his guitar playing.

Back to the set

Crowded House have the ability to take us on a musical journey with so many different styles of songs on offer. The band executed a period of ambient tones with crowd favourites Private Universe, Four Seasons In One Day, Silent House and Nails In My Feet visually accompanied by a flying stage set of large overhead moving props and video screens providing a totally modern concert experience.

With the quieter acoustic period of the show delivered, it's time for the home straight.

Neil strapped on his electric guitar and played the chords that made him world-renowned. We have all heard Don’t Dream It's Over hundreds of times but there is nothing like hearing Neil strum it live. The song still encompasses Crowded House and everything that makes them great. Neil extends the last chorus backed by just guitar so we can all stand and sing. This is what live music is about. Lost in a shared musical moment. Goosebumps.

Followed by crowd sung versions of Something So Strong and 7 Worlds Collide, the band left the stage while the production crew set up an upright piano centre stage.

The lights returned with Neil seated at the piano and he led the band through Chocolate Cake and an upstanding rendition of Heroes by David Bowie. Neil takes the opportunity to grab the microphone and traverse the front rows for the last few choruses proving that there is still plenty of gas left in the tank for this aging master.

With the piano packed away, the final singalong is upon us and Neil proclaims, “It’s time for the inevitable”.

Better Be Home Soon is the perfect track to send us all on our way.

Crowded House command legendary status in New Zealand music and they deserve it. Neil is an outstanding songwriter who has proven throughout his career that he can consistently deliver new music from the heart that resonates with people. The band has always been excellent and reproduce their studio sound with ease in a live setting.

The current live show is world class and the band has a ton of energy on offer.

How lucky we are to have Crowded House in New Zealand.


Photos courtesy of Ngamihi Pawa

 

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