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Live Review : Crowded House Perform Show For The History Books




Photo by Glenx Photography (@pics_at_gigs_glenxphotography)

For some reason, there's a Mariachi band called Maistrato playing at the gate here at A Day On The Green at Sirromet Wines this afternoon, as the stream of humans, literally every walk of life, excitedly find their allocated seats or choose the piece of grass they'll inhabit for the evening. And what a glorious evening! Sure, it eventually sprinkles a little, but it's not near enough to dampen our spirits even a little. There is something special permeating the air tonight, and as we'll soon witness, even our headliners Crowded House feel it too.

But first, The Waifs. Why this remarkable outfit is opening today is anyone's guess. God damn, they're good and every bit as fresh and relevant as ever, their songs effortlessly touching every inch of this enormous space with gentle grace. 'Bridal Train', 'Lighthouse' and, of course, 'London Still' evoke a time, as someone puts it, "When you didn't need to be 12 to have a hit on triple j." Really though, these songs don't miss, even by today's standards (or lack thereof), they're poignant when played by these deeply passionate and talented people.

The Teskey Brothers can't make it to this, the first of two shows here at Sirromet, so instead we're treated to Sydney outfit Boy & Bear. It's been 12 years since they covered 'Fall At Your Feet' for the Finn Brothers tribute compilation, He Will Have His Way, and made it somewhat of a hit. The band are, by all accounts, utterly chuffed to be here today, playing before their idols - they show gratitude and mention it between literally every song. As they mention, they're also free from an overseas tour and the fatigue has apparently set in. They don't show it though as they perform a rousing set which now takes in an impressive almost decade-and-a-half of being a band. Songs like "Feeding Line' and the shape-shifting 'Milk & Sticks' go down a treat, yet it's another cover, Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game' that this crowd recognises the most.

The sun has properly disappeared now and unbeknownst to us (and probably the band also) we're about to witness one heck of a Crowded House set. Of course, if they ever do have bad nights, one can't imagine anything being too wrong with one of the strongest catalogues in modern music being at their disposal. 'Distant Sun' opens the set with a fresh-faced Neil Finn, all smiles and appreciation, seeming almost a little surreal to be looking at. But then your eyes move to the rest of the band - OG Crowdie/bassist Nick Seymour (in his Angus Young-esque shorts/culottes-things), Liam Finn on guitar, Elroy Finn on drums, Mitchell Vroom on keys and everything else at the back of the stage. Only a band with a discography as strong as theirs could pull out 'It's Only Natural' and 'The World Where You Live' so early and the audience responds with loud gratitude. The latter provides an early chance for the crowd to participate and, from then, the walls are down and we're in the palm of their hands. "To think, only 10 minutes ago Nick was ironing his shirt," laughs Neil. "And Liam wasn't wearing pants and wanted to play that way." There is a LOT of love on this stage and not only between family members - Liam and Nick frequently spend time with each other on opposite sides of the stage from their own base - it could easily slip into 'Finns, etc' but it never does, every one of them appears to be as affable as the next.

Photo by Glenx Photography (@pics_at_gigs_glenxphotography)

The crowd is a little quieter for the newer cuts like 'To The Island' and 'Don't Stop', their quality isn't to be diminished, they're too new to be classics yet. It is the Dreamers Are Waiting tour after all, so the obligatory couple of songs appear mid-set. A remarkable artist in his own right, Liam takes lead vocal for 'Goodnight Everyone' and it is the strong sense of this writer that his presence and immense charisma brings somewhat of a rawness and swagger to this current line-up. With a knowing nod, the band quickly sandwich the lesser-known cuts with the likes of 'Fall At Your Feet', 'Pineapple Head' and 'When You Come'.

Towards the end of the latter song, several silhouettes gather on stage, eventually to be revealed as Maistrato, our friends from the front gate earlier in the day. Why they're here, quite randomly, is not really explained beyond what seems to be a friendship struck between the two bands overseas somewhere. The atmospheric 'Private Universe' (the best song, maybe ever, according this reviewer) is, well, enhanced somewhat by excessive mandolin from the guests.

The rain sprinkles a little for 'Four Seasons In One Day' and the ghost of dearly departed drummer Paul Hester looms over the show often, especially the likes of 'Sister Madly'. Any Crowded House fan will remember this as the song for which Hester would shift it up and bring a snare and cymbal to the front of the stage and perform as zestfully and memorably as any of the others. Elroy does this tonight, almost as an unspoken tribute, and the band even interpolate a little of Zeppelin's 'Whole Lotta Love' into the song. It's at this point though, Seymour leans over and whispers something to Neil who can be heard saying off-mic "Is it too late, though?" They're going off script, it seems, and what comes next are a pair of songs not on their printed set at their feet. Firstly, 'Locked Out', one for the '90's kids in the crowd and fans of Reality Bites, you can spot them, they're the only ones dancing. At its conclusion, Neil shrugs and says, "Alright, so we're doing this too" and the opening bars of Split Enz's 'I Got You' begin. It's almost difficult to believe until that chorus happens and suddenly you're dropped somewhere into 1980 and not at the original show you thought you were.

It appears to be a return to usual programming after these unplanned surprises and the 1-2-3 clout of 'Don't Dream It's Over', 'Mean To Me' and 'Something So Strong' - all from their debut album, no less - wind up the main set and demonstrate the undeniable and hefty songwriting force that Neil Finn was back in the day.

After a short break, Neil Finn appears alone under a single spotlight at a stand-up piano stage-left for a goose-bump inducing 'Message To My Girl', the second Split Enz for tonight. It's really nothing short of amazing, a truly masterful song with lyrical prowess and one of the finest melodies around. The piano is dragged to centre stage for 'Chocolate Cake', the opening song and lead single from 1991's Woodface that would allegedly single-handedly destroy their chances of cracking America. It's an entire barrel-of-monkeys level of fun that seamlessly flips to earnest for a cover of David Bowie's 'Heroes', another shouty sing-along anthem 'Weather With You' (and sadly no, Tim Finn didn't leap out from backstage) and finally, 'Better Be Home Soon', a song that should begin any playlist of pop perfection.

Having seen a handful of Crowded House shows over the years, we can confirm that this a memorable one for the history books. They send us away tonight, each with an open heart and at least one of the songs of tonight's set playing from it. There doesn't seem to be a lot real left out there, but here is a band, seemingly and somehow still a bit underrated, determined to present a flawless legacy. It's a privilege to be here tonight and to exist on the same planet at the same time as something so seemingly perfect.


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