By Daniel Rodda
Artist: Neil Finn
Date / Venue: Tuesday October 13th, 2015 - Opera House, Wellington
It was a last minute call, late in the day... "Hello?"
"Hey Danny, it's Alex (photographer) I need a reviewer for tonight's Neil Finn show in Wellington, are you free?"
A moment's pause...
"Well I'm not really a fan of his music, but sure, why not!"
Wait, back it up a little... Yes, that's right, I'm not a fan, which I realise is almost blasphemous in this country, but why should that get in the way of things, and I never said I didn't like his music. I'm a musician and there's no denying that the Finn brothers have left an indelible mark on the Kiwi music landscape, influencing and informing our musical sensibilities whether we've realised it or not. And for me it was always Neil's melodies and phrasing which I found more accessible and enjoyable.
And so it was, that I found myself venturing forth, on a blustery, mildly chilly, Wellington night, to the Opera House to see Neil's show. No matter how many times I do it, I still find more than a small thrill in turning up to an event as a ‘guest' and collecting my door list tickets, experiencing a brief moments rush of being a ‘VIP'.
As Alex and I settled in to our position beside the sound desk, I surveyed the audience, an eclectic mix, mostly late middle age and above, but with a reassuring number of younger faces, showing the wide and all encompassing appeal that Neil has developed.
First up for the evenings listening pleasure was a short set from Liam Finn, dressed like a slightly misplaced circus ringmaster, looking almost lost and slightly out of place.
I've never understood Liam's appeal. To me his songs have a dreary quality, often delving into a maudlin and grey depressive drone, which I just can't bring myself to enjoy. And despite this I've always felt mildly embarrassed that I don't like Liam's music as much as I feel I should, although I've always been impressed by his ability to create complex sonic architecture, and delicate aural landscapes with his guitars and effects.
As the lights dimmed for the second act, someone yelled ‘I love you Neil", which elicited a healthy chuckle from the audience, and then it was Neil's turn at the mic. The moment he stepped on stage he was met with warm and genuine applause, and in complete juxtaposition to Liam, from that first moment without even having spoken, Neil was engaged and pulling us into his world, welcoming us like old friends returning to a familiar destination. It must be hard with such an extensive back catalogue, to pick a set list, but tonight's mix of classics, hits, and personal favourites worked well and the audience certainly appreciated them all.
3 songs in and the inevitable genius who has chosen to come to a game of wits whilst only possessing half the requisite equipment, decided to join the show by yelling incoherent monosyllabic nonsense, which Neil handled with a genial banter and charming wit.
After an all too brief solo set, it was time for the ensemble to make its' appearance. Liam joining his father onstage in the role of rhythm guitarist, creating those beautiful and complex soundscapes which he does do so well, his voice a perfect counterpoint to his father, and looking exceedingly comfortable in this niche which I think suits him much better.
The band were well rehearsed, and genuinely at ease with one another, delivering a tight, smooth, and vibrant performance.
The advent of the Smart Phone has been the bane of performers and producers the world over, and it was disappointing to see people who would rather attempt to view the stage through the screen of their device as they film the show, than just enjoy the moment, and allow themselves to connect with the music...
The highlights of the night for me were Message To My Girl, and Fall At Your Feet, which were delivered with Neil accompanying himself on a baby grand piano, his often-delicate vocals belying a subtle power and depth.
As I strolled along Courtney Place and started to think about what I would write, I realised that, just maybe, I actually am a fan, after all.
Thank You Neil!
Only Talking Sense
Spirit Of The Stairs
Fall At Your Feet
Last Day Of June
Help Is Coming
Better Than TV
In My Blood
I Got You