NAle Finn spent most of his life on stage, but he was the first to admit that his “jumping” between songs was a bit rusty. He stops in the middle of an anecdote about how he spent the previous day cycling Adelaideperhaps feeling it’s one dad’s joke too far – even for the demographic mix of the Crowded House show in 2022.
“That’s a great story, isn’t it, Liam?” He says, looking at his eldest son on the right.
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” Liam replies cheerfully. “It’s the first night and that’s it.”
It’s been ten years since Fina’s branded band last toured Australia, and almost three years since his last lap around the country as an unexpected new Fleetwood Mac member. And although there has been a recent leak in the Crowded House, it is different from the turbulent revolving doors of another Finn band.
This incarnation of the band, which he founded with bassist Nick Seymour and the late Paul Hester in 1986, may technically be a new lineup, but they are all familiar faces. Finally set off after the reunion shortly before the pandemic, Finn and Kilt Seymour now officially join Neil’s sons – Liam on guitar and vocals and Elroy on drums – while Mitchell Froome, the American producer who cut most of the band early, thorough work, sitting back on the keys.
For the two younger ones, this band has their DNA. At the opening of the song Weather With You, Liam’s indelible Finnish voice is easily inserted next to his father’s voice, singing the harmony laid down by his Uncle Tim during the band’s first family crossover in 1991. At Pineapple Head in 1993, they play daddy sings lyrics, partly inspired by the chaotic wanderings of young feverish Liam.
Liam and Elroy are no longer children, but experienced performers in their own right – and at 38, Liam is now the same age as his father when the band first said goodbye to the world in 1996. Maintaining his brother’s steady rhythm, he is confident: he reverently gives away these instantly recognizable melodies of a 12-string guitar – and adds a few of his own chaotic flurries.
Several Seymour songs admit that he was “a little bloated”, contracted Covid about six weeks ago and still feels it in his lungs. He doesn’t need to worry; it is a crowded home in every sense, and the almost roomy entertainment center of Adelaide sings along with the fun. A grinning Neil warms to the sound of several thousand people speaking to him in response, and on hits like Fall At Your Feet and Something So Strong, he can’t help but continue the song, inviting us to sing along with everyone else the band finished. He even appears in the chorus of his 1980 hit Split Enz I Got You and The Kinks “Sunny Afternoon”.
After such a stormy reaction to the classics, generous portions of new material from the band’s recently released seventh album Dreamers are waiting inevitably donate some of the energy in the room. While songs like Playing With Fire and Defiant Whatever You Want bring some eared hooks and familiar, dreamy quality, they’re unlikely to break the tracklist of the next compilation of Greatest Hits – but it’s hardly their fault that in they haven’t had decades to grow on us. But so far they are showing us the group for a purpose other than revisiting the former glory.
To make up for the drop in crowdsourcing backing vocals, Neil invites Middle Kids openers to the stage for a few songs, telling the audience that this is one of the few places where these tour participants can hang themselves. “We can’t mix behind the scenes – all this shit with bubbles,” Neil says. When Middle Kids songwriter Hannah Joy jokes about the lack of behind-the-scenes rock ‘n’ roll antics, he argues that they’ve never been particularly “rock ‘n’ roll.” “These days it’s just skating,” he adds.
This is a band that after all these years plays with unspeakable, family fluency and great love. It’s hard to say who appreciates it more, the audience or Neil. However, for some it is a quasi-religious experience: the man next to me jumps to his feet after each song, sending his sons excited remarks, and the woman, who is in several rows from above, breaks, trying to send a piece of paper to the stage via paper airplane.
Returning to the stage was a “joyous event,” Neil says in his last words of thanks to the crowd, but it was obvious all night. This is certainly seen during their biggest hit Don’t Dream It’s Over, where the Finns and their mates start the song again, but the audience helps bring it home. When this great mournful chorus hangs in the air, Finn shines on the crowd: “Believe me when I hear you sing.”