Review of Crowded House live at the Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Australia, 9th July, 2007 (by DC Cardwell)

Here are a few impressions of the Crowded House gig at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne last night (9th July). This was two days after they topped the bill at the Sydney Live Earth show. It was a sort of homecoming for them, as they had been based in Melbourne for most of their career and wrote and recorded a lot of their best music here. Bassist Nick Seymour is from Melbourne, as was the late Paul Hester, their drummer, who has been replaced in the reformed band by American Matt Sherrod.

Neil Finn’s son Liam was the support act, ably assisted by E-J (Jimmy Barne’s’ daughter) on vocals. Liam was really rather brilliant and E-J did a very impressive and unflappable job of keeping up with his racket with her singing. Liam played electric guitar (an SG) and in all the songs he did that thing where you set up a loop and then play another loop over the top of it, and so on. But, the thing is, he did it all in an incredibly ingenious and seamless manner. He must have nimble feet. For those who haven’t heard him, he’s really quite a dangerous competitor to his father in both his songwriting and singing. And he was rather charming too. And, oh yes, once in a while he’s set up a heavy set of guitar loops and then sit down at a handy drumkit and skillfully beat the living daylights out of it. He said that once he’s done that all his nerves are gone and he can relax. He did a lot of widdly heavy metal guitar and said that as his dad was making him play acoustic guitar for two hours later he was going to take the chance to play some solos in his own set.

There was a very loud grand finale with him on drums, masses of guitar loops and E-J wigging out on a rather ingenious musical instrument. It’s like a theremin, but here’s the ingenious part – you actually *touch* it to play it!

Then we had a long Crowded House set, a little bit rambling in the middle where they did a few of the songs off the new album that sound like, well, rambling Neil Finn solo songs, but that was OK. I’m not the kind of person who writes down or remembers entire set lists, so I won’t do a play-by-play. There was perhaps a slight surfeit of older and newer songs, with not so many from Woodface & Together Alone.

They started out with, “Recurring Dream”, which used to be a rare B-side until it showed up on their posthumous Afterglow album. I guess the title is appropriate, but it sounded fantastic as an opener. Next up was “Mean To Me”, perhaps a more traditional opener for them.

Sounding good, although the drums were way too loud in the mix and the bass was too quiet throughout the show. (We were about 7 rows back which was about a third the way between the stage and the bar.) The poor mix gave it a rather too heavy sound in the quieter songs where the drums were really quite annoying at times. Even when Matt was playing brushes the kick drum was overshadowing the whole mix. In the loud songs the balance was more appropriate.

“Sister Madly” was, well, you missed Paul doing his out front crazy antics as he used to in this song, but it was swinging and Nick was playing well. We could actually hear him in that one because there was a segment where Neil stopped playing his guitar and it got particularly jazzy. Mark Hart‘s piano solo was stunningly authentic be-bop with a lot of altered chords on the left hand. He’s a clever chap, you know! I’ve always enjoyed Mark’s playing on keyboards AND guitars immensely and he didn’t disappoint me last night.

Liam was playing acoustic guitar and additional keyboards for most of the set, leaving Neil free to play electric. He’s filling that role until he goes off later in the year to promote his own album. I just want to say that I want his job when he vacates the position!

Introducing “Pineapple Head”, Neil mentioned that there was still a bit of an unresolved issue between Liam and him, as Liam had written half the words, but he was in a state of delirium at the time. This famously happened when Liam was a young boy and had a fever.

Neil managed to somehow stuff up the intro to “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (only their most famous song!) and then said, “let’s try it a different way, let’s see we can murder the song!” The first verse was in a kind of a 16th-note feel but actually wasn’t that much different from the original, although Neil seemed chuffed with it. Then for the second verse they went into a reggae version. Matt and Nick made for a remarkably authentic rhythm section and Mark’s Jackie Mittoo impressions on his keyboard were spot-on.

“Nails In My Feet” was good, if marred by the too-loud drums. There’s a bit of stripping down happening in a lot of the songs, perhaps a slight further modernising of the sound, which takes them further in the direction begun around the time Eddie Rayner was replaced in their live shows and the sound became less baroque and more rock. I thought that was evident in the nice tight little Beatlesque Rock-Band Live Earth set. Overall there was a lot more messing around in the set last night, but still you could tell that some songs were a little more heads-down-no-nonsense-rock-n-roll.

“Locked Out” was fab. The TA version, much as I love it, always sounded a little untogether, as if they weren’t quite, well, I was going to say locked-in, and the pun was unintended!

Neil played a LOT of keyboards. “Walking On The Spot” was a highlight for me – no mess, no fuss.

I was surprised by the huge audience reaction to the new single, “Don’t Stop Now”. I mean, I *love* it and even though it’s maybe not quite a classic song, it has all the elements that to me make a great Crowded House sound. But the mainly diehard fan audience greeted it like the old classic that they’d all been waiting to hear, which I’m sure was very encouraging for the band!

“She Called Up” was another major moment. So hugely soulful. I love the studio version, but live, with Neil sitting behind a Fender Rhodes and singing more soulfully than I’ve ever heard him, I couldn’t help thinking of Ray Charles. And the lalala bit was spine-tingling.

Of course we couldn’t help thinking of Paul, who commited suicide in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Apart from his wonderful, inventive and slightly swinging drumming style, he brought a lot to the band with his totally uninhibited sense of humour and unpredictability. Anyone who has seen him would agree that *that* part of him was unique and irreplaceable. Neil dedicated his classic “Melbourne song”, as he called it, “Four Seasons In One Day” to Paul.

Well, you know, it was always going to be a huge thrill seeing them back together again, and even more so because of the intimate setting, and they didn’t disappoint!

Here are some of the songs I remember them doing, not in order:

  • Recurring Dream
  • Mean To Me
  • World Where You Live
  • Also Sprach Zarathustra (played with only one chord, or less)
  • Pineapple Head
  • Something So Strong
  • Love You ‘Til The Day I Die
  • Don’t Dream It’s Over
  • When You Come
  • Sister Madly
  • Fall At Your Feet
  • Red Sails in The Sunset (remarkably, played with only two chords)
  • Four Seasons In One Day
  • Locked Out
  • Nails In My Feet
  • Walking On The Spot
  • Nobody Wants To
  • Don’t Stop Now
  • She Called Up
  • Some other ones from the new album (I know, I know, it’s pathetic that I can’t remember – I was up very late last night!)

Review by DC Cardwell

 

About DC Cardwell
Singer-Songwriter. Please go to http://www.dccardwell.com

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