TRACKS

  1. Only Talking Sense (Excerpt)
  2. Spirit Of The Stairs
  3. One Step Ahead
  4. Hello Sandy Allen
  5. Try Whistling This
  6. Wherever You Are
  7. Last Day Of June
  8. Gentle Hum
  9. Faster Than Light
  10. Message To My Girl
  11. Into The Sunset
  12. Anytime
  13. Love Is All That Remains
  14. Something So Strong
  15. She Will Have Her Way
  16. Fall At Your Feet

CREW

Angus Davidson
audio

In late 2010, when Neil Finn played an intimate solo show in the York Theatre at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, he took the opportunity to say hello to some old friends from different parts of his life.

From the stage, he told the sold-out 800-strong audience, “I thank you for joining me tonight and allowing me to pass through a few eras and a few songs that I don’t get to play very often because it’s a very joyous thing for me. “

Ten years later Finn has nothing but great memories of that show, and of that trip down the time tunnel.

“I remember it fondly as a great room and an audience that was leaning forward and listening to every word.”

There was no specific reason about what it is about those old friends he needed to bring up onstage and breathe new life into them.

“I just made it up backstage an hour or so before … I can’t remember what sparked each choice.”

Having built up a loyal following with Split Enz and Crowded House, Neill Finn was able to dig into darker and more experimental themes on his solo albums.

“I am truly blessed,” he says of his audience’s willingness to come on his different journeys.

Neil Finn’s songs have appeared everywhere – band albums, solo records, documentaries, movies, and endless collaborations.

But he is at pains to point out that he doesn’t write for projects. Rather the songs emerge and land where they may.

The Seymour Centre saw the songs blend into each other, as Neil switched from guitar to piano, and infused the proceedings with humour and with wry quips like “Is it contradictory we’re in the Seymour Theatre (sic) and there’s no Nick Seymour?” and bringing up an audience member (Adriano) to play two-finger piano with him during ‘Anytime’. Brilliant.

Representing the solo albums are stand-outs like the melodic ‘Into The Sunset’ which Neil describes as “a literal inspiration sitting watching the sun go down at Piha (a beach on New Zealand’s north island) after a long time away.”

Not so literal are the numbers which have had fans debating about what he means.

One interpretation of ‘Try Whistling This’ is that Neil is ‘fessing up to turbulence within Crowded House and cites a well-known incident when an emotional Paul Hester in heels had an altercation with Finn.

‘Faster Than Light’ could be inspired from Neil putting one of his sons to bed, gazing at his face and imagining what his future could be, and giving him prize advice, “Travel faster than light. In time you’ll recognise that love is larger than life.”

Other solo songs include ‘She Will Have Her Way’, ‘Love Is All That Remains’ which strips off all its original psychedelic tones, ‘Wherever You Are’ about being homesick and ‘Spirit Of The Stairs’ abut the end of a relationship “and you wish you’d said the things you should have.”

The fans get a treat with a version of Crowded House’s’ Something So Strong’ the way he had originally written it, with up-tempo guitar and a rockier feel, inspired by waking up in a dark and quiet space and wanting comfort.

But in the studio, while cutting Crowded House’s first album in 1986, producer Mitchell Froom suggested it would be more effective with a R&B approach – which led to its becoming a Top 10 hit in Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand.

There were other dips on the night into the Crowded House catalogue including ‘Fall at Your Feet’ and one he regards as one of his best songs and one which he loves performing ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’.

Even when he goes back to the Split Enz era, he performs the songs with a vibrancy and with his voice still as strong as ever

The Enz songs include ‘Message To My Girl’, written for Neil’s wife Sharon whom he married in 1982 and given a special cheer by the audience, ‘One Step Ahead’ which he was always surprised was a hit (it “hasn’t got a proper chorus”) and ‘Hello Sandy Allen’ about the time he met Sandra Elaine Allen, “the tallest woman in the world” (she was 7 feet 7 inches or 231 cms) at a talk show in New York.

For the Seymour date, the songs pulled from the Finn Brothers catalogue are the gospel-influenced ‘Gentle Hum’, an excerpt of the loping ‘Only Talking Sense’, ‘Anything Can Happen’ and the brooding ‘Last Day of June’ with its lines like ‘The so called third dimension/ Hardly deserves a mention/ The first and second stages/ Have been confused for ages.”

Of the many accolades and awards that Neil Finn has had since he stepped into the public spotlight as a teenager, the most powerful was when George Harrison reportedly remarked that “That Crowded House played the music The Beatles would be playing if still together.”

Neil Finn Live (Solo) At Seymour Centre is a sparkling testament to a great performer and songwriter still at the top of his game. Inspiring.