Thursday 18 January 2018

Review - Rock: Neil Finn at the Olympia, Dublin

Neil Finn
Neil Finn
John Meagher

John Meagher

Bruce Springsteen has a lot to answer for. Thanks to his trademark marathon shows, other musicians feel that they should scoff at curfews too and deliver sets that are as much about endurance as they are about songs.

Neil Finn saw Springsteen in concert some months back and has been delivering three-hour shows ever since. In Dublin tonight, he gets through 31 songs and one feels he could keep going well into the early hours of the morning.

The New Zealander is in a venue that's long been familiar to him thanks to the frequent visits he made with Crowded House over the years, although the banks of empty seats suggests he's not quite the draw he once was.

He's here to plug an adventurous solo album, Dizzy Heights, but the set-list encompasses all facets of an intriguing career – including Crowded House hits and rarities, cuts from his first band, the influential Split Enz, material written with his brother, Tim, and a song released by Pyjama Club, the band he founded with his wife, Sharon, who plays in the touring outfit tonight.

He mixes it up from the start, with early highlights including the anthemic Crowded House song, ‘Distant Sun’, a striking Split Enz memory, ‘One Step Ahead’, and one of the most enduring tunes he penned with Tim, ‘Only Talking Sense’.

Finn's Crowded House bandmate, Nick Seymour, drops by midway through for playful rehashes of ‘Pineapple Head’ and ‘It's Only Natural’. The bassist has been living in this country for 16 years and quips that he has just received a letter from “Mr Shatter” to confirm his quest to become an Irish citizen is almost at an end.

Finn is tickled by the embattled Justice Minister's name – for scatalogical reasons – and makes frequent reference to him for the remainder of the night.

In places the muddy sound tempers enjoyment and there are moments in which Finn and his cohorts appear to be on auto-pilot. But such quibbles are rendered redundant with a quite beautiful rendition of the Crowded House song, ‘Fall at Your Feet’, replete with a finale in which Finn and his backing vocalists sing without amplification. And a plaintive version of ‘Private Universe’ is taken to a special place thanks to the lovely harmonising at the end.

Late on, Finn dusts down one of his more obscure songs, ‘Love is All that Remains’, thanks to a fan request and there's a further surprise with a sweet cover of Bob Dylan's ‘She Belongs to Me’.

But the night's finest moment arrives in the form of the haunting, piano-led ‘Edible Flowers’. “Everybody wants the same thing,” Finn sings. “To see another birthday.” Beautiful.

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