Reviewed on Tuesday March 18
All other over-50s performers with innumerable hits take note: Neil Finn delivered what should be used as a reference for how to balance delivering new material and appeasing fans of old at his first of three nights at the Opera House. It should go without saying that it was absolutely fantastic.
If he wanted to, Finn could have turned the concert into an entirely psychedelic experience focusing on his strong new album Dizzy Heights. His new band (with his wife Sharon anchoring the proceedings on bass) translates the dense studio productions for a live setting exceptionally well (‘Pony Ride’, in particular, was an extraordinary encore and should become a new staple). A simple yet extremely effective backdrop of model spirals that changed colour depending on the lights helped the audience get lost in the immersive new set of songs.
But when he played the Crowded House hit ‘Distant Sun’ as early as third in the setlist, it was clear that Finn wasn’t just there to plug the new stuff – and judging from the cheer that met the song’s first few chords, the crowd was grateful. Because as good as the new album is, everyone in attendance was there to hear some hits, and Finn was more than happy to deliver them.
There are many things that make it so satisfying seeing Neil Finn live; his down-to-earth manner, be it warning of (and delivering) a potential flub in ‘I Feel Possessed’, or accepting the odd offering of Freddo Frogs from an eager fan in the front row (don’t worry Neil, we didn’t get it either). Or his incredibly accomplished guitar playing, which never gets enough praise (or chances to shine in the studio, for that matter). And how much his voice soars when he’s alone onstage, delivering show highlights like ‘Message To My Girl’ on piano and ‘Private Universe’ on guitar.
The most satisfying thing about seeing Finn live, however, is how much warmth and happiness he displays while playing his material – all of his material. He’s not ashamed of a past hit. On the contrary, it seems the bigger the reaction, the happier he is. With so many years in the business under his belt, it’s a joy to see, and the major reason why having a good time at a Neil Finn concert is as close to a sure thing as you can get.