Crowded House Live

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Crowded House Live


I’d say it’s time we can put away the anxieties that Crowded House might fold up again at any moment and just enjoy the ride. They clearly are.

As much as it might invite protest from Kiwis, whenever Neil Finn is in Melbourne he seems so determined to identify the city as the spiritual home of Crowded House that I am inclined to believe him. Much of tonight’s banter concerned Finn’s attempts to understand the changes in the city since he was last present: “Is it just me,” he asked of the audience at one point, "or is there yet another stadium-type thing here now? What… did they need a spare? In case they can think of another sport that Australia is better at than everyone else?”

While The Crowdies’ last round of ‘comeback’ touring carried with it a sense of obligation – to play certain songs a certain way – this time it all seemed more about having fun, with an overriding relaxed atmosphere that allowed for plenty of flexibility, even if most of the classics were still performed.

Of the new material on show, Isolation, with its compelling shift from mellow to psychedelic modes, promises to be a live favourite from here on in. So too does the odd, but tremendously effective fusion of smooth vocal harmonies and Latin beats that is Either Side Of The World. Finn seemed quite resolute to make a crowd chant out of Archers Arrows too, despite the audience scarcely knowing the song (but then, how could you go wrong with a refrain like ‘Hey, Hey’?).

One neat breaking-up point among the excellent new material came with Chocolate Cake. This was the song, above all others, that the whole band attacked with vaudevillian abandon – Finn’s legs kicked gleefully out from beneath his keyboard as he played. What’s more, the genuine spontaneity of the spectacle became evident when Finn apologised to his wife, Sharon, for forcing her to sit idly by while waiting for the song she had come out to perform backing vocals for.

While some of the ‘greatest hits’ were done with precision – such as the flawless final encore Better Be Home Soon – others, like Don’t Dream It’s Over, were delivered with a refreshingly laid-back, almost reassuring air. Private Universe, of course, unfailingly becomes an exercise in trippy effects-driven improvisation, whereas Locked Out is about proving just how much Finn and his fellow founding member, bassist Nick Seymour, can still look like schoolboys as they leap about the stage with youthful gusto. Throughout all the favourites, it was testament to his well-honed instincts for reading an audience that Finn’s vocals swelled and subdued in inverse proportion to the punters’ desire to sing along.

One complaint, though: where were the (admittedly few) standout songs from the band’s ‘comeback’ album Time On Earth? I was sure the sighs of rapture and raised mobile phones that greeted the beautiful Heaven That I’m Making on the last tour would, at the very least, have been enough to cement the song as a staple of the live set.

Still, it’s clear Crowded House are a band just as excited by what they’re doing now as they are determined to stay excited by their existing legacy. And when you add it all up – the relaxed atmosphere, the random song segues, the frequent instrument swapping, the banter, the horseplay, the new arrangements of old songs and the sing-alongs for new ones – I’d say it’s time we can put away the anxieties that Crowded House might fold up again at any moment and just enjoy the ride. They clearly are.