NEIL FINN – the lovely sound of history repeating (Photos/Review)

Post image of NEIL FINN – the lovely sound of history repeating (Photos/Review)

Neil Finn couldn’t understand why a fan brought him a pair of jeans and a guitar cord. They’re too big, he joked: “I’ve slimmed down!” and then puzzled over the offering several times during the evening. But then, a moment. A moment when he was at the piano, singing the beautiful Split Enz song “Message to My Girl”, and he chuckled and nodded, but kept going.  In that moment, it all made sense. The fan brought the items because of this “performance anxiety” video in which he dreams it’s showtime and he’s without his trousers. After the song ends, he applauded the fan’s creativity.

Neil Finn laughed with us a lot. He laughed when song requests came by paper airplane. We laughed when he sat at his piano, asking his band to make “helicopter music” (they looked confused but created a cacophony) while he tore apart scrap paper, folded it, then stood atop his piano to drop a paper whirlygig to the ground.

He laughed when someone inexplicably yelled out “Auckland Grammar School!”, an unusual heckle, he said, particularly because “I didn’t go there.” He  laughed when he saw a man in the audience taking his seat while holding three beers. “I hope they’re all for you, mate!”.

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/backstagerider.comHe laughed, gently, too, when he found out that a man had JUST asked his fiancée to marry him, right there, in the middle of the crowd. The circle of fans around them pointed out the couple and nodded that it actually happened. “Really?” he asked incredulously, then told a story about how a Danish fan once drunkenly took over the stage and mic to do the same, but that this couple had done it with more class.  They requested the Crowded House song “Fingers of Love”, and who was he to deny them? Neil Finn retuned his guitar to make it happen.

But Neil Finn also made us cry. And not just the newly engaged woman, after “Fingers of Love”, either. During CH’s “Private Universe”, three feet away from Finn, I suddenly realized that I have pretty much grown up with this man.

Neil Mullane Finn, OBE.

The first time I saw Crowded House live was so long ago in 1987, and I was a kid. Since then I’ve seen and met (and interviewed) him, with his brother Tim, with Crowded House, standing next to Johnny Marr, and solo, so many times. So then I thought about that time in 2005 when I saw Neil and Tim Finn with Nick Seymour perform at Royal Albert Hall in London, just two days after we all learned that Crowded House drummer Paul Hester had taken his own life.  Then a lifetime of so many other Neil Finn-related moments rushed into my head and then – I started tearing up. And it wasn’t just me. When I looked up at the song’s finish, another woman was also wiping her eyes….

…because of history. And tonight, on the first night of the North American tour for new album”Dizzy Heights”, Neil Finn had 37 years of musical history to cycle through, which, you know, he kind of managed expertly.

But only once he totally threw out the setlist. After a cutting through a swath of mellow new tracks like “Flying in the Face of Love”, “Dizzy Heights”, “Sinner”, “Better than TV” (replete with Game of Thrones jokes) and “Recluse”, and showing off the fine efforts of his band (including his wife Sharon on bass, singer Lisa Tomlinson and young guitar virtuoso Jesse Sheehan), he covered off Finn Brothers’ songs “Only Talking Sense” and “She Will Have Her Way”.

And then it happened. The opening chords of Enz’ “History Never Repeats”, and the crowd surged to the front, incapable of staying, adult-like, in their seats. It. Just. Wasn’t. Possible. To. Stay. Seated. “It seems you want to dance” he nodded afterwards, and segued into “I Got You.” We swooned. CH’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” came later, as quiet piano solo, along with full singalong, “Locked Out” was rollicking, “Fall at Your Feet” and “Weather With You ” were just…important parts of history, repeating.

So he made us laugh, he made us cry and he also challenged us. Because, apparently, we learned after the blue-jean-and-guitar-cord-confusion, if anyone can produce a good picture of Neil Finn actually wearing blue jeans, he’ll pay us $1000. \m/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Neil Finn, pic by Mikala Folb/

Posted by Mikala   @   31 March 2014

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Apr 1, 2014
7:55 pm
#1 Shauna :

You must have been near me because I was right in front of him too, and I’m the one who requested Private Universe. What a great show, eh? I think we were an exceptionally lucky audience.

Author Apr 1, 2014
8:13 pm
#2 Mikala :

We must have been next to each other! It was an incredible show, which is pretty much how I have felt about every show I have seen Neil in…what a gift. Thanks for your comment!

Apr 1, 2014
8:15 pm
#3 radiatortunes :

Thanks for a great review. Neil is such a class act.

Author Apr 1, 2014
8:24 pm
#4 Mikala :

Thanks for reading it! And agreed!

Apr 1, 2014
9:41 pm
#5 Sheila :

Thank you for so eloquently describing how the shared emotion in that auditorium made for a truly magical evening. My 13th time seeing Neil, and each has been unforgettable.

Author Apr 1, 2014
10:16 pm
#6 Mikala :

Must be around the same amount for me, too! Thanks for reading, Sheila x

Apr 3, 2014
2:08 pm
#7 PaulaG :

Lovely review. I’m seeing Neil in May and I can’t wait. I dare say he’ll have me in tears at some point. I’ve grown up with him too.

Apr 3, 2014
3:02 pm
#8 VCTF :

Hi Mikala,

Thanks for this piece. Mr Finn is truly an under-rated artist, and I feel fortunate to have been at this concert as well. I must have been right behind you – I was in the third row at the Vogue, right in front of the piano, and witnessed the proposal as it happened.

I’ve been a huge fan since the first CH album but never got a chance to see him live until the Intriguer tour. Both shows I’ve been to were amazing, but on this night I developed a whole new level of appreciation for him as a musician.

The first thing that struck me was how unbelievable he is on the piano – his fingers fly over the keys like he was born playing it, and it was a revelation for me when he said the he first wrote Don’t Dream It’s Over on the piano.

The second moment was when he retuned his guitar by ear and launched into Fingers of Love completely unrehearsed. He played and sang it absolutely perfectly! He is truly a master of his craft, and I value every second of the many hours I have spent listening to his music.

Author Apr 3, 2014
3:30 pm
#9 Mikala :

Thank you for reading! I was actually directly in front of Neil center (when everyone moved to the front) and you’re right – amazing piano skills. He’s pretty much just amazing at everything, a real treasure!

Author Apr 3, 2014
3:30 pm
#10 Mikala :


Apr 3, 2014
8:49 pm
#11 Elaine and Don :

Nice piece!

It was my now-fiancée, Elaine, and I who brought the pants and guitar lead to the Vancouver concert. I figured it might appeal to Neil’s sense of humour and we might get a smile out of him. When he first spotted the us (Elaine was holding up the jeans and I was holding up my guitar lead) he asked why we brought them and I shouted “So you’ll be comfortable! Because of your nightmare!”. Later, Neil was saying that he had never worn blue jeans in his life, and he’d give anyone $1,000 if they could show him a photo of him in jeans, so Elaine grabbed the jeans and gave them to him (we were in the front row next to the piano). He put them on top of the piano (he pointed out again that my 32x34s were too big for him). He then joked that he’d also need the lead, and when took that up he asked his tech to test it and said he’d use it for the next song. He used on his acoustic guitar for the rest of the show, including Fingers of Love, which I requested later. When Elaine took action I thought “Ya, she’s my partner in crime, I have to ask her tonight.” We met in a symphony choir last year (she’s a soprano and I’m a bass) and I had planned to ask her at something music related, but the symphony didn’t seem quite right. We were laughing about the trousers and lead and she said “How are you ever going to top this?” I just smiled at her.

I popped the question during “Wherever you are” – we went over the lyrics on trip over from Victoria earlier in the day, and we were singing it to each other with Neil only 3 or 4 meters away – and I requested “Fingers of Love” soon after.

We’re going to keep a copy of your blog as a memento. Thank you!

Author Apr 3, 2014
8:59 pm
#12 Mikala :

Oh this is wonderful! So happy for you both and so happy to hear from you! What a wonderful experience, thank you for sharing and ALL MY BEST and congratulations to you and Elaine! Much love x

Apr 3, 2014
10:09 pm
#13 Elaine and Don :

Thank you so much for the well wishes, Mikala. What a fun concert Neil put on for us. I had the BEST time and will cherish the memory of Don getting down on one knee just when I least expected it (he has a bit of a crazy streak!).
All the best to you and Blog on, Sista!

Author Apr 3, 2014
10:26 pm
#14 Mikala :


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