Friday, 11 June 2010

Crowded House Live in London (and Live on USB)

Although the days are long gone of my arriving home from a concert at 1am and immediately writing a play-by-play account of it and uploading that with my photographs to my website ( ) before going to bed, I do hope to write up the detailed reviews of the Crowded House concerts I delighted in seeing at the Hammersmith Apollo this week in the next few days. Meanwhile, I thought I would at least post here the gist of the emails I sent on my way home to the 'Frenz of the Enz’ related discussion lists for Finn fans, setting out the setlists. The joys of the digital age mean that details of the concerts are not only quickly widely known, but people could get home and actually listen again to the concert they had just left without doing any surreptitious recording. The wonders of technology mean that the merchandise stalls offer more excitement than just a selection of t-shirts, programmes and the album of the support act.

Crowded House hasn’t even released yet the album they’re currently promoting, Intriguer, which is out in the UK on Monday, and it’s difficult these days to earn money from CDs or albums in any format. There was a time when a concert was the way to push up your sales. What better way to address the limitations of the modern music industry than to let people pay (£15) at the venue for a USB drive that they collect a few minutes after the concert finishes. On the USB drive (or more appropriately called memory sticks in this situation in particular), which have environmentally friendly bamboo casing, is multimedia material: photos, links and things, plus a live recording of the concert from the sound desk, divided into tracks (although a few are wrongly labelled).

One day, I’m sure I’ll look back at this and sneer at how basic and old-fashioned it seems, the way I do when I remember being the envy of the neighbourhood in the States in the 1970s when we were the first family to get Pong, a game that you play on your television set! (Yes, you control the paddles and actually hit the ball on your screen!!) But on Tuesday, I was quite impressed and salivating at the prospect of collecting my USB stick afterwards. It’s not just that I want to relive the joy of a fantastically gripping Crowded House concert, with varied setlists covering a huge catalogue of superb songs and the wit of Neil Finn and the others interacting with the audience and keeping everyone laughing when they’re not cheering. More than that, I seem to have an inbuilt need to be an archivist, and I just like records of things. I want to play these new versions of old songs and the new songs that haven’t yet been released (many of which I already love), but I also just want to preserve the concert long after my memories blur a bit and fade into the background behind my chaotic life that is too focused on dreary work and postponed dreams.

Sadly, on that first night, 8 June 2010, the concert at the Hammersmith Apollo didn’t finish until after 11pm, which meant I had to tear out of Hammersmith in a desperate bid to make my last train, and then have a nerve-wracking journey home amidst scary nightpeople on the train and deserted streets between the station and home. So no memory stick, although my kind friend stayed behind to collect both of ours, and I look forward to hearing it. The next night, on 9 June, I didn’t even buy one as I figured it would be handing over £15 for nothing, since my friend and I would have to leave early because neither of us could cope with a repeat of our respective hellish journeys and three hours sleep before work. Even though the band thankfully finished slightly earlier (a funny thing to be grateful for, and they still played for two hours), I wouldn’t have been able to wait for the USB stick to be produced and handed out. So I ordered it online today as well as a recording of tonight’s gig, which I’m missing (and which a friend has texted is a completely different set list again). Numbers of these sticks are claimed to be limited, but that makes little sense and it’s a way for the band to make some money to supplement the modern reality of poor album sales (though presumably bad people can just copy the memory sticks for friends), but if you want one yourself, order it here: . The North American shows will be available in July, so it’s an opportunity for us all to lose a tidy sum. An excellent idea.

So I’ll paste below what you’ll hear on the recordings, as I know people are usually interested to know what was played, particularly when it’s an outstanding band like this who, like Van Morrison, plays much of the set by ear....picking songs from their vast impressive catalogues and, in the case of Crowded House, reacting to something shouted out by the crowd or flown to the stage as a message in a paper aeroplane.

On these nights, though, the set was more polished, the band well-rehearsed, and everything was sharp, with no time wasting. So there were fewer attempts at songs the band couldn’t really recall, in a kind attempt to indulge an audience member (though that has happened elsewhere on the tour). They did the big hits, as Rick Astley (who was in the audience on Tuesday) mentioned when promoting his own new single on BBC Breakfast the next day, but they also mixed in some of the rarely performed but much loved mid-classics, subtly splicing in several of the new songs, most of which left us breathless for the album rather than bored with unwelcome delays to the hit machine. Neil Finn was in incredible voice and he and Nick Seymour were as delightfully fun as ever, and the ‘new’ drummer, Matt Sherrod, was just amazing, playing powerfully, and drummers aren’t normally on my radar

Incidentally, 80s star Rick Astley wasn’t the only ‘name’ there; Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway of Radiohead, who worked with Neil on the Seven Worlds Collide project/album, were spotted, as was the BBC’s Jeremy Vine, and members of Marillion. I’m sure there were many others in the crowd of tremendous fans.

For the first night, the dreamy setlist was:-
1. I Feel Possessed
2. Don't Stop Now
3. Fall at Your Feet
4. Either Side of the World (new one, growing on me)
5. Saturday Sun (new single, odd choice as there are better songs, hate the vocoder)
6. She Was in My Dreams (ie ad libbed song whilst tuning 'like Todd Rungren meets the Carpenters' where Nick Seymour worried he’d given Neil his cold as they shared a mike, just before Neil revealed his 'controversial' hatred for Steely Dan, even singing a smarmy line from Ricky Don’t Lose that Number when prompted by Nick playing the bass line)
7. Mean to Me (television cameras were filming 5, 6 & 7 for the Hey Hey It's Saturday show in their native New Zealand, or for a training video for Auckland Roadie College, Neil said)
8. Amsterdam (probably my favourite of the new songs that I’ve heard)
9. Not the Girl You Think You Are
10. In My Command
11. Inside Out (very mid-60s, with a ‘guitar chorus’ comprising Neil’s younger son Elroy, the support act Connan Mockasin, and Connan’s guitarist)
12. Say That Again (still with Elroy on guitar)
13. Archers' Arrows
14. Message to My Girl (surprise and loved particularly by the woman, a touching Split Enz love song)
15. Four Seasons in One Day
16. Pineapple Head
17. Don't Dream It's Over (faultless)
18. It's Only Natural (with Harriet from the audience on tambourine, as she had shouted out a request at the beginning of the show to play tambourine with them; glad she didn't demand to play banjo or lap steel guitar—though sadly Mark Hart added the latter at times in the set)
19. Distant Sun

20. Locked Out
21. Weather With You
22. Elephants (loved this in Bush Hall but consider it ruined by lap steel guitar)
23. Moonage Daydream (thrilling cover of David Bowie original, with support act Connan on guitar)
24. Happy Birthday to Hadley (another Neil interlude in response to a paper aeroplane that Nick had picked up as they’d left the stage earlier. Hadley was 'conceived during a Crowded House concert' and her mother’s water broke at a Crowded House concert, etc etc)
25. When You Come [I think they’d originally planned Recurring Dream; this was a treat]
26. Better Be Home Soon. (I think they’ve settled on this as their permanent closer, understandably)

It was an outrageously brilliant set from about 8.50pm until 11.10pm (causing a tricky home-by-public-transport conundrum, but hard to complain!). In addition to son Elroy, Neil’s wife Sharon joined them at different times unannounced (Sharon sang backing vocals in the back and in profile; perhaps scared to face the huge audience?). They leapt, polished, straight into each song, though still gave us glorious Neil banter.

For the second night, 9 June 2010, the set Crowded House played was:-

1. Recurring Dream (excellent opener!)
2. Saturday Sun
3. Either Side of the World
4. Fall at Your Feet
5. Don't Stop Now
6. Private Universe
7. Inside Out (again with Elroy, Connan M etc)
8. Love This Life
9. Nails in My Feet
9.5. (brief funk interlude, bit of Hot Chocolate You Sexy Thing...somehow ends up as Age of Aquarius for a sec)
10. Whispers and Moans
11. Isolation (with Sharon Finn on backing vocals)
12. Archers' Arrows (still with Sharon)
12.5 . From Guernsey to Hammersmith (lovely spontaneous ad-libbed travelogue-ballad on piano)
13. Pour le Monde (quite a lovely new song)
14. Four Seasons in One Day
15. Don't Dream It's Over
16. Distant Sun
17. Something So Strong (marvellous, long time no hear)
18. Fingers of Love
19. Weather With You
20. Twice if You're Lucky (like this new one though it sounds a bit like Love This Life at times)
21. Moonage Daydream (Bowie cover with Connan Mockasin again, lively)
22. World Where You Live (delightful treat from the first album)
23. Better Be Home Soon

On this night, Crowded House started at 8.50pm but finished at 10.55pm, which made all the difference to many of us transport-wise and maybe to them if they're charged for playing past an 11pm curfew. The fantastic evening was complete with more creative ad-libbed songs, much meowing and Nick's odd owl-dog imitation, Elroy appearing occasionally, a brief private dancer for Neil on stage (a Peter Tork-like 'prize winner' for being first to stand and dance, so he was invited on stage to do so, though his dance comprised walking and clapping his hands), and a free sauna for us all. I adored the woodsy set, with loads of big night lights in the shape of mushrooms, geese and other figurines for children, looking like Chinese lanterns--all very moody, charming and Kiwi (or so I imagine).

I must admit that my favourite set was the first night, although most will probably disagree (I’m more one for the short, sharp songs with stunning lyrics, and I lose patience with the lengthy stretches of guitar solos or endlessly repeated rhythms without melodies, and Together Alone, whilst it has merits, will never be my favourite album whereas I always feel it’s what brought the rest of the audience to see them), but I loved every bit of both nights—apart from the fact that the tallest man in the Apollo was seated in front of me on Wednesday so I could only see Crowded House in a sort of halo around the edges of his ginormous head. And normally I like tall men, but it turns out not in this setting.

Of the new songs played on Wednesday, I missed Amsterdam, which I think would be a better single than Saturday Sun really, but there's probably a rule that their singles must refer to suns, weather, seasons, dreams, stopping time...tide.... (It's no wonder they're drawn to MOONage DAY-DREAM).

I must say I Love this Life when this is a taste of it. I am sad to miss tonight’s final London concert (there’s only so much credit card space, energy and time one can commit to putting massive smiles on one’s face) but these fine memories will do me for a while!

I will put my usual style of hugely detailed reviews on my website at as soon as I can, with the photos I took (albeit from a distance without a flash, so they’re not too impressive), and of course there are many clips of the concert available on YouTube already. If you ever get the chance to see these masters of live performance, take it. You won’t be sorry.