It has been 22 years since Crowded House formed from the ashes of Split Enz, 11 years since they broke up for the first time, and I have finally seen them live.
Crowded House reformed in 2005 in the wake of former drummer Paul Hester's death. What originally started out as a Neil Finn solo outing turned into their reunion album Time on earth, which was released earlier this year to generally positive reviews. While many reunion albums can spell "cash-in" and "disaster", Time on earth was a very solid Crowded House album even if it didn't quite live up to the lofty expectations set by the outfit's previous albums.
With a reunion album comes the inevitable reunion tour. I was fortunate enough to secure 4th row tickets to the gig at Rod Laver Arena, which is by far the closest I have ever sat to the stage at a venue as large as this. I equate this with flying business class instead of cattle class; will I ever be able to go to another gig now that I have been spoilt with these great seats?
Interestingly, as good as the seats were, there were also a few downsides to sitting so close at such a large venue. Sure, you get to see and smell the band by being so close, but you also lose the sense of enormity of the venue. This makes the concert a lot less epic in nature, and although it almost felt like a private show being played in my living room, there's a real sense of excitement in looking at the stage from afar and taking it all in.
Augie March (one of my favourite bands) played support. It was probably about the 10th time I've seen them live, and they played a solid set, even though the excitement of seeing them live has long since passed. Frontman Glenn Richards wasn't quite into it, excusing himself by saying that he wasn't very well and felt like he was going to be sick.
Crowded House took to the stage shortly after, opening the gig with the superb Private universe from their (IMHO) best album Together alone from 1993, which was their swansong from the original line-up. While there is no denying that it is one of their best songs, I don't think it really worked well as an opener. They rocked it up a little bit from the album version, and I'm sure it would have worked better as a lighter-waving ballad at the tail end of the gig.
The rest of the set uncovered a few small surprises -- Whispers and moans from Woodface (one of my favourite CH cuts) was great to hear even if it didn't quite reach the heights of the version on the live album, and the epic Hole in the river from their eponymous debut sounded really good live. They covered a good cross-section of their first 4 albums; interestingly, 2nd album Temple of low men was under-represented with only 2 songs. They also played about half of their new album Time on earth. The sigh was the most surprising inclusion from this album, and it worked really well live.
I'll admit that I was feeling slightly disappointed as the first set came to a close; Don't dream it's over had come too early in the set, and I was expecting it to be the lighter-waving closer just as it had been at their original farewell gig at Sydney Opera House in 1996. Also, many of their classic hits had yet to be played, and I was wondering whether I was going to hear them.
Luckily, the 2 encores changed all of that. All the hits came out one after another, and it was a joy to behold. Neil had everyone stand up for Distant sun, which is still in my top 5 Crowded House songs and possibility a perfectly written song. For the rest of the set, we were all boogeying like it was 1996. World where you live, Something so strong, Weather with you, Fingers of love, Locked out...the hits kept on comin'. Neil poignantly had the house lights turned down, with only a single lamp illuminating the stage, and dedicated Four seasons in one day to the late Paul Hester, the Melbourne man. They closed with Better be home soon, which closed Temple of low men, and is one of their most well loved songs.
Crowded House are a band that demand respect, and they are one of the few bands where people from all walks of life, with different tastes in music, can find common ground. They have a formidable catalogue of classic songs, and it would be asking too much for them to play all of my favourites. It would have been good to hear Sister madly, which goes off in a live setting. Or perhaps Not the girl you think you are, a song released only on their best-of compilation Recurring dream. I also read that they played the Hester-penned Italian plastic in Sydney, which would have been great to hear as an alternate tribute to him.
In the end, it's just splitting hairs. The fact of the matter is, Crowded House are the sort of band where I can play their entire catalogue on shuffle on my iPod, and the first 10 songs that come up will most likely be classics. They are one of the great bands of our generation, and I'm just glad I got to see them live.
And now for the inevitable bootleg media:
Many greyhounds are put down yearly when they are too old to race anymore.