Crowded House @ Symphony Hall, 24th May 2010

That a reviewer of ‘Woodface’ once conjured up the delightfully surreal image of listening to Crowded House being akin to being mugged by angels seems totally apposite given that the band are playing to UK sellout venues, tonight being the first of two at the Symphony Hall.

At two hours and twenty minutes these Antipodean alt/rock troubadours defied the lighting rig roasting to bring in a scorching set of old and new touring their soon to be released album, ‘Intriguer’ their last being their 2007 reunion ‘Time On Earth’. They kept mostly to the set list (see below) but the cheeky grinned, tousle-haired, caterpillar mustachioed Neil Finn was prone to meander.

The set comprised of three, in non chronological sequence, components. Six numbers from the new album, of which I can’t bring any useful critical appraisal from first impressions other than if you like Crowded House then you’ll like their new material with songs including in set list order, ‘Saturday Sun, Either Side of the World, Amsterdam, Archer’s Arrow’ and more.

Inevitably the crowd were humming for the classics of which the ‘Woodface’ quartet of ‘Four Seasons, Weather, Chocolate Cake & It’s Only Natural’ featured to great appreciation with Finn engaging the crowd with indulgent sing-along a cappella choruses. We have a brief interlude where Finn marshals a two contestant race up and down the aisles, much to the chagrin of the soon to be even more flustered front of house supervisor.

The multi-instrumentation of the band is in constant flux with Neil Finn one hand tinkling with a mini Korg or seated at the mahogany stag motifed keyboard console, a similar one used by guitarist Mark Hart, both contraptions possibly used in another age by Ivor Cutler and Gandalf. Matt Sherrod, on drums is a percussion possessed honey monster of a man whose dexterous interplay with Will Self lookalike bassist, Nick Seymour, charge the rhythm with tandem traction. Finn is joined by wife Sharon for backing vocals for one number.

Finn has a charmed rapport with the crowd: casting witty and pithy asides with endearing intelligence and sincerity. Inevitably the braver ones gently form a polite mosh pit dancing to ‘It’s Only Natural’, and Finn naughtily teases the security chap to let the ‘Guys hang out!’ At which the entire Hall is standing. I mean really, it’s just not on! Finn berates himself for not phoning his dad back home, there’s an ad hoc group bonding hug and soon it’s encore time.

Encore as in about twenty minutes or so. They’re joined by the somewhat foppish, slightly away with the fairies, support act, Connan Mockasin. Split Ends hit ‘I Got You’ raises the rafters and then we segue into a Blondie/Abba singalong medley. But no! Shock/Horror. The power fails with an ominous dumf. Has that security guy pulled the plus in revenge? A seedy, incandescent bulb illuminates the stage, what next? It’s a tease. Cue lights and a climatic crescendo closes the evening in triumph with ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over’.

Set list:

Locked out, World, Saturday Sun, Either Side of the World, Fall, Whispers and Moans, Amsterdam, Heaven That I’m Making, Archer’s Arrow, 4 Seasons, Nails, Inside Out, Love Til The Day I Die, Don’t Stop Now, Distant, It’s Only Natural, Fingers, Weather, Twice If You’re Lucky, Better, Chocolate Cake, Don’t Dream.

Reviewer – John Kennedy
Photographer – Christine Tellier

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