Crowded House: Farewell to The World

THE BEST PART OF BREAKING UP - Review

THE FOLLOWING NIGHT AROUND 8.30, NEIL FINN GAZES out at the heaving throng and apologises for the fact that none,of the band actually come from Sydney.

"But I may have deposited a little sperm here from time to time," interjects a familiar voice.

Paul Hester - for it is he - is back in the drum chair, dispensing such bon mots in a piledriving percussion performance that centres the band's sound in a fashion it hasn't known since he walked out two years ago. A proper sense of occasion ensures that he doesn't go too far.

They dashed out on the dot of eight o'clock to a roar that could probably be heard in Darwin rolling straight into "She came all the way from America,/She had a blind date with destiny" and following Mean To Me with World Where You Live, When You Come, Private Universe, Four Seasons In One Day, and Whispers And Moans before sinking their teeth into a splendid version of Hole In The River. This song about a suicide in the family gains an extra charge from the presence of the Finn parents and many other members of the clan.

Despite Nick Seymour's prediction, "the best last song" Better Be Home Soon comes next followed by Pineapple Head, Distant Sun, the band's personal favourite Into Temptation, Everything Is Good For You, Locked Out and then off.

Peter Jones joins them for the first of the encores, Sister Madly, freeing Paul Hester to take centre stage. This goes so well that Neil suggests an unscheduled Italian Plastic. After revising the words Hester obliges. Then the announcement "let's get a little family out here" brings on the man the audience had been waiting for, brother Tim, to sing Weather With You - cue a dazzling display of synchronised hand-waving from the audience - and It's Only Natural.

Now We're Getting Somewhere is the signal that we are now in the home straight and lumps begin to rise in throats even down there in the melee. (The Sydney Morning Herald's reporter who was down there said he'd had sex that was less intimate.) Fingers Of Love and In My Command are followed by the song of the evening, the Hunters & Collectors' ballad Throw Your Arms Around Me, an occasional feature of Crowded House shows. Throughout the previous two hours certain lyrics have been picked out in the red ink of pathos, but here the words "We may never meet again/So shed your skin and let's get started", sung with the assistance of everyone in New South Wales under the age of 40, flicks a universal switch. Hester and Seymour are clearly playing with tears in their eyes, and when at the end Neil says his thank-yous to all roadcrew past and present, naming as many as he can, his voice is thick with more than just singing.

They finish with Don't Dream It's Over, letting the audience do the lion's share of the singing, and then the four of them stand stunned centre-stage and take the salute. They disappear and fireworks go up from out on the water. As goodbyes go, it was magnificent.

AS NEIL POINTED OUT EARLIER, A BAND IS A BAND is a band. They're more than a songwriter plus help. They fit together in unique ways and make their unique sounds as a consequence. Bands are units built for struggle, dedicated to rolling very big rocks up extremely steep hills, and functioning properly as long as the individuals are prepared to submerge their identities into it, ceasing to work as soon as anyone asks the question, "Why?" Ten years is a fair span for any band. Neil Finn got his dignified exit. But, as Mark Hart says, he'll be lucky to find another band who'll get as much out of his songs as this one did. And they'll all be very fortunate if they find another family quite like Crowded House.

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