Saturday, August 11, 2007

Concert Review: Crowded House @ the MANN

In my early college years, it was a guarantee that a Crowded House or Neil Finn CD wouldn’t be too far away from me; they were and remain one of my favorite bands. Most people would remember them for their big hit in the 80’s “Don’t Dream its Over”. America may have forgotten about Crowded House, but the rest of the world continued to enjoy their brilliant output for many years. In 1997 they called it quits seemingly for good. Neil Finn went on to make two excellent solo albums and did a few projects with his brother Tim Finn as well. Last year, Paul Hester passed away and Neil and the boys got back together for a handful of benefits that ballooned into a new record and tour; tonight I got to see for myself what makes Crowded House one of the best bands of our time.

The evening started off by Finn’s son Liam who has been putting together a career for himself as a solo artist and with the band Betchadupa. The younger Finn steals a page from Howie Day by utilizing looping effects to make his solo performance sound fuller. I would be lying if I didn’t say that Liam sounds just like his old man vocally, but has a brasher, younger sound (without totally forgoing his father’s melodic sensibilities and ability to write interesting analogies). Finn switched between guitar, drums, and a variety of electronic devices during each of the songs – the kid definitely worked for his paycheck. Overall I was impressed with his performance: He bantered with the crowded with ease (something more seasoned performers have issues with), his looping\multi-instrument approach was a treat to see, and he didn’t squander my pre-good will since I was pumped to see his dad play.

Pete Yorn quickly followed Finn and played a quick set. Yorn has lost a lot of credibility in my book for his last album which I found to be simply terrible. He opened with a song from that album, so I decided it was good time to buy Liam’s CD and take a piss. When I came back I was amused to find a totally zoned out lady in her late 40’s doing the “white girl dance” (reference: Chappelle Show episode with John Mayer - Click here to see it ). I could not take my eyes off this train wreck and then her two buddies came over to join her (they were from Pittsburg BTW - I hope they read this). To be fair to Pete, he sounded good but his band was stepping on each other a bit (I thought he had too many musicians on stage – 2 guitar players, himself (playing guitar), a bass player, and a drummer). He ended his set strong with “Life on the Chain”, “Strange Condition”, and a Neil Diamond cover (the name escape me at this late hour).

After a long wait, Crowded House finally took the stage immediately going into “Locked Out” which charged up the already excited crowd. Afterwards Neil retold a story about Nick (Seymour – Bass) being locked out his hotel room last night in Philly. The banter between Neil and Nick was outstanding throughout the evening. I was pleasantly surprised to see Liam Finn playing acoustic guitar in the background. I am not going to rifle through the entire set list, but they played all the classics and they knocked them out of the park. I was especially pleased with “Distant Sun”, “Recurring Dream”, and “Pineapple Head”.

The band’s performance was definitely enhanced by the fantastic MANN music center. This was my first time at the theater and this is hands down the best music venue I have been to in the Philadelphia area. You can actually get decent food, the atmosphere is pleasant and clean, the acoustics in the theater are excellent, and the stage allows the band members to move into the audience. It was an absolute joy to see a show there.

If you read this and still don’t know who Crowded House is, do yourself a favor and pick up an album I suggest “Recurring Dream: The Very Best of Crowded House” for beginners and “Woodface” once you get to know them). If you do remember Crowded House but for “Don’t Dream its Over” and “Something So Strong”, do yourself a favor and checkout their other albums. Crowded House was and is a fantastic band that never got their proper dues in America, see them live if you have the chance, they won’t disappoint.