Review: Crowded House, Farewell To The World
Crowded House often seemed to be more untogether than together. Formed by Neil Finn out of the ashes of Split Enz when his brother, Tim, left the group, Crowded House had a career that was rocky even by rock-band standards. Members were continually leaving and joining the group, albums would be released, go nowhere, and then six months later would explode, and so on. Their self-titled first album was a huge hit in the US but didn’t arouse much interest in most of the rest of the world. Their third album, Woodface wherein Tim briefly rejoined his brother in the band, was a huge hit in the UK and most of the rest of Europe but did zip in the US. Throughout all of this they were consistent megastars in their home countries of New Zealand and Australia. In June of 1996 they released a greatest hits compilation that entered the UK and Australian charts at #1 at which point they promptly announced they were breaking up. They then proceeded to do a whole series of final concerts.
They scheduled what was really going to be their final concert for Saturday, November 23 1996. The gig was to take place on the steps of the gorgeous Sydney Opera House. It was going to be recorded and filmed and the proceeds were to be donated to the Sydney Children’s Hospital Fund. Most of that happened, but not as expected, which I suppose isn’t all that surprising given the history of this band. Turned out the weather on the 23rd was terrible and they had to postpone the gig until the following day. This created a problem for a number of their avid fans who had flown to Australia for the Saturday concert and had to fly back out on Sunday. So what did the band do? Without the movie people, without the recording truck, and without a lot of fanfare they went to a venue that was open and played virtually the entire planned concert for the people who couldn’t make it the next day. How do you not love a band like that?
The next day over 120,000 people showed up and Crowded House played a concert that has become legendary among their fans. This is the recording of that gig and it’s very good. Neil Finn has won a well deserved reputation as a master craftsman of the art of pop song writing and there is hardly better evidence of that reputation than the songs played here which cover the entire range of Crowded House’s ten year career. If you’re familiar with Finn’s work, you expect good songs. What is, perhaps, more surprising is how well the band plays together and how hard they can rock. Drummer Paul Hester had left the group two years earlier and was afraid he wouldn’t be able to anchor the band before an audience this large. He needn’t have worried. The gig takes up two discs and the band doesn’t let down once.
The band is well recorded. Unfortunately, the crowd is not. There’s over 120K people out there, they know these songs and they are singing along but you can barely hear them. For the most part this isn’t a problem but during those tracks where the band gives the crowd lines to sing it makes artificial dead spots out of what were probably emotional highs at the show. It’s a shame and the only reason I can think of why it has taken over ten years to release the concert on CD.
Neil Finn is quoted in the liner notes as saying “We broke up better than anything else we ever did really.” The evidence is here . . .
. . . . . but wait, the band got back together and released Intriguer in 2010.
Music from this concert can be heard on Tuned In To Music Podcast 004 – Live, In Concert
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