Hamer Hall in the Arts Centre precinct to see Neil Finn play in support of his fabulous new album Dizzy Heights. The opening act was Joshua James, a singer-songwriter from Salt Lake City. Accompanied on electric guitar by Evan Coulombe, Joshua played a lovely set of his folk songs as well as a cover of George Jones' "Choices" and even a couple verses of "You Are My Sunshine." Overall he was pretty impressive.
Neil Finn and his band snuck out onto the darkened stage and started off both nights with one of my favorite tracks off the new album, "Impressions." He couldn't resist the urge to do a bit of a Dad joke with his "Stop, Hamer time" line. The set lists both nights featured the majority of Dizzy Heights, which was great to hear live in person for the first time. I particularly liked "Better Than TV," "White Lies And Alibis," "Pony Ride," "Strangest Friends," "Dizzy Heights" and "Flying In The Face Of Love" (only played on night 2). However, the absolute highlight of the new material was the fact that he did "Divebomber" live as I never thought he would attempt it. That just blew me away. Unfortunately there wasn't as much material from his previous solo albums, which was a bit disappointing as the opportunities to hear those songs live in non-solo mode are slim. However, we did get "Sinner" and "She Will Have Her Way" both nights, and another favorite of mine "Turn And Run" on night 1 and the rarely played "Into The Sunset" and "Faster Than Light" on night 2, which were great to hear again.
The rest of the set list was made up of songs from Neil's various bands and projects over the years. There were the usual suspects in the Crowded House tracks "Fall At Your Feet," "Distant Sun," "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Locked Out," and the Split Enz songs "Message To My Girl" (played beautifully on piano with only backing vocal support), "One Step Ahead" and "History Never Repeats" (played on night 2). The Finn Brothers project was represented by "Only Talking Sense," and there were even a couple Pajama Club songs with "From A Friend To A Friend" on night 1 and "Golden Child" on night 2. Although Neil has a new band playing with him everything sounded fantastic, and having female backing vocals really added depth to the songs. The show was also enhanced by the amazing backdrop made by Noel Crombie and Sally Mills and how it picked up the different lighting throughout the evening. As Neil said it was "some next level shit" that came out of a vague request for trippy clouds.
One of the main reasons I love seeing Neil live is that you never know what special things might happen. On night 1 a guy had to wait for a song to finish before being let back inside so Neil made up a little song on the spot about him being locked out of Hamer Hall. There was the usual fun banter between songs with the band and audience on both nights, and a shouted request led to a piano version of the Split Enz song "Strait Old Line" which was so cool to hear. On night 2 Neil demonstrated his American accent for his keyboardist Andrew from New York, and we
learned why guitar tech Rohan (from Te Awamutu) has the nickname of
Digger through a poetic note he wrote that Neil then read on stage.
Neil's chosen method for entering the stage for the encore was to jump and slide across the top of the piano. "I Got You" was a feature of the first encore both nights, but on night 2 Neil ended up inviting people from the audience to join him on stage mid-song, which they did. This then led into a sing along of "Weather With You" as they stayed up there before finally heading back to their seats. The really special moments though were in the second encore with just Neil on stage playing acoustic guitar. Night 1 featured a cover of The Beatles' "Rocky Raccoon," Crowded House's "Private Universe" and the rarely played Split Enz song "The Devil You Know." This was nearly topped on night 2 with the older Crowded House tracks "Mean To Me" and "Love This Life."
Overall both nights were pretty amazing, and although the set lists were similar he did change up the order and around a third of the songs played each night, which made me happy as I'm used to him switching things up on consecutive nights. As I had seats in different parts of the stalls each night I was able to appreciate the lighting on the backdrop when I was further back and also experience being ridiculously close to the stage. Neil really seems to be loving playing with the new band and I know my friends in the States with tickets are in for a treat when he plays there next month.
Here's the video for "Dizzy Heights"