Neil Finn live is going to be amazing, but getting the chance to see him solo is extra special, especially at a venue as intimate as the Melbourne Recital Centre. Neil played two shows in Melbourne on Wednesday (his birthday) and tonight, and I was lucky to be able to attend with different groups of friends on both nights.
The first half of the set was Neil playing solo, alternating between acoustic guitar and piano. The set lists were really for the hard core fans as he played songs spanning his entire career that I haven't heard live in years. On Wednesday night alone we were treated to the unreleased "Spirit Of The Stairs," solo tracks "Addicted" and "Faster Than Light," the Split Enz song "The Devil You Know" (used to get a baby Liam Finn to sleep) and the Crowded House tracks "When You Come" and "As Sure As I Am." Tonight we had the Finn Brothers song "Only Talking Sense" and a sneak peak at a new one he's working on with Tim titled "Never Return," the Crowded House tracks "Catherine Wheels," "Black And White Boy" and "Love This Life," and solo tracks "Last Day Of June" (dedicated to accountants) and "Try Whistling This." On both nights Neil also invited up a member of the audience to play along with him- Wednesday saw Darrell add some piano to "Anytime" and tonight Kieran played guitar on "Wherever You Are."
For the second half of the set Neil was joined by a mini orchestra, which performed some amazing string arrangements by composer Victoria Kelly, who joined Neil onstage along with Sharon Finn. They began with a fantastic version of the Split Enz track "One Step Ahead" and then focused on the following tracks from Neil's latest album Dizzy Heights (which Victoria did the strings for): "Better Than TV," "In My Blood," "Impressions," "Divebomber," "Dizzy Heights" and "White Lies And Alibis." We also got to hear incredible versions of the solo track "Sinner," the Finn Brothers song "Edible Flowers" (possibly the stand out number of the night), and Crowded House's "Private Universe." The strings sounded beautiful in the acoustics of the venue and just added another dimension to the songs.
The encore contained a couple surprise audience requests with a snippet of "Anyone Can Tell" on Wednesday night, and Neil attempting Tim's Enz track "I Hope I Never" tonight (managing to hit many of those high notes). He finished the evening with the Crowded House songs "Distant Sun" and "Fall At Your Feet." I thoroughly enjoyed both nights and how much Neil varied the set lists. He was in good spirits and humor, sounded great, and was very humble and grateful for everyone's continued support of his music.
Here is Neil playing a live version of the Dizzy Heights track "Lights Of New York" in London: