I first saw Crowded House in February of 1988. My very first concert, the beautiful Moore Theatre in Seattle, a perfect evening. I swear to you, it changed my life. This was the night that I truly fell in love with music. For over two hours I was completely entranced by the soft melodies and Neil Finn's soothing, beautiful voice. He is one of the greatest singer/songwriters of this time. Every song written and performed with such passion and emotion. Unfortunately, my interest in Crowded House would be put on the backburner when I heard the very first chord on Vs. Not forgotten, just stored away in my memory. Ten years after that first concert, my love for Neil's music would be reaffirmed when he stopped in Seattle for his Try Whistling This tour.
Apparently I am not the only one with a tremendous amount of respect for Neil's body of work. For years Split Enz songs have been appearing in Pearl Jam soundchecks and setlists as both complete songs and tags, most notably, when Ed hopped on stage with Neil at the Karma Club in Boston last month.
Who the fuck is Neil Finn?
Neil's music career began in 1977 when he joined Split Enz, his brother Tim's band. Split Enz is best known for the early 80s new wave hits. Neil stayed with the Enz for seven years, penning many of their best known hits including "I Got You" and "History Never Repeats." Enz was the first New Zealand band to achieve success off the island. While they were not incredibly successfully worldwide, the band developed a international "cult" following which is still going strong today. Over its history, Split Enz released 13 studio albums and several live records. Most of these records can be found for bargain prices at used music stores and record fairs. (I recommend True Colors.)
In 1984 Tim left Split Enz to pursue a solo career. At that time Neil decided to start from scratch with a new band featuring fellow Enz friend Paul Hester and Nick Seymour, brother of Mark Seymour -- lead singer from Hunters & Collectors. (And I thought the Seattle music scene was incestuous =) .) Originally called the Mullanes, the band later became Crowded House. Moving away from the funky, new wave sounds of Split Enz, Neil's songs became more soft and melodic. These phenomenal melodies along with his attention to lyrical detail led to the creation of such attention grabbing hits as "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Something So Strong." In 1991, Tim Finn would again join Neil as a member of Crowded House. Spanning a ten year career, Crowded House produced four studio albums, each one better than the one before. I recommend Temple of Low Men to anyone interested in phenomenal music.
As Crowded House split, Neil and Tim went on to release a record simply titled Finn Brothers in the summer of '96. The record is rather laid back and less poppy than either the Crowded House or Split Enz material.
Hard Act to Follow
Pearl Jam's use of Neil related songs began during 1995 Australian tour. (Although a Hunters & Collectors tune, "Throw Your Arms Around Me" appeared on a few setlists during the 1992 Lollapalooza tour.) "I Got You," Split Enz biggest hit, became somewhat of a staple during the '95 Aussie tour, climaxing on March 24 when Neil and Tim Finn joined the band for a spectacular version of "History Never Repeats." Gawd, I would have given up a major appendage to see that!!! This was later released as the 1995 Ten Club Christmas single. (I've heard rumors that this version was also released on a Finn Brother's single available to Finn fanclub members but, I have not been able to confirm.)
"I Got You" would reappear years later during soundchecks of the North American Yield Tour. Unfortunately, it never showed up on a setlist. However, two other Split Enz tunes, "I Hope I Never" and "Stuff and Nonsense" did pop up as "Daughter" tags.
Ed has obviously been influenced to some degree by the work of Split Enz and Neil Finn. I remember when Vitalogy was released several of the songs reminded me of Split Enz tunes. Not because they truly *sound* alike but, in structure. I find Ed's style of song writing to be quite similar to Neil's. Take for example "Betterman" or "Wishlist;" these are very simple guitar melodies interlaced with complex, detailed, well thought out lyrics. This style is quite typical of Neil's work.
History Never Repeats
When I first heard that Ed had performed with Neil at the Karma Club in Boston my heart stopped. As both a huge Neil and Pearl Jam fan this show is what I dream of, having two of my absolute favorite singers appearing on one stage. I was also terrified that that a bunch of crazy PJ fans had swarmed the Karma Club, alienating Neil and everyone who had gone to experience *his* show. Unfortunately, I would later find that while most of the crowd was well behaved, a few rambunctious Eddie fans had ruined the show for some of Neil's supporters. But, a few of the lucky ones were able to witness as Ed played songs both solo and with Neil -- Split Enz songs, a single Crowded House song, and a single Pearl Jam song -- all performed with complete respect for Neil and his musical talents. What a special evening.
Thanks Ed for reminding me how much I admire and respect Neil Finn and how his music has affected my life. I'm going to go dust off my Split Enz LPs =)
December 1998 Song X
11/6/98 - Karma Club: Boston
So this month, in somewhat of a holiday celebration, we offer this short set as the 5h song(s) of the month. Yes, there is some crowd noise, but we still feel that the special qualities of this show merit notice, particularly the wonderful harmonies of Ed and Neil's vocals.
(sound files were removed Nov 2003)
Thanks to special guest writer Chris Hilton, resident Neil Finn expert, who graciously stepped up and wrote a much nicer background than we could have.