Finn Brothers

 

Finn Brothers

Founders Theatre, Hamilton, New Zealand, March 6, 1996.

It’s a family affair when the Finn brothers’ show comes to Hamilton. As the closest city to Te Awamutu, the small rural town where the brothers grew up, it has been a long-standing tradition for Split Enz and Crowded House to finish their tours here. Tonight, the extended Finn family and lifelong friends have turned out in force. So when the district’s two favourite sons take the stage in this 1000-seat theatre, Tim Finn quickly admits it’s going to be an emotional night.

             

The occasion makes for a tentative start, but the Enz perennial ‘Poor Boy’ is greeted with a wave of familiarity. From now on it’s a relaxed evening of psychedelic vaudeville, in which the brothers invite you home to witness a family singalong – or a family fight. “We haven’t had a decent row on this tour, yet,” says Neil, turning to Tim: “… you bastard. “Bugger you”, comes the reply. “Up yours”, says Neil. The audience holds its breath, but the brotherly banter is all part of the act. In Melbourne, they even offered to take requests.

             

The theatrical antics of Crowded House and Split Enz aside, the brothers are seen as a serious pair in New Zealand; with this show they’ve forged new reputations as Eric & Ernie-style musical comedians. As on the album Finn, they risk indulgence, but it pays off. They display their musical vocabulary, using a spellbinding harmony or ear-splitting feedback with equal ease. At the piano Neil reveals his early 70s influences Carole King and Elton John (quoting ‘Crocodile Rock’ at one point), plus years of Trinity College exercises. Neil got grade eight, skites Tim who, drumming barefoot, taps the hi-hat with maracas in an eccentric bouncy style.

             

“I’ve always wanted to be a drummer who sang,” he says, “ever since I saw the Dave Clark Five in this theatre. I went with my sister, and she just lost it. I’ll never forget it.” Someone cries out ‘Glad All Over’, and the pair obligingly pump it out.

             

In their harmonies, their humour, even their dance steps, the pair’s interaction has an ease that’s only natural. But both Finns have special moments in the spotlight alone: Neil, in response to a request, slowly picks his way through ‘Love this Life’ on the piano for the first time; Tim, his voice reduced to a raspy whisper, dedicates his achingly beautiful Dublin ballad ‘Many’s the Time to his Limerick-born mother.

             

But the show-stopper is ‘Weather With You’, when the lights go down and a screen is carried out. It’s home movie time, with scenes from an idyllic country childhood, of Christmases spent at the beach, pedal cars and pet lambs. It’s sentimental, and self-aware, but the audience swoons. For the encores, Neil brings out his ukulele, turning ‘I See Red’ into a George Formby romp. They close to the accompaniment of Polynesian choir and drums. Neil calls the languid feel Pacific kitsch; the song is called ‘Paradise’. The Finn brothers are home.

Chris Bourke

Set list:

Only Talking Sense

Poor Boy

Angels Heap

Time for a Change

She Goes On

Glad All Over

Suffer Never

Niwhai

Mood Swinging Man

Where is My Soul

Eyes of the World

Dirty Creature

It’s Only Natural

Weather With You

Love this Life

Last Day of June

Many’s the Time

Kiss the Road of Rarotonga

I Can’t Give You Anything But Love

I See Red

Paradise