Show Review: Crowded House with Lawrence Arabia at The Warfield, 8/23/2010

by Gordon Elgart on August 24, 2010

Neil Finn, hundreds of amazing songs into his career.

Crowded House is a band with only two real American “hits.” But don’t be fooled by that. If you go see Crowded House live, you’d better be ready to sing. And although your less astute friends will assume the loudest singing will be for “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” the band’s biggest U.S. hit, those same friends will wonder what the heck this “You always take the weather with you” song is about. Congratulations, singer! You’re the smart one.

The opener tonight was Lawrence Arabia, a fellow New Zealander, and someone who made very little impression on me. His songs were nice, but the older-leaning crowd didn’t really appreciate him for the most part, and it was a bit hard to hear over the talking. These people were here to see one of the greatest songwriters in the history of recorded music, Neil Finn, and one of his two successful bands, Crowded House.

The thing about Neil Finn is that he can populate a two-hour-plus show with only Crowded House songs, another one with only Split Enz songs, and a third one with his solo material (with some Finn Brothers stuff thrown in for good measure). And there wouldn’t be a weak spot in the whole event. (As a matter of fact, if he’s game for doing this in one day, I’ll be glad to attend that show, wherever it happens.) So tonight we were treated to a large sampling of the newest album, Intriguer, and a giant helping of their other singles. Notable in its absence was their 2nd U.S. Top 10 hit, “Something So Strong,” but it’s telling about the audience that no one cared.

Neil Finn gets some help to sing a deep cut from the first Crowded House album.

The highlight of the evening, especially for whoever did it, was when Neil Finn grabbed a scroll that had been tossed on stage, and unrolled it to find handwritten lyrics to “Tombstone,” a rarely played song from Crowded House’s self-titled debut album. Never one to back down from a challenge (earlier he had attempted Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”), Neil Finn started playing the song while bass player Nick Seymour held the lyrics in one hand a beer in the other. Then the whole thing turned into a rousing singalong.

This was par for the course, though, and at every opportunity the Warfield crowd sang along. Whether the “Do you want my presence or need my help” from “Fall at Your Feet” or the “I’m right for the first time in my life” from set closer “Better Be Home Soon,” the audience was in great voice. Neil Finn himself kept complimenting the San Francisco audience for its harmony vocals. And he wasn’t just talking crap. We brought it. (Go San Francisco!)

I had seen Crowded House at The Fillmore on their tour for Time on Earth, an album that was tinged with sadness over the death of original drummer Paul Hester. That reunion and album seemed like one that the band had to do. This seems like an album and tour that the band wants to do. Everyone looked happier, more relaxed, and was ready to just throw themselves into it.

When a band reunites, sometimes it falls flat. But with Crowded House, it simply works. Here’s hoping they keep recording and touring for years to come.

Setlist (This is the actual printed setlist, but Silent House was not played. After “Not the Girl” was the impromptu performance of “Tombstone.” If it needs further corrections, let me know in the comments):

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Chuckubus August 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm

In an interview I did with Neil Finn a few years back (it can still be found on theKTVU web site) Neil and I commented, rather had a chat about what great voice San Francisco was at The Fillmore that year (2008) and how great Oakland sounded a year before at The Paramount (8/26/07). I like to think our chat about The Bay Area’s great singing ability was an influence on Neil’s comments, but I know I’m just dreaming, wishing I had a role to play in what this absolutely dead-on perfect review has to say. Excellent review of an excellent show, and why Neil Finn is not as well known by the masses as a master songwriter, I’ll never understand. This guy can write circles around anyone, you put them up against Finn’s work (of any era) and you’ll see who the master craftsman is. Neil Finn and the rest of Crowded House deserve more credit than they get. Excellent show, and San Francisco, you are always in excellent voice! Peace and love to you all!!

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Ben August 25, 2010 at 9:37 am

Definitely a band I’d like to see live.

I’ve just reread that, and want to clarify: I don’t think their lives are in jeopardy, I just want to see them _perform_ live.

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Tony August 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

Great review, as always.

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Tabatha August 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I am having to wait until November this time around to see the guys play in Australia, although in 2007 I was lucky enough to them in America,Canada,Australia and New Zealand.
As much as I loved (and still love)Time On Earth it can be a hard album for me to listen to at times, so heavy with emotion it has the two sides of giving me comfort but also breaking my heart. Intriguer, now Intriguer makes me want to smile, it makes me what to nod and say “Ah yes, how true” it makes me want to dance no matter how daggy I may look and then it reminds me through songs like Elephants and Isolation that there is always room for saddness, it is part of life and you can’t just pretend it is’nt there.
Intriguer is my album of the year and seriously, if you don’t own it yet, what on earth are you waiting for?

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MusicHy.pe September 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Calling all Crowdies! If you enjoyed the recent gig at The Warfield why not checkout the MusicHy.pe shop where you can purchase your very own USB stick of the live recording from the night and relive the experience! The entire Intriguer album is also inculded on the USB. How cool is that?!

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