Concert Review: Neil Finn, April 5, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

neil finn

Neil Finn is one of the great songwriters of the past 30 years or so. From his work with brother Tim in Split Enz and Crowded House to his solo work, one thing is abundantly clear – the man knows his way around a catchy melody. And to say he’s got a solid catalog of tunes is a great understatement.

Also knowing a thing or two about melodies and displaying some stellar harmonies throughout their opening set were Midlake.  The Denton, Texas band were appearing in a stripped down acoustic trio format, with singer Eric Pulido joking, “We’ve stripped down for Neil, which .. who wouldn’t strip down for Neil?”  He then added that this was the first time on the tour that he had made that joke, lest we think he was repeating the same goofy joke over and over again.  Pulido displayed a great sense of humour throughout, which probably helped to win over many of those in the crowd who were not already aware of them.  Not that they needed much besides their music to make a good impression.  They closed out their set with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” which worked as a nice showcase for the aforementioned harmonies as well as a flute solo from Jesse Chandler.  I was pleased to see that even in trio form, Midlake has room for some flute.  It’s just not Midlake without the flute.

While Midlake may have made a few new fans that night, Neil Finn was playing to a dedicated fan base who were ready to be charmed.  And charming he was.  Finn started off his set noting that he had spent a lot of time in Toronto over the years and that it felt in some ways like a homecoming.  He further endeared himself during “One Step Ahead” when he reminisced that the first time he ever played that song in Toronto was also the first time he ever ate sushi.  When he added that Florian from Kraftwerk was also at the table with him, it was a bit of namedropping, sure, but hey, if I had sushi with Kraftwerk, I suppose I’d be telling everyone too.

Finn was great at crafting a strong bond between performer and audience, as seen during the big singalong (and clapalong) during “Weather With You” or the moments during his acoustic encore when he got the crowd to sing the electric guitar riff and drum parts on a couple  of songs.  His lengthy set lasted about two and a half hours, including two encores, though it never felt overlong. Though the length of his set may have been  influenced by his confusion over whether there was a curfew at the venue, he ultimately decided to “Fuck the curfew!” once he was informed that there was in fact a curfew.  He finished off with “Better Be Home Soon” and when he got to the lyric. “It would cause me pain if we were to end it,” of course someone shouted out, “Don’t end it!” which caused Finn to break up and stop the song for a second.  Thankfully, Finn didn’t end things too soon on this night.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts