REVIEW / And the weather came too: Crowded House - The Fleadh

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The Independent Online
When I told my mother I was playing an Irish festival, she wept with joy,' Neil Finn told the crowd towards the end of a long, sunny day. At last the secret of this strange billing was revealed - the mother of the lead singer of the top band in New Zealand left Limerick when she was three.

Mind you, given the reputation they've built up for horny-handed jamming and salt-of-the-earth humour, Crowded House need no excuses to top off a festival. Their set at the Fleadh was Together Alone, plus a few hits, plus a few spots of spontaneous fun that didn't quite go as far as usual. Plus a maori choir (two of whom suspiciously sported blond perms) and some South Seas log-drummers.

The playing was faultless, but it's the fooling around that makes their gigs come alive, and they still miss the anarchic streak of drummer Paul Hester. He quit the band only a month ago, and has only just been replaced. He's the sort who'd make sarcastic addenda to bassist Nick Seymour's tentative jokes, or run into the audience and steal someone's car keys: odd stuff that makes a show stick in the memory.

It wasn't sustained mayhem or a wild jam session, then, but rather a show that had its moments. For instance, the second song in - 'In My Command'. The chunky bass and drum intro gives way to Finn's most obvious John Lennon impression. His vocal was thick with reverb, and being a song about lust and power, switched backwards and forwards between rage and tenderness, eerily conjuring up the spirit of the dead Beatle.

A few songs later, Finn decided to warm things up with a bit of banter about the thick blue line of security guards. They looked like wallflowers at the town dance, and which one of them did bassist Seymour fancy? The crowd cackled at the bouncers' expense. There aren't many other rock bands who could get away with using homosexual innuendo as an icebreaker, especially to a crowd of relative neutrals.

Similarly, he dedicated 'Pineapple Head' to the man in the front row who told him to 'get on with it' during one of his chats. More cheers, but all in good fun. The best thing about seeing Crowded House is the way they're good lads one minute, then poets the next. The song is actually a nonsense based on the rantings of Finn's son in a fever, so they won't even have lost a fan there.

Like any good artists, they have a talent for seeming endlessly original. After a decent rendition of 'Locked Out', the singer-songwriter Finn revealed that all his songs start off as ballads until the rest of the band get their hands on them.

Alone with his guitar, he demonstrated the slow, tender version of 'Locked Out', which suddenly revealed a profound sweetness. The band even joined in for a verse, ready to go for a full reprise if given a signal. 'This is a cathartic moment, Finsbury Park,' said Finn, stopping and grinning. 'It sounds better like this. From now on, we do it slow.' You could believe him. It was a cathartic moment - here at last was a pop star you could trust.