The songs of New Zealand brothers Neil and Tim Finn have been part of the fabric of the lives of many people over many generations for over thirty years. Dating back from the first band the brothers were part of, Split Enz, in the 1970’s, through to the wonderful Crowded House and solo material from Neil and Tim, what has shone through the brightest during that time is the brilliant sense of care and craftmanship both brothers have in regards to songwriting. This is warm, intelligent, at times witty and above all else  strongly positive, personal and humanist songwriting at its finest The “They Will Have Their Way” concerts are very much a tribute to these beautiful songs and how they have become part of the lives of many people across the world.
In 2006, a tribute album consisting entirely of female artists covering the songs of Neil and Tim Finn was relased and proved to be highly popular. Entitled “She Will Have Her Way”, after a Neil Finn song, it inspired a sequel, “He Will Have His Way”, with male artists performing songs written by Neil and Tim. Tonight was a truly inspired combination of the two.
This evening’s performance showcased seven feature vocalists and a fantastic house band. The vocalists were Clare Bowditch, Lior, Holly Throsby, Alexander Gow from Oh, Mercy, Sarah Blasko, Paul Dempsey and Sally Seltmen. Tonight kicked off with Seltmen solo, against the striking backdrop of the two trees of the covers of the two tribute albums entangled and intertwined, performing a wonderfully ethereal and ghostly version of the Crowded House track “Four Seasons In One Day”, a song many associate with Melbourne and it scizophrenic weather! A great way to start the night.
Lior was next, performing a highly emotive and moving version of “Into Temptation”. Tonight proved to be living proof that the idea of the cover version was not the last hiding place of the artistically bankrupt. It became evident very quickly that the artists performing all shared a common bond in their respective love of the works of Neil and Tim. When a song is reinterpreted with great love and care, as was definitely the case this evening, the results can be truly astounding.
An early highlight was the four female singers performing a stunning version of Crowded House’s “Fall At Your Feet”. What was already a borderline perfect song was definitely taken to something of a higher level this evening. This truly encapsulated the point and the magic of the idea of the tribute concert.There was also a wonderful sense of humour in play this evening. When taking to the stage, Bowditch made reference to Seeker Lover Keeper, which features Thosby, Seltmen and Blasko. She thanked whoever wrote the Twitter comment saying that, if she joined them, they should be renamed Seeker Lover Keeper Ranga!
This evening’s performance was divided into two sets, with an interval. Highlights of the first set included Holly Throsby and Alexander Gow performing a gorgeous version of “Stuff And Nonsense”, Sarah Blasko doing a stirring take on the classic Split Enz track “My Mistake”, and Paul Dempsey with an inspirng, soaring version of “Message To My Girl”. One of the biggest moments of the night was reserved for Clare Bowditch.
Initally taking the crowd through a instructional sing along, she launched into the utterly sublime “Better Be Home Soon”, for which she was joined by Paul Dempsey. Tonight featured some truly inspired and wonderful musical pairing between the featured vocalists. This was probably one of the best on that front. Within moment, the entire crowd assembled were singing along word for word! It would be fantastic to hear Bowditch and Dempsey collaborate furthur in the future going by this exceptional pairing this evening.
The second half of the evening kicked of with a couple of highly amusing moments. Alex Gow, upon taking the stage, initially stood in front of Paul’s microphone. Alex, being of average height, was standing way below where the microphone stand was set for what seemed like all ten feet of how tall Paul was! Alex was also wearing a ridiculouly loud shirt with coloured squares that wouldn’t have looked out of place with regards to what Split Enz wore in the 1970’s. Gow did a great version of the Split Enz track, “Poor Boy”, displaying his wonderful abilities as a guitarist.
Other high points of the second half of the evening were Sarah Blasko performing “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, whith that haunting, incredible voice of her.Since first perfoming this track on Triple J many years ago, she truly has made it her own. She followed this up with a fantastic version of “Dirty Creature”, really showing off her range and style as a vocalist;the version performed this evening still had that foreboding, spooky and unnerving vibe of the original.
A surprise in regards to the setlist this evening was Lior performing a lesser known Tim Finn track called “Unsinkable”. An eloquent and heartfelt song, it illustrated beautifully a running theme throughout the work of Tim and Neil. Namely, how as people we need each other in this life. A lesson we can never be taught too many times.
Other great moments of the second half were Seltmen, Throsby and Blasko performing “Sinner” with their beautiful harmonies really taking the track somewher special, Alex and Clare doing a sprightly take on “Something So Strong” and Holly Throsby with a highly respectful take on “Pineapple Head”, a song that she said was always on mix tapes she put together when she was younger.
For this scribe, the absolute high point of the second set was Sally Seltmen performing “I Hope I Never”. Written by Tim Finn, this song is a brilliant example of musical counterpoint, where the song sounds like a love song on a sonic level. However, when you listen to the lyrics, you realise it is anything but! Seltmen really did it justice this evening with simply her and the keyboard player from the house band, who she joined for the final part, playing the piano outro as a duet. A magical moment.
The main set ended with Dempsey, ably assisted by Alex Gow and Lior, performing a storming version of “I See Red”, capturing the original’s manic energy perfectly. The encore had all of the singers creatively taking turns singing on “It’s Only Natural” and “Weather With You”.
This was a truly inspiring and wonderful night featuring songs from the Antipodean answer to John Lennon and Paul Mc Cartney. It reminded one greatly of how important music is in life and that fantastically written songs will last forever and well and truly stand the test of time. It was inspiring and heartening to see families and younger patrons at The Palais this evening; it is good to know that the legacy of The Finn Brothers is being passed between different generations.
– Neil Evans.