Here’s what happened when Fabric attended Chevron Festival Gardens for the love fest that was Neil and Liam Finn.
As long as I can remember, it has always been a very fine day (or night, as it were) when two Finns came together to create musical magic. While in years past it has been brothers Neil and Tim, talent clearly runs in the family with Neil’s son Liam now headlining with him.
Opening act The Money War quickly engaged an appreciative crowd – who likely don’t get to listen as much Triple J as they’d like anymore – with their dreamy sound and electric-guitar glory.
Then an eerie purple glow illuminated the stage, adding an otherworldly sense to the scene laid out under the stars at Chevron Festival Gardens. We beheld father and son as they interwove their styles – both uniting and separately defining two eras in New Zealand’s musical history.
While the crowd got their lungs firing on the crowd pleasers by Crowded House and Split Enz, the set was spliced with collaborative renditions of each of the Finn’s solo works. Sing-alongs included fan favourites such as set opener ‘Distant Sun’, ‘History Never Repeats’ and ‘I Got You’ with a side of Liam’s hard rocking ‘Second Chance’. A smooth transition from The Shirelles’ classic ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow‘ to ‘Better Be Home Soon‘ made for a sweet send-off.
In the true showmanship of Neil Finn, the man never fails to make a show special. He engaged and interacted with the crowd like the pro he is, making conversations, acknowledging particularly good clapping or a vocal audience member. You always feel as though he KNOWS you’re there. Never is it more apparent than when he indulged the audience’s desire to sing with him during his much-loved classics – and he doesn’t just let the crowd sing along, mind you. He handed over the reins and conducted voices from the stage, letting everyone join the band for a song or two. There’s a palpable joy in the audience as he repeats the chorus of Better Be Home Soon (more times than is strictly required, just so we can appreciatively all have another go).
Like father like son, too, as we’re treated to some witty repartee about Neil being ‘Papi’ and Liam being ‘Daddy. Liam Finn is a veritable rock star from another age, and he complements his father’s mostly measured demeanour with a wailing guitar, a synthetiser fondly nicknamed Geraldine and his trademark intense vocals. Dressed in white jeans and looking fresh off the bus from Woodstock, Finn Jnr (or Daddy, if you will) belts out the most rock and roll moment of the night with his guitar prowess during ‘Cold Feet’.
The band is consummate, as one would expect, and includes younger Finn sibling Elroy on drums. The players all swap instruments through the set with seamless talent, including a bass guitar, which passes through the hands of most of the on-stage cohort.
There is obviously a great deal of Finn-shaped love on stage, and no shortage of respect between the two song-writers. Household name Neil plays support on Liam’s tracks with more than just the expected pride of a parent. It’s quite clear to everyone present, even those who only came for their fix of vintage Neil, that Liam Finn has learnt well from ‘Papi Neil’ and might even have shown him a thing or two.
It was clear that those gathered onstage were enjoying the spectacular equally as much as the eager audience, who stomped their feet and clapped their hands until they raised their voices to the night sky for one last, joyous, “you’d better be home soon”