I went to hear Neil Finn play last night at the Phoenix. Most people in this country respond to that name with, "who"? I then elaborate, explaining that Neil Finn is, or was I suppose, the lead singer and chief songwriter of Crowded House. They then clue in, but don't seem overly impressed. Contrast this with the reaction to breathing the name in New Zealand, where Neil Finn is from and where he lives. Virtually everyone, and I do mean everyone, even your gran, can tell you he's from Teawamutu, a dairy town in the North Island, and now lives in Parnell, Auckland, before listing off a few dozen songs from his back catalogue. I therefore assumed, prior to last night, that love for Neil Finn's music was dependent on having a bit of Kiwi blood flowing through your veins (which I mercifully do) and that the audience would consist of a few backbackers and a dozen or so Mojo readers. How wrong I was.
Neil Finn has released two albums since Crowded House split up, the songs of which are in keeping with his tuneful, beautifully crafted, magnifencently sung tradition. I've yet to hear one played on a radio station in Toronto. Yet, the Phoenix was packed. Hundreds of people, middle-aged and young, conservative and club kids, rugby types and artsies, were all bloody loving Neil Finn. This in a country where I was under the clearly wrong assumption that nobody knew who the old fella was. These fine souls had done their own research, found out that Neil actually didn't die after Crowded House, had bought or downloaded his albums, and evidently enjoyed them as much as me. My illusions about love for Neil being linked to some Kiwiness were shattered.
I think that living in cities grants the power, or gives one more of a chance, to expose oneself to phenomenon that is not necessarily readily accessible. Perhaps this is obvious, but this thought struck me as I basked in the warm glow of Neil's peaceful music and looked at all these people enjoying themselves so mightily. It was reinforced by Neil himself when, between songs, he looked around and noticed some 102.1 The Edge posters hanging from the balconies. In a jovial, sarcastic tone, he said, "The Edge? They're an "alternative" station aren't they? Who wants their listening dictated to by a station that plays one kind of music? They've never played my records. Let's take them down. That's the way, just rip them off; they're not needed tonight". And sure enough, to laughter and applause, the posters were removed. It was a silly moment, but to me showed that if people only listened to The Edge for their musical intake, or any of the other distinctly average stations that the masses are subjected to, the concert never would have happened and Neil would be a dairy farmer. The free-flow of ideas amongst a densely packed mass of humanity that is a city rescued us last night from the mediocrity of Nickelback.
The poster incident struck another chord with me (no pun intended). Imagine if we'd been at a Limp Bizcuit or an Our Lady Peace concert, or any of the other faux-earnest, self-righteous, corporate-sponsored rage agents that this continent pumps out posing as musicians. If a Mix 99.9 or 104.5 poster had inadvertently found its way into the building, the bands, in their cock-chaffing way, would have incited their fans to "tear the shit out of those things", "Phil Collins is a fucking fag" etc etc. Humourless, gormless and agressive. It was such a welcome change to have a musician who is actually secure enough to be himself, crack jokes, let his band be individuals, and make a point without resorting to assinine, juvenile posing. Neil Finn, to use a fine New Zealand expression, is a good cunt.Posted by Sting at Febrero 04, 2003 11:50 AM