Archive for November, 2013


29 Nov

Set List. Other material was added later...

How enjoyable to see Neil Finn live and not hear ‘Weather With You’.

I could (and will) pen a rant to songs that artists seem obliged to play that I loathe, but tonight it’s an intimate showcase for the upcoming ‘Dizzy Heights’ record.

On entering the church I realise we’re lucky to be here. There are less than 300 souls attending, including a Neapolitan couple we meet in the queue who came over just for the gig and a Dutch bloke seated behind us. These are the hard-core fans.

Just after 9pm Neil Finn sits at the piano preceded by 8 string instrumentalists, a percussionist and his ‘conductor’. The acoustics are as expected , giving the music room to breathe and occupy and the intimacy of the gig ensures quiet and only minimal use of the eternally irritating mobile camera phone.

The set opens with ‘Dive Bomber’, sung entirely in falsetto and another seven songs from the new album are delicately unfolded by piano and strings.

‘White Lies and Alibis’ and ‘In My Blood’ are beautifully crafted, showing Finn remains unafraid of abandoning traditional verse/chorus/middle eight structure.

‘Lights of New York’ is a bit inspid but that’s rare: most of the time Neil Finn crafts a wonderful song and conveys a love for what he does – and shares it with his audience.

And praise will come to those whose kindness, leaves you without debt...

‘Sinner’ pads softly through the church air, thick with religious imagery and ushers in ‘Impressions’ the mid-point of a 90 minute set rolling on into solo and Crowded House material.

‘World Where You Live’ works wonderfully from piano and ‘Faster Than Light’ and ‘Message to My Girl’ are majestic but the set (and the night) ends with ‘a joyous ‘Distant Sun’ before we traipse out into the jarring noise and light of Piccadilly Circus.

Finn will be touring Dizzy Heights in April 2014 and if you haven’t seen this exceptional songsmith performer before, don’t miss him this time.


26 Nov

Whatever happened to the heroes?

It would be a stretch to call Hugh Cornwell a national treasure but the lead singer/guitarist on the first ten Stranglers albums is iconic to us ‘men of a certain age’.

 Even in his mid-60’s and in a suit, blue open neck shirt and resembling a fashionably dishevelled accountant he retains strong hints of a submerged menace – at one point lasering in on a guy laughing at a story which wasn’t funny and asking him why. Rather him than me……

Cornwell left The Stranglers in 1990 and his extensive solo catalogue gets aired tonight via the device of a song from every record.

But it’s ‘Goodbye Toulouse’ from sublime Stranglers debut Rattus Norvegicus IV opening the proceedings as Cornwall prowls around a big circular Persian rug on centre stage, rattling his acoustic guitar and punctuating his chronology of songs with understated anecdotes.

In their heyday the Stranglers were genuinely scary, terrifying the then-powerful music press by relentlessly targeting hacks foolish enough to give them a bad review. Little of that was on show in the vignettes about songs, venues and events from the mid-70s onwards, as Cornwell shed light on his song writing craft and the stellar producers he’s worked with.

And starting his set with ‘Goodbye Toulouse’, ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Nice and Sleazy’ and ‘Nuclear Device’ reminds us that this guy wrote some of the most significant music of mid and late 70s, even at a time when innovation and creativity were stellar.

Supported by one-man orchestra Dave Ford, Cornwalls tarted at 9 and played solo for an hour and 40 minutes, successfully striking a balance between well-known cuts and his more obscure offerings.

‘Deca-dance’, ‘Story of He and She’ and ‘Nerves of Steel’ were compelling, as was unlikely but heartfelt tribute to Robert Michum, ‘The Big Sleep’.

As my (reluctantly attending) wife pointed out, this was a set for enthusiasts and not passing observers but nevertheless, where else do you hear songs about Leon Trotsky’s ice-pick, Lenny Bruce and the Premier of Queensland who sold part of his territory to Japan?

Stephen Smith: writer

Rants, rambles and other assorted thoughts

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