In concert: Crowded House at Wolf Trap
By Chris Klimek
There exists somewhere an alternate universe where Neil Finn is merely a frustrated elementary school music teacher and not the frontman for Crowded House. At Wolf Trap Monday night, the affable singer/songwriter kept trying to get the audience to sing in sections. As fundamental a text in melody and harmony as his songbook is, he couldn’t get the crowd to do anything more sophisticated than repeat-after-him on “Weather With You” or “Better Be Home Soon.”
Fortunately, he was in strong voice himself. Touring in support of “Intriguer,” the second Crowded House album since the 52-year-old Finn reconvened the band in 2007 after a decade-long hiatus, he and his bespoke-suited associates devoted nearly a third of their 115-minute, 23-song set to tunes not old enough to drive, weaving them in among a baker’s dozen corralled on the group’s 1996 best-of collection.
The newer material contributed some highlights: “Isolation” started off ethereal and trippy, but turned bloody before its time-shifting finale. (The older “Private Universe” had already introduced a welcome strain of psychedelia to Finn’s elegant, disciplined minor-key pop.) The elder Finn invited his son Liam (several albums into his own career) to sing and play on “Say That Again,” with a chorus that begins, “You’ve got to be your own man.”
Finn indulged two requests for rarities, with one — “There Goes God” — submitted via stagebound paper airplane. He dedicated the other, “Italian Plastic,” to its author, original Crowded House drummer Paul Hester, who committed suicide in 2005.
With its internally-illuminated lawn ornaments of geese, mushrooms, and what looked to be short guys in mustaches, the stage set evoked the video game “Super Mario Brothers,” a reference point as musty as, well, Crowded House. But the performance felt very much a thing of the present.
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