Concert Review: Crowded House, Spark Arena, 19 March 2021

Crowded House

Spark Arena was the only place to be last night as Neil Finn and Crowded House got a mesmerised audience on its feet in a spirit of celebration, both of the band’s work and just how lucky we are to be New Zealanders in this bizarre moment in space & time.

Reb FountainReb Fountain got the night off on the right footing declaring we’re all at the “biggest show on earth right now!” She kicked off with Hawks and Doves, a dreamy rocker that evoked Native American rhythms, which flavoured her entire set. While she had a 3-piece band backing her – she was a solitary, commanding presence – the woman in black, in her moment. Highlight of her half-hour set included the poignant Hey Mom and Swim to the Star – written by Peggy Seager. She wrapped with the powerful Don’t You Know Who I Am.

But it was Crowded House we’d come to see. And they wasted no time getting right into Weather With You, to rapturous reception, and soon had a sing-along parlay going with the packed house. Neil Finn was clearly in his element, front and centre, the showman working his crowd, making me wonder how he manages his stint as sideman to Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac.

Crowded HouseNext up – Mean to Me. “She came all the way from America. She had a blind date with destiny…” The first of several tear-eyed moments, as I was blown back to my own early days in New Zealand, having come all the way from America for my own blind date with destiny. That was sparked by my love of Split Enz, which put NZ on the map for me. And here I am, a couple of decades later reviewing this show, thinking, “Thank you, Neil!” A powerful take on the song, a wall of sound so mighty he broke a string.

They sailed through the hits – The World Where You Live, In My Command, Whatever You Want (dedicated to the Yes-Men of the world), Fall at Your Feet… By which time the crowd was on its collective feet, swaying, a wonderfully intimate moment as 12,000 people sang along, knowing all the words. Reb Fountain and her band joined in for Playing With Fire, Neil giving Auckland an A, declaring we’re not just good at sailing.

Next up Pineapple Head. In one of many personal moments, Neil reveals that he and Liam wrote the song when Liam was seven years old and ill, with a high fever, delirious. He came up with some really good lines, including ‘pineapple head.’ Neil put him to bed and immediately wrote the song.

The hits keep coming – When You Come (the title of which bassist Nick Seymour’s Dad seriously objected to!), Private Universe, Four Seasons in One Day, Nails in My Feet and Locked Out. Liam threw his guitar sky-high!!! To which Neil intoned, “I hope that’s your B guitar!”

As this is the To the Island Tour, Neil introduces the band’s new single, To the Island, a new song, classic Crowded House – “just right, it’s the perfect size…” (Watch the video here.)

The set wraps with Don’t Dream it’s Over, Something So Strong, and Distant Sun. Kiwi anthems all. You could feel the wave of emotion, the pure love shimmering in the air, crashing to a crescendo as Neil, Liam and Elroy Finn, Mitchell Froom and Nick Seymour build a massive wall of melody, history and celebration that fills Spark Arena to bursting! Nary a dry eye to be found.

Gone are the days when Kiwis were known for remaining seated and clapping politely at the end of a show. The audience thundered for more, the floor rumbling beneath us.

And of course they came back. There’s Neil on the piano, saying some people are going to hear their favourite song, as he breaks into Chocolate Cake. Never one of my favourites, it was nonetheless a rollicking take as he had the audience in yet another parlay.

Surprise of the night – David Bowie’s Heroes. This was dedicated to all the heroes on the frontline of the pandemic, and all the heroes of the world, with a glorious montage running behind the band, ending with the classic beauty shot of Ziggy Stardust.

We were sent home with Better Be Home Soon. One last explosion of emotion – love and unity, phone torches swaying, 12,000 people singing in unison.

A perfect show.

Crowded House is playing in New Plymouth tonight and are back in Auckland tomorrow. I’ve heard there are tickets still available. Unless you’re in managed quarantine, jail or hospital, you’d be crazy to miss this.

Veronica McLaughlin

Click an icon to view a full gallery of photos by Ivan Karczewski.

Crowded House
Reb Fountain
SET LIST
  1. Weather with You
  2. Mean to Me
  3. The World Where You Live.
  4. In My Command.
  5. Whatever you want
  6. Fall at Your Fett
  7. Whispers and Moans
  8. Playing with Fire
  9. Pineapple Head
  10. When you come
  11. Private Universe
  12. four Seasons in one Day
  13. Nails in My Feet
  14. Locked Out
  15. To the Island with Reb
  16. Don’t Dream it’s Over
  17. Something So Strong
  18. Distant Sun

Encore

  1. Chocolate Cake
  2. Heroes
  3. Better be home soon
Veronica McLaughlin

3 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic show last night also to what was another full house….just brilliant. We got a couple of extra songs also with Split Enz’s ‘I Got You’ and a lovely ‘Elephants’ by request in the encore. My 12 year old daughters first concert….pretty special…

    • I would have loved to see the second show. And of course, it was ‘I Got You’ that got me hooked on Split Enz, bought all their albums, saw them open for Tom Petty in ’81… Got me curious about New Zealand, and I finally moved here in ’94. Funny how a song I first heard at a party in Brooklyn totally changed my life!
      Not sure the show will be so life changing for your daughter – but she’ll remember her first concert for the rest of her life. And who knows… maybe she’ll write a life-changing song of her own!

      • Yeah I think in terms of a first concert it was a pretty good one. Thanks for the review…encapsulated my thought exactly.

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