We Wear Suits at the Beach: Mark Hart, Matt Sherrod, Nick Seymour, and Neil Finn.
Crowded House were the headliner and the conditions at the 9:30 Club Friday night, and the group deserves nothing less. Reconvened last year after splitting up at the peak of their powers in 1996, they’ve got everything you could want in a band: An embarrassment of superb material, a charismatic frontman, a set list that’s rewritten nightly, a tolerance for — nay, encouragement of — spontaneity, and (most importantly) that palpable love of performing that can’t be faked. Led by Neil Finn (rightly revered as a songwriter of Lennonesque lyrical gifts and McCartneyesqe melodic gifts; seriously underrated as a singer and guitarist), Crowded House overcome every obstacle with grace, from the devastating (the 2005 suicide of ex- drummer Paul Hester) to the merely annoying (the impudence of some of their own alleged fans, who welcomed the band to their first DC gig in more than a decade by yapping throughout the 130-minute concert).
Happily, the reverent outnumbered the rude: “You’re in very fine voice tonight, Washington,” Finn gushed, deputizing 1,200 backup singers to fill out the soaring “World Where You Live.”
The 23-song set was characteristically generous and unpredictable. Five new tunes (“Isolation” and “Twice If You’re Lucky” were introduced by name) suggested a more upbeat direction after last year’s mournful Time on Earth album. Largely inspired by Hester’s death, it was ignored save for “English Trees,” a number every bit as exciting as it sounds. They can’t all be Finn-tastic, apparently.
The lengthy second encore brought an improvised composition, and a rarity (“Mansion in the Slums”) Finn declared they hadn’t played in “at least 20 years.” But naturally, the emphasis was on the group’s 1986-96 back catalogue, as fine as any from that era. “Locked Out” rocked out, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” had everyone clutching their better half a little tighter, and for the buoyant “Weather With You,” Finn actually divided the audience and got us to sing two-part harmony. Leave it to this ever-affable Kiwi to bring order to a roomful of surly Yanks.
A slightly different version of this review is published in today’s Paper of Record.
Crowded House at the 9:30 Club, Friday, May 2, 2008
01 Everthing Is Good for You
02 World Where You Live
03 Isolation (new song)
04 (new song; no title given)
05 Distant Sun
06 Whispers and Moans
07 (new song “about how life unfolds as a movie;” Neil plays piano on this one)
08 (new song — “Other Side of the World”?)
09 English Trees
10 Nails in My Feet
11 Don’t Dream It’s Over
12 Four Seasons in One Day
13 Twice If You’re Lucky (new song)
14 Weather with You
- ENCORE 1
15 Locked Out
16 Something So Strong
17 Private Universe
- ENCORE 2
18 Into Temptation
19 Pineapple Head
20 Spontaneous Washington DC Composition
21 Manson in the Slums
22 She Goes On
23 Better Be Home Soon
Matt Sherrod – drums
Mark Hart – keyboard, lap steel, guitar, vocals
Nick Seymour – bass, vocals
Neil Finn – lead vocal, lead guitar