Reviews

Finn Brothers

James Bean

Former Crowded House duo affect bird-like harmonies. Cages rattle.

Finn Brothers

Finn Brothers

City: St Kilda, Australia
Venue: The Palais
Date: 2004-11-24

Finn Brothers
No matter how majestic and opulent a cage may be, it remains a device of incarceration, limiting the detainee in movement and contact. One wonders whether the expression 'birdbrain' reflects more than the fact that birds are relatively simple creatures. Might it also refer to domesticated species that have adapted to the cage, adapted to its palling effect on free thought? Staring up at the ornate ceiling, I sat forward on my narrow leather perch as Neil and Tim Finn sang. "Blood dries up/ Like rain, like rain/ Fills my cup/ Like four seasons in one day." Their harmonies have an ethereal, bird-like quality, a combined register one usually only encounters with organically matched pipes. That a band in a relatively small space can create such mellifluous, soaring tones is indeed a wonder. These two voices interweave, overlap, and braid with one another in song, wildly ascending to the high dome ceiling and then fluttering back down like somersaulting pigeons. Ultimately, with eagle-like predation, they pick you up, a lump of flesh, mincing you in their imaginary grasp. The two hour show (including a double encore) featured much of the duo's work with Crowded House, in particular that band's most cultivated album, Woodface. They also played an obligatory string of Split Enz hits. Summoning our rumps from the leather, fold-down seats, Tim Finn urged us to, "make a move, get off your spine/ Shake your leg, tow the line/ Mum's the word, the doctor said/ Try your hand at this instead." With this a few people stood up, managing a little jig, while the bovine crowd reclined, whining, "sit down, we can't see, sit down!" The band's thumping rhythm reminded me of an early, acid-jazz beat, accented as it was by Tim's owl-like cooing -- a deranged owl at that -- as he howled over his brother's unhinged hooks. One can scarcely avoid Crowded House and Split Enz on Australian commercial radio, but I confess that hitherto I have not really paid much attention to the Finn Brothers' music. On this particular evening, however, to remain unmoved by their skill and spirit would require a Teflon constitution. When the younger Finn took over on piano for "Edible Flowers," his poise and musicianship rendered with masterful style, I truly realized the superlative nature of Finns' pop craftsmanship. The complimentary nature of their vocals was understood. Their lyrics and song construction teem with flourishes and refrains that epitomize the genre. Gilded cages strung like chandeliers overhead, were the perfect metaphor underscoring the band's choral song. Singing their hit, "Weather With You," their voices fill the room, the words dripping down on long strings for you to shimmy up and marvel at:
Walking 'round the room singing
Stormy Weather
At 57 Mt. Pleasant St.
Now it's the same room but everything's different
You can fight the sleep but not the dream Things ain't cookin' in my kitchen
Strange affliction wash over me
Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire
Couldn't conquer the blue sky
When Crowded House drummer Paul Hester came on stage in a whirlwind of exuberance and joined the band for "Distant Sun" and "I Got You," at times playing only a snare with brushes, there wasn't a soul left uncompromised by the Finns' music. A part of the brothers' ineffable love for music adhered like a patina to our hearts.

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