Neil Finn + Paul Kelly: Goin' Your Way

Two-disc document of the Kiwi/Aussie legends' 2013 joint tour gets a belated worldwide release. Expect many good tunes and few surprises.

Neil Finn + Paul Kelly

Goin' Your Way

Label: Omnivore
Release Date: 2015-12-11

It was a momentous occasion, for sure, and maybe a long time coming. Neil Finn, the legendary Kiwi singer/songwriter, and Paul Kelly, the legendary Australian singer/songwriter, had crossed paths before, going back to the 1980s. The two played a one-off concert in 2011, and finally announced a joint Australian tour in 2013. Goin' Your Way, a document of the tour's final date, at the Sydney Opera House, was released in the duo's native territories in late 2013 and a year later in the UK. Now comes a belated worldwide release.

Why the wait? Legal wrangling could be a factor. But there is also the strong likelihood that relatively few people outside Australia will have heard of Kelly. Finn, of course, has decades of international success and even borderline superstardom as co-leader and leader of Split Enz and Crowded House, respectively. Kelly, though, remains a cult concern outside his native land. This is in no small part because his intimate story-songs have retained a strong identification with, and reflection of, Australian society. So there is the strong possibility that American Crowded House fans, for example, will view Goin' Your Way as a collection of their favorites along with a bunch of songs by some other guy. If nothing else, maybe this wider release will draw some deserved attention to Kelly.

Goin' Your Way really can be looked at from two different perspectives. On one hand, it is a very safe, very close-to-the-vest exercise in nostalgia. A big-time, Live Nation-backed tour is no time to rock the boat, and Goin' Your Way is about as tasteful and risk-averse as one could expect. The two-disc set contains 29 songs spread over two hours, and all but a few were singles for Finn, Kelly, Split Enz, or Crowded House. The closest thing to surprises are "Only Talking Sense" from the terrific Finn Brothers album, two favorites from Finn's 1998 solo debut Try Whistling This, and "For the Ages", an album cut from Kelly's then-current Spring and Fall. The setlist makes sense in terms of hitting the broadest target. Fans that came only to see Kelly, for example, would more likely be familiar at least with Finn's hits, and vice-versa. But in Australia, wouldn't most attendees likely be fans of both? Some of these songs are iconic, for sure, and would be missed if they were not included. Still, it seems like an opportunity to dig deeper was missed.

As for performances themselves, they are likewise buttoned-down, traditional, and faithful to the recorded versions. Finn and Kelly do often share vocals, sometimes taking the lead on the other's songs. Possibly out of reverence, though, neither takes any liberty with even the phrasing or vocal melodies. Both men play and/or sing on each track, so in that sense the show is truly collaborative rather than a tag-team affair. This element lends the show a cozy, more intimate feel. But few new musical wrinkles are uncovered or created.

The other perspective, basically, is "So what?!?". Here are two outstanding singer-songwriters, performing some of their best-known, most-loved songs in what may well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Goin' Your Way is basically two greatest-hits packages in one. And both Finn and Kelly are in fine form and fine voice. Finn's rich, buttery croon meshes better with Kelly's songs than Kelly's reedy, nasal tone meshes with Finn's, but both sound at home in the other's compositions. The backing band is strong and something of a family affair, as well: Finn's son is on drums, while Kelly's nephew handles guitar. Bassist Zoe Hauptmann provides a firm yet versatile foundation. The mix, by veteran Bob Clearmountain, is full-bodied and short on crowd noise and banter. The result is a concert album that, for better and worse, sounds more like a studio recording. And maybe the conservative nature of the show is warranted, after all. When the combo do get into more of a jam on the coda of "Distant Sun", they nearly run off the rails. The two covers fall flat as well. Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" sounds accidental, while "Moon River" just doesn't work as a singalong. But, really, who needs covers when the originals are so strong?

Most people will meet Goin' Your Way half way between these two interpretations. It takes the rout of two artists who have nothing left to prove, but it is also something more than a tie-in tour memento.





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.