What do you call seven Finns in a rotunda – a flock, a festoon, a filth or a frolic? This is the question posed by New Zealand’s first family of pop as they wrap up a set of magical songs at Auckland Zoo.
Crowds arrive with picnic baskets and beach-chairs and stroll through the zoo, checking out the animals and purchasing hot chips before settling in their thousands around the band rotunda.
At around 7pm Crowded House and Split Enz alumni Tim and Neil Finn are escorted to the stage to the loud cheers of the crowd, their twin shocks of white hair gleaming under the bright lights. They’re joined by Neil’s sons Liam and Elroy and Tim’s son Harper, and launch into Angel’s Heap and Six Months in a Leaky Boat. People stand up to dance and the animals also come to the party, with a flock of seagulls bopping on top of the rotunda.
There are plenty of families in the crowd, and it’s a family affair up on stage too.
“It doesn’t come naturally to sit around the campfire and sing. We had to practice,” says Tim. Liam teases his Dad and his uncle for having to learn his complicated chord changes, but Tim takes the opportunity to give son Harper a tutorial. On Dirty Creature he struts around the stage in full dramatic flight, before yelling, “Come on Harper, play some piano! Give the people what they want!” Tim turns to the crowd. “If you want more, holler!” The crowd hollers and Harper plays up a storm, finishing with a fierce glissando.
The family vibe continues with the revelation that granddad Finn, 92 year old Richard, is watching the concert from Cambridge via Skype. “He’s 92 years old and still rocking,” says Tim. “He’s from the old school of jazz – he’d appreciate some good jamming.” If Richard likes harmonies he’ll be enjoying the next song It’s Only Natural, with his sons’ voices in strong Finn form.
Afterwards Tim reveals that “Iggy Pop wanted me” before leading the crowd through renditions of Four Seasons in One Day and Better Be Home Soon. The crowd sings surprisingly well and the animals are bound to be enjoying their twilight lullaby, though Tim struggles to contain his anti-Zoo sentiment. He tells us a Life of Pi zoo theory before making up for any offence caused by dedicating Split Enz song Nobody Takes Me Seriously Anyway to all the Zoo Keepers. For a song about seriousness it’s very silly and heaps of fun, with a bonus awesome guitar solo.
The set takes a new turn with Kiss The Road of Rarotonga, a song that’s musically darker, opening with a clash of cymbals and a groaning guitar.
“Here’s a song Neil and I wrote during a trip to Rarotonga with Dave Dobbyn,” says Tim.
“We wrote this song live onstage at Trader Joes. Years later Zac Guildford appeared naked in the same bar,” says Neil.
“I think Zac, if he’s here tonight, will enjoy this song,” says Tim – and to be fair, it would be hard not to.
The next song’s a heartfelt rendition of Second Chance, the poignant Liam Finn track that defined 2008. Once he’s off singing duties Liam jumps on an amp and performs to the people sitting around the back of the rotunda during I Got You. Not to be outdone, Neil jumps up too. At the end of the song they all pretend to leave the stage, but with nowhere to go they’re soon back for an encore.
Tim’s young daughter Elliot comes up for a star turn singing and playing bass on Stuff and Nonsense. There’s something special about Elliot – and she’s worth checking out here if you haven’t had the chance to see her live.
Rounding out the frolic of Finns, Neil’s wife Sharon (of Pajama Club fame) takes over bass duties for History Never Repeats and Weather With You. That’s supposed to be the end of the set, but with a few minutes left on the clock before their 9pm curfew the Finns bust out a spontaneous version of I See Red.
“The lions roared their approval,” says Tim, and so does the crowd. It’s been a Finntastic evening.
– Kathryn van Beek
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Tim Armstrong:
- Angel’s Heap – Finn Brothers
- Six Months in a Leaky Boat, Split Enz
- Burn up the Road, Liam Finn
- Fire in your Belly, Liam Finn
- Only Talking Sense, Finn Brothers
- Dirty Creature, Split Enz
- It’s Only Natural, Crowded House
- Snug As Fuck, Liam Finn
- Four Seasons In One Day, Crowded House
- Better be Home Soon, Crowded House
- Edible Flowers, Finn Brothers
- Neurotic World, Liam Finn
- Nobody Takes Me Seriously Anyway, Split Enz
- Cold Feet, Liam Finn
- Kiss the Road of Rarotonga, Finn Brothers
- Second Chance, Liam Finn
- I got You, Split Enz
- Stuff and Nonsense, Split Enz
- History Never Repeats, Split Enz
- Weather With You, Crowded House
- I See Red, Split Enz