Monday, June 18 , 2018, 6:57 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: Neil Finn Rocks the (Crowded) House at SOhO

He performs after the world premiere of a documentary about his 7 Worlds Collide project

At the beginning of his show last Tuesday night at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club — which he later described as “a groovy little club in Santa Barbara” — Neil Finn enthused, “The intent here tonight is to have a really good time.” Mission accomplished — for the performers and audience alike.

Finn, who is best known as the frontman for New Zealand pop group Crowded House, was flying high after the world premiere of the documentary The Sun Came Out at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The film was based on the 2008 recording and 2009 performance of songs from the 7 Worlds Collide project organized by Finn, which included Johnny Marr, formerly from The Smiths, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and Phil Selway and Ed O’Brien of Radiohead.

It was a follow-up to the original 7 Worlds Collide project from 2001, which featured many of the same musicians. The name “7 Worlds Collide” is a reference to the lyrics “Seven worlds will collide / Whenever I am by your side” from the song “Distant Sun” by Crowded House. Album proceeds benefit the charity Oxfam.

Also involved in the project — and joining Finn at the concert — were multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano, who Finn described as “a national treasure,” and stand-up bassist Sebastian Steinberg, who Finn declared is “always a joy to play with.” Rounding out the lineup was drummer Wally Ingram, who was such a late recruit that he apparently had learned some of the songs that day.

Recalling that Ingram had once filled in on short notice for Crowded House, Finn joked that we “keep dropping him in the deep end, and he always rises to the challenge.”

The set opened with a collection of songs from the 7 Worlds Collide project, which Finn described as “a delight to play” because “we don’t get to play them very often.” First off was “Too Blue,” which was co-written by Marr and Tweedy. Another Tweedy-penned song, “What Could Have Been,” was one of the highlights. Other songs were written by fellow Kiwi Don McGlashan (“Girl Make Your Own Mind Up,” written for his daughter Pearl), by Selway (the trippy “The Ties That Bind Us”), and by Finn and family (“Little By Little” co-written with and dedicated to wife Sharon, and “Red Wine Bottle” co-written by son Liam).

Steinberg took the spotlight for “The Water,” for which he switched to electric guitar. Germano also was highlighted with her song “Reptile,” and she gave an unplanned, moving performance of the atmospheric “In the Land of Fairies” when Finn’s guitar setup stopped working midshow. Later, Finn’s guitar still wasn’t functioning properly, so he played “All Comedians Suffer” on piano. it was welcome serendipity. It sounded great! You wouldn’t have known that it was Finn’s first piano arrangement of the song.

Eventually, Finn’s guitar setup was resurrected thanks to new batteries.

After “Driving Me Mad,” which Finn had some trouble remembering the words to, he gave the crowd a double shot of the ‘80s with a cover of Smiths classic “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and Crowded Houses’ hit “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” which the crowd sang their hearts out to with Finn.

As an encore, Finn came out alone and played the obscure “Spirit of the Stairs” and Crowded Houses’ “Four Seasons in One Day” before being rejoined by the band for a rousing take on “Weather With You.”

It’s notable that the 7 Worlds Collide album and documentary producers, Jim Scott and Simon Mark-Brown, were in attendance, as was former Capitol Records head Hale Milgrim, who helped bring the film premiere to Santa Barbara.

All received song dedications. And, like everyone else, I’m sure they had a truly splendid time at the concert.

Setlist

Too Blue
Little By Little
Girl Make Your Own Mind Up
Red Wine Bottle
The Ties That Bind Us
Reptile
What Could Have Been
In the Land of Fairies
All Comedians Suffer
The Water
Faster Than Light
Driving Me Mad
There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Don’t Dream It’s Over
Spirit of the Stairs
Four Seasons in One Day
Weather With You

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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