Neil and Liam Finn, EaRTH, review: a completely joyous family affair

Liam and Neil Finn at EaRTH
Liam and Neil Finn at EaRTH CREDIT: DAVID CLELAND

Neil McCormick, music critic
25 JANUARY 2019 • 3:03PM

All the way from sunny New Zealand to icy nights in Hackney, the Finn family put on a display of musical togetherness to warm the cockles of the coldest heart. Their two shows at EaRTH, a beautifully restored north-London venue, were joyous occasions that had the audience singing, laughing and generally basking in the warmth being generated from the stage. These were shows to restore your faith in the bonding power of live music.

At 60, Neil Finn is an international star as the frontman of Crowded House, a renowned singer-songwriter whose gift for Beatley melodies and heart-stirring lyrics has earned him a devoted audience. He is currently a member of superstar rock band Fleetwood Mac but, for a short British tour, swapped stadiums for intimate clubs.

His voluminously bearded 35 year-old-son, Liam Finn, has his father’s vocal tone but essays a much spikier, weirder edge to his eccentric indie. Last year, they made a lovely album together, Lightsleeper, but had to cut short promotion when dad was recruited by the Mac. Their belated tour has turned into a family affair with the inclusion of youngest son Elroy (29) on drums and wife and mother, Sharon, on bass. All four wore matching outfits of black-and-white track suits. “They’re really good in airports, we can always find each other in a crowd,” joked dad.

There was a lot of dad joking, a steady patter of teasing and loving banter between father and sons as they swapped instruments. “Is it alright if I play acoustic guitar on this?” asked Neil. “You can do what you want, you’re the dad,” replied Liam. Neil moved between guitars and keyboards, Liam briefly took over drums whilst Elroy shifted to lead guitar. Sharon was a silent presence, occupying the back of the stage, delicately plucking bass notes.

They all sang, harmonies blending with an almost uncanny beauty, the sound of voices that belong together. The atmosphere was like being at a neighbourhood party, relaxed, genial and inclusive. Even roadies and guitar techs became part of the occasion, their presence to fiddle with something on stage treated as an excuse for more affectionate joking.

Liam and Neil Finn at EaRTH
Liam and Neil Finn at EaRTH CREDIT: DAVID CLELAND

What set it apart from most family jamborees, though, was the transcendent quality of the music. We were treated to a raft of Crowded House classics, with Neil leading the audience in lovely singalong codas, voices rising from 750 fans like an impromptu choir singing to the heavens. But less familiar songs held their place, such was the stylistic variety and consistent melodic sweetness of the set.

Liam’s theremin solos in his song Miracle Glance were astonishing. The quartet ripped through Neil’s early Split Enz hit, I Got You, offered up fractured funk on Where’s My Room, and delved into Pink Floyd ambient noodling on the gorgeous Meet Me In The Air, with the band almost disappearing in enough dry ice for a graveyard scene in a Hammer Horror film.

“Have you ever gone swimming naked in dry ice?” wondered Liam. “Your mother and I don’t do that kind of thing …  any more,” rejoindered Neil, to much laughter. The Finn’s made everyone present feel like part of the family.