Crowded House @ The Opera House Forecourt, Sydney (25 November 2016)

It had been just over one year since I last stood in the open air Opera House Forecourt.  Back then it was Tame Impala who treated the crowd to an incredible psychedelic smorgasbord of visuals and sounds.  That experience was amplified by the stunning arena of the Forecourt – it’s a beautiful place in which to enjoy live music, surrounded by glorious icons (both on stage and on the harbour).  I imagined Viva bringing people experiences like this one day – it’s a bold vision but it’s not unrealistic!

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And although there has been some dissatisfaction expressed at the Forecourt concert volume in the past (a side-effect of the adjacent “Toaster” residencies and their wealthy, noise-sensitive inhabitants), there is no turning down the decibels on a 6,000 person strong crowd wailing in perfect (yes perfect) harmony to “Fall At Your Feet”.

We’ll get to that.

But as any memorable experience generally begins, there was delicious gelato, and this time it was from Pagoto – Gelato & Waffle House.

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As the crowd slowly filed in over the course of the evening, I took in an incredible, eccentric support act courtesy of Kirin J Callinan.  I had seen Kirin play with Mark Ronson at Splendour In The Grass in 2015 (I recall gasping in horror as he frequently threw and spun his guitar, only to casually clutch it from the air before it dropped to the stage floor), and I had also seen one of his DJ sets at a Koi Child album launch at the Newtown Social Club (I distinctly remember hearing Mondo Rock’s “Come Said The Boy” for the first time courtesy of his song choice, a wonderful example of the contribution Australian bands made to the sounds of the 80s).

On this occasion it was Kirin on stage with a bizarre team of misfit band members evoking a Tarantino film cast. Like a demented Bowie, Kirin shuffled and snapped about the stage, bleached mullet flapping and following wherever his feet took him, always in command of his guitar.  His closing of “The Toddler” was the highlight – an a’cappella number filled entirely with deranged shimmying and his howling, Australian delivery of lines like “When I drop my guts / You can see it in my face”.

Yes, yes we can – and for some reason we can’t avert our gaze.

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Come 8:05pm and Crowded House were finally here.  Like a bunch of dads dressed by Tarocash, they joked, danced and laughed around an enormous list of hit songs, all the while commanding the attention and often the vocal energy of every audience member.  Writing infectiously catchy music that still inspires 4 consecutive sold out concerts at the same venue, and the unison of an entire choir of people who have never met but share a commonality in appreciation for this New Zealand (read “Australian”) brand of pop rock, is an incredible achievement.

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I won’t list every song, but between surprise fireworks, a tribute to Paul Hester, “Chocolate Cake”, a guest visit from Tim Finn (or Tum Funn), flawless guitar work, plenty of anti-Toaster sentiment, and undeniably some of the best call and response harmonising from a crowd in the history of all live gigs, it became apparent that this was unlike any other concert I had ever been to.  There was a very strong sense of belonging and living in the moment that let me forget about being anywhere else but right there.  And I don’t think I was the only one who wanted the show to keep going, as evident by the crowd refusing to finish the last note of “Better Be Home Soon”.

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For many, listening to Crowded House triggers nostalgia, the reliving of a by-gone era as the 80s turned into the 90s (coincidentally the decade turning point that birthed me).  Crowded House had the hearts of a generation of Triple M listeners, and Boy & Bear’s 2010 revival of “Fall At Your Feet” showed a younger Triple J crowd still strongly connected with what Neil Finn wrote over 2 decades ago.  For me, I always had the 1996 compilation “Recurring Dream – The Very Best Of Crowded House” within reach and cherished the opportunity to hear most of those songs live, including my favourite, the very Lennon-esque “Not The Girl You Think You Are”.

It was a special evening and one I won’t forget – if more people can come together and embrace life through Viva for an experience like this, then Viva will have truly fulfilled (and surpassed!) its purpose.

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