It started ominously, as dark clouds blew into town in time for a brief thundershower as we headed to the show. It hasn't rained much at all this summer, so of course it will actually rain when i have to be walking around downtown. Additionally, the Tabernacle is a "mainstream" venue, which means that they assume the worst in everyone and you are allowed to bring in next to nothing. Which, i would bet, means that umbrellas are banned, or, rather, have to be abandoned at the door to become property of the venue staff. This is the same logic that prohibits me from bringing in my good camera, while allowing people with quality camera phones to get a few shots.... Bah.
So i was damp when i worked my way into the venue. Not "drenched", not "sloshing in my Chuck Taylor's", but a little damp. Fortunately the AC was not blasting inside. It was comfortable but not arctic as we walked onto the floor. This was a little surprising, as the place was mostly empty, and what is a comfortable temperature in an empty club is a steam bath in a crowded club. Hmmm... Well, nothing to do but wait and see what would happen.
At 8:01 PM the first band walked out onto the stage. This was a five piece act that included a Jarvis Cocker clone in a green sport coat, a drummer, a keyboardist/tambourinist, a bassist, and a guitarist/trumpeter. The Cocker-esque vocalist introduced himself as Lawrence Arabia, and referred to his band as The Prime Ministers. They are from New Zealand, he said, hinting at his accent.
Mr. Arabia and his band played a sort of pleasant, light pop. They featured a lot of tambourine work (and shaky egg as well, although sadly the shaky egg was never micced enough to be heard in the audience), and lots of vocal harmony. They impressed on their first song, which ended with three of the band members whistling in harmony. That is no easy feat, and they managed to pull it off. I also enjoyed their use of the trumpet, which added a little melancholy to their generally upbeat pop tunes.
I enjoyed their half hour set. It was not challenging music, but it was pleasant and fun to tap your foot along to. My only complaint is that the band has a fondness for singing in falsetto, a vocal style that grates on my nerves pretty much instantaneously. They were still able to harmonize, even in falsetto, but it still kind of gave me a headache.
Not bad over all, and they walked off the stage promptly at 8:31. The Tabernacle apparently runs a pretty tight ship. Who knew?
Over the next half hour, the venue filled up. And what, you might ask, does the average Crowded House fan look like? Basically, "white people who grew up in the suburbs in the 1980s" is a fair description. Think guys in khakis and women sharing pics of their kids with one another off of their cell phones. I honestly think that i did not see anyone from any ethnic minority at all at the show. Well, wait -- one guy behind us was English. I could tell from his thick accent. Does that count?
I guess that the audience makeup was to be expected. Crowded House began in that brief era when MTV actually played music videos, and suburban white kids with nothing else to do sat and watched the videos. We watched Neil Finn wander through a series of rooms in the video for Don't Dream It's Over, and we grew to love this light, folky pop. At least, that is how i got into the band, and as i looked around the crowd i would guess that this was a pretty common experience.
At 9:01 precisely i realized that AT&T time is one minute faster than Tabernacle time, as Crowded House took the stage. They walked out to a blistering version of I Feel Possessed. Neil Finn, sporting a short mustache and a striped tie which made him like my high school math teacher, flailed around with his guitar and bounced around the stage.
In general, Finn was a ball of energy tonight. He thrashed around with his guitar, played with a Korg synthesizer, and made noise with his guitar pedals. When i saw Crowded House on their 2008 tour, Finn seemed more reserved. I don't remember him being as energetic that time, but that wasn't the most uplifting of tours either... In fact, the whole band seemed a lot more energetic this time around. Bassist Nick Seymour himself moved all over the stage, and guitarist/keyboardist Mark Hart bounced in place wherever he was. I guess the only one who did not seem more energized was drummer Matt Sherrod, and that is because the drummer stays in one place, and kind of has to be moving all the time anyway...
So the band seemed to be having a lot of fun. At times the audience would be encouraged to sing along, but Finn always directed the crowd in singing, letting everyone know that he was the conductor. Allowing the audience to participate seemed to go over really well, and the people in the crowd around me seemed to be having a blast.
Crowded House played 24 songs, six of which were off of their current record Intriguer. I think that the new songs really worked in a live setting, and Saturday Sun, Twice If You're Lucky, and Archer's Arrows sounded particularly good live.
Neil Finnís son Liam and wife Sharon played a few songs with the band, but mostly this time around it was just the four of them, having a blast. They played for almost two hours, and the crowd ate it up. People bounced and sang along. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
It did get a little hot in the venue, which was kind of expected, but it wasnít too bad. And still, when it was all over, i was at home by 11:30. I love a venue that runs on time, especially on a work night. A good time, overall.