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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisIn a year of reunions that's seen the full-figured reconvening of The Police and Rage Against the Machine, plus the fractured but still highly profitable Genesis, Smashing Pumpkins and Van Halen, it's refreshing to find a band uninterested in money or nostalgia. Enter Crowded House, who may unfortunately fall into the latter category due to drummer Paul Hester's untimely passing, though the line-up still boasts key originals Neil Finn (vocals, guitar) and Nick Seymour (bass), plus longtime member Mark Hart (guitar) and new drummer Matt Sherrod (who's previously toured with Beck). And while that roster isn't a hundred percent perfect, the band isn't just re-releasing its greatest hits collection, but instead took a trip to the studio for the brand new Time On Earth (ATO).
That project (and comeback period in general) officially launched at this summer's iconic Coachella Music Festival and has since toured the globe to resounding acclaim thanks to the group's signature harmonies, contagious song structuring and artful nuances (which remain in tact ten years after originally disbanding). Though die-hards hoping for a complete trip down memory lane may have been disappointed, this particular performance was split down the middle between oldies and new tunes, suggesting life beyond yesteryear and an impressive effort to reclaim relevance.
The new tunes may not match the hook-heavy might of smash singles "Don't Dream It's Over" or "Something So Strong" on record, but were considerably punched up on stage with a finely tuned interplay of organic and electric instrumentation. "Don't Stop Now" was a current crest (featuring guitar god Johnny Marr on record), but instead was carried by charming melodies and a hopeful tint, especially fitting in light of the band's tragic loss. "She Called Up" also hinted the group's glory years, but didn't come across as a mere mimic of the 80s thanks to meaty six-string strums and a quirky keyboard part.
Of course, anything from the group's first run was received with arms outstretched even wider, but everything presented seamlessly translated to today's contexts. The obligatory "Don't Dream It's Over" was placed very early in the evening (perhaps to get it out of the way after endless airplay), but still soared with its anthemic "hey now, hey now" chants. The group's intelligent songwriting was equally appreciated on the meaningful memories "World Where You Live," "Four Seasons In One Day," while "Weather With You" and "Something So Strong" served as the evening's key karaoke sessions. The poignant "Better Be Home Soon" provided a truly moving finale, signaling Finn and company's more than welcome return and christening this reunion as a full-blown rebirth.
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