Moving around with the lightness of feather light footwork gracing the stage, Joshua James was a breath of fresh air that immediately enchanted, with the haunting sounds of Mystic to a sparsely filled but silent auditorium at Hamer Hall. While all were awaiting the main act, this more than sufficed as a prelude during the wait. Undoubtedly sold by the first chorus, this was a mighty fine impression in just a few minutes on stage.
Simplicity sums up the arrangements, letting the emotive story telling shine through. Queen of the City showed a little versatility while nothingness built into layers of gorgeous harmonies in Doctor Oh Doctor. The raspy vocals only work to add another dimension of reality and honesty in raw emotion, perfectly suited to a cover of George Jones’ ‘Choices’.
Despite being a novice in performing to a multi levelled venue, he held the audience in his palm and I was absolutely gutted about missing his solo show later in the week. Definitely a few people around me after the set commenting on it too.
The familiar vocal, accompanied by a vastly different indie sound away from the expected and accustomed was the order for the night, at least for some of the proceedings. But everything that Neil Finn touches in the realms of music seems to turn to gold, testament not only to broad tastes but also creativity and experimentation in sound.
The eeriness of drawn out sounds could have led to anything, on this occasion the laid back sounds of Impressions, with its chilled vibes. There was no sense of urgency or rush in anything on the night, a time and place for everything as the night evolved.
A little more momentum delivered by a few guitars during Strangest Friends delivered something more in tune with previous work delivered by Neil Finn, while a break offered “Stop, it’s Hamer time” as one of the first witty attempts at humorous chatter with the crowd for the evening.
A career as vast as that lived by one of the Finns naturally delivers a live experience that captures various snapshots of the past that never seem to tire. A few Crowded House numbers (the classic Fall at Your Feet, and the effortless Distant Sun), transitioning to the aftermath of empty nesting that produced the Pajama Club (From A Friend to A Friend), not to mention The Finn Brothers’ Only Talking Sense.
Divebomber is still one of the more challenging listens on the new album, ever perplexing as it is intriguing from a creative departure perspective but somehow manageable when intertwined amongst everything else including solo material from One Nil and Try Whistling This.
But White Lies and Alibis, influenced by Damien Echols delivered somewhat of a transcendant quality, perhaps even capturing the sensation of magick of which Echols speaks.
There was, of course time for Split Enz to feature in the set, most memorably with a simple piano arrangement of Message to My Girl and Strait Old Line on piano in its original demo version. For something that hadn’t been played for a while, it sounded fine! The nostalgia continued with a return to Crowded House, perhaps pre-empting the crowd’s yearning for a classic in Don’t Dream it’s Over.
And let’s not forget a cover thrown in during the second encore of the Beatles’ ‘Rocky Racoon’, a little blubbery with a couple of stumbles but with a little snippet of The Boss thrown in with ‘I’m On Fire’, no wrong could be done.
Finishing on The Devil You Know as a solo guitar piece, there was no devil in sight just another impressive and mind boggling live experience from a legendary performer.