Inarguably two of the greatest singer/songwriters of a generation, brothers Tim and Neil Finn have musical experience that combined spans more than half a century. Known for their solo projects, new wave rock band Splitz Enz, and most notably Crowded House – the duo have created music that is still as loved today as it ever was. Tribute albums She Will Have Her Way: The Songs of Tim & Neil Finn (2005) and He Will Have His Way: The Songs of Tim & Neil Finn (2010) sparked the tribute tour, aptly titled They Will Have Their Way – which features a stellar line-up of Australian artists that will cover songs from the Finns’ entire discography. I had the absolute pleasure to catch the concert last night at Brisbane’s QPAC.
Opening with the same eerie backing harmonies as her cover as New Buffalo She Will Have Her Way, Sally Seltmann graced the stage to give Four Seasons in One Day accompanied only by her piano. It was a beautiful, modern version of the Crowded House favourite, and a perfect invitation into the two hours of music that lay ahead.
Next up, Lior presented a somewhat jazzed-up version of one of my all time favourite Finn songs – Into Temptation. With slightly altered timing, and Lior’s smooth voice, the song was totally transformed from the original subdued version. I thought I could love nothing more than the raspy Renee Geyer cover, but I emerge a changed woman. Next up, Clare Bowditch with Won’t Give In. These songs are truly just made for Bowditch – she has this impeccable voice that is a perfect complement to the simplicity of the lyrics. The songs of Tim and Neil Finn are unique in the way that their content can become totally transformed by different vocalists – and I’ve always found this song a perfect example of this quality.
Taking on the same song that she covered on She Will Have Her Way was Holly Throsby with Not the Girl You Think You Are. As one of my favourites from the original tribute album, it was amazing to hear this song being performed live. Throsby seems to truly understand and relate to the lyrics that she delivers, just adding another element to her performance. Out of all the artists that featured in the show, I’d predict Throsby might have been the biggest original fan – it really was a pleasure to watch. Joining the stage with Throsby to perform Stuff and Nonsense was Oh Mercy frontman – Alexander Gow. I consider this to be some of Tim Finn’s best songwriting, and the duet certainly did it justice. A really beautiful track.
Gow remained on stage to sing the Crowded House song, I Feel Possessed. Go was possibly a perfect choice to cover this one – he almost has a bit of a Finn sounding voice, and it was a nice homage to the original work. The crowd went a bit wild (myself included) for the next guest, none other than stranger to our own shores, Paul Dempsey. It was a bit of a change of pace, as Dempsey covered the Split Enz’s classic, Message to My Girl. Modernising the track slightly (the original is more of a low-key pop-rock song) with a bigger rock sound – Dempsey demonstrates how a song that is almost thirty years old can still sound incredibly relevant.
Joining Dempsey on stage was the final guest, Sarah Blasko to cover one of Crowded House’s most well-known tracks, Distant Sun. At this point I think the audience could no longer hold back their excitement, and it sparked a bit of a sing-along from the die-hard fans in the front rows. Next up was Blasko covering the Split Enz’ My Mistake. True to the original with it’s quirky, circus inspired music and playful vocals, Blasko delivered something that we would not usually associate with her style, and she truly did it well.
Seltmann took to the stage once more to perform another Split Enz favourite, One Step Ahead. I love the static sounding lyrics on this track, and combined with Seltmann’s breathy vocals, this cover was a really nice modern interpretation of a classic. To round out the first half, Clare Bowditch took to the stage once more (later joined by Dempsey) – instructing the audience in a two-piece vocal harmony that would eventually provide the backing music for the iconic Better Be Home Soon. I think most Australians have some sort of nostalgic memory attached to this song, and so it was nice to have the addition of the audience vocals. Definitely one of my favourite concert tracks.
Hard to believe it could be improved upon, but the songs just kept getting better after the break. Holly Throsby covered my all-time favourite Crowded House song – Pineapple Head. Inspired by the feverous utterances of Neil’s son, it’s one of the quirkier pieces in the Finn repertoire. Throsby’s version didn’t quite convey the same degree of paranoia as is captured in the original, but it was a quaint cover of a fantastic song.
Next up, Seeker Lover Keeper (Seltmann, Blasko, and Throsby), covering Neil Fin’s Sinner. Personally, I always thought this song sounded better when performed acoustically by Finn, and the threesome’s comparable effort truly did it justice.
Next up, the unexpected pairing of Dempsey and Lior with Tim Finn’s Unsinkable. Fragmented lyrics are the highlight of this piece – it’s somewhat of an introspection into relationship demise, quite an emotional track really. I haven’t heard this one covered before, it was nice to hear a different take on such a personal song. Lior remained on stage next for the song with which we said goodbye to Split Enz and hello to Crowded House, I Walk Away. The Finn’s demonstrated themselves how their songs could be transformed (releasing this track with both bands), and it was re-transformed by Lior again on the night. It sat somewhere between the rough-sounding Split Enz version, and the more mature and polished Crowded House rendition.
Alexander Gow and Clare Bowditch returned for another favourite, Something So Strong. This track has a musical timing that shouldn’t be touched, and the duo stayed true to the original with a playful-sounding rock cover. To follow this was a return to stage by Dempsey, covering Turn and Run. There couldn’t have been a better person to cover this song – his voice fit the lyrics to a tee and it almost sounded like one of his own tracks.
I think the standout performance of the night was Sally Seltmann covering one of Split Enz’s more demure tracks – I Hope I Never. Accompanied only by a piano, Seltmann turned the song into a dramatic epic with some stellar vocals, before finishing up on the piano, performing an instrumental duet ending. It was a spectacular moment of the concert – an absolute highlight for me.
Sarah Blasko next covered what is undoubtedly Crowded House’s biggest hit, with Don’t Dream It’s Over – and was accompanied with the entire concert cast. Obviously a crowd favourite – I don’t think there’s an Australian who can’t automatically sing the lyrics upon hearing – and it really was a great cover.
To finish up, an all-male cover of I See Red. This was another highlight for me – a high energy cover of what is a brilliant song. They made it seem even more raw and stripped back than the original, with Dempsey leaping off stage and into the front row. Of course – the concert wouldn’t have been complete without It’s Only Natural and Weather With You – another two vastly popular songs. The entire cast returned to the stage for the brilliant two-song encore.
I came away from the show absolutely stunned. It had surpassed my (already high) expectations, and I could have done with another two hours of covers. A brilliant tribute to two musical greats.