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The Finn Brothers - Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London, on 8 August 2004

On 8 August 2004, anyone wandering through Regent’s Park in north London might have been thrilled to hear someone blasting some fantastic music by Tim and Neil Finn—songs from their various guises of Split Enz, Crowded House, Finn, their respective solo careers, and now the Finn Brothers. Then they might have been astonished to realise that they were actually listening to the music being performed live. The Finn Brothers were promoting their soon to be released album, Everyone is Here, at a special, secret fan-club only show in the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park, a stone amphitheatre usually reserved for Shakespearean drama.

After a swelteringly hot weekend, the muggy heat in the 80s was meant to be drowned out by heavy thunderstorms that would hit the Southeast about the time the Finns hit the stage. Thankfully, just as with the recent open air concert featuring two other harmonising duos—Simon and Garfunkel with the Everly Brothers—we were blessed with a welcome lack of downpours, which was also a plus for the uncovered (vs. unplugged) performers as they might otherwise have given a more electric performance than planned. It did turn out to be the eighth hottest night on record, but the benefit of some passing light breezes in the open air setting spared us suffocation. After purchasing a T-shirt marking the one-off event from the merchandise stall that also sold Finn key fobs, I headed into the compound.

The Open Air Theatre is quite intimate and surprisingly comfortable, with excellent views well over the heads of the people seated in the row in front. Since everyone was a committed Finn fan, there were no annoying distractions by chatting fools nor were we die-hards stuck behind three rows of people with better seats who did not appreciate them, although I understand there were some journalists and record company executives tucked amongst us. The performers were scrunched together on a small, round stage area at the bottom of the semi-circle of ranked seats. The ground level stage was covered in what looked like a carefully tended putting green but, as Neil later pointed out, was actually fake grass. Tall trees (how appropriate) buffered the stage on three sides, surrounding an ivy-covered little dwelling behind the players. Managers, roadies and Wimbledon-type girls standing ready with towels for hot performers (how does one get that job?) somewhat surreally lurked amongst the trees, which made their own fine aural contribution to the music each time a delicate breeze rustled through their lush green foliage. To the left of the "stage" was a full-fledged guitar centre, with no fewer than 10 acoustic guitars hanging on a rack surrounding a hidden computer that must have faced us. A few electric guitars were dotted around the stage on stands, along with one bass guitar, an ominous banjo (oh dear), an electric piano stage left near the front, two mike stands up front as you would expect, a bright yellow drum kit near the back, and another two sets of keyboards (one toy piano on top of something more respectable) to the left of the drum set, facing it. Several long, red permanent banners with cryptic lettering hung vertically from poles scattered around the front and in the trees, which added to the atmosphere and reminded us that we were borrowing the venue from Shakespeare, so to speak.

On the other side of our exclusive walled green enclosure were almost 500 acres of an ancient royal park crowded with Londoners enjoying the heat wave. Some would have visited London Zoo within the park grounds. Many thousands were attending the Fruitstock festival, which had more to do with fruit smoothies than Hendrix or The Band, but succeeded in making amplified noise that allowed jazz and hip-hop to intrude during the acoustic support act’s set. Fortunately, the clash of sounds ended by the time the Finns took the stage.

Before that, we were treated to rapidly up-and-coming singer-songwriter Tom Baxter. I have gushed for some time over his song My Declaration from his EP, but having just heard his long-awaited Sony release, Feather & Stone, I was no longer so eager to see him perform. The lad needs to mature a bit and keep things in proportion. There are fine songs on the album that are overwhelmed by overkill—not just in the production but in the delivery. Like a graphic designer who has just discovered the variety of fonts available and employs them all in one project before learning the art of subtlety and the benefit of restraint, Baxter seems to feel the need to demonstrate his impressive vocal abilities by stretching them at every opportunity. He screams with passionate pain for 10 minutes at the end of every song as huge gothic guitars take over and build up to a power rock ballad from a past decade. Not every word needs such attention. One song, Almost There, with which he closed his set tonight, even has an 80s key change that would make Celine Dion proud. He does deserve credit as, even live, he managed to hit every note and hold it out for ages whilst proving his enormous skill as a guitarist. However, I think his best work will come after he has lived a bit more and realises that one failed relationship will not be viewed by everyone with the same sticky sentimental sense of tragedy that he feels. I get the impression that, if he wrote a song about spinach or paying the water bill, he would still be screaming in agonised heartfelt pain at the top of his lungs for several measures. Chill, Tom. I was thankful, though, that he did play the outstanding My Declaration in Regent’s Park and did a fantastic job, and equally pleased that he was playing on his own without the electric power guitars and large string section, which I normally welcome, that engulf his album. But the faces of the Finn fans didn’t light up during his set, and my friend even commented that she had a headache from his constant unnecessary screaming. I still enjoyed his set, and I think he’ll be big but I wish he’d be subtle first.

Before the headliners joined us, I soaked up the incredible atmosphere: lots of happy devoted fans--with their partners and, in some cases, children--of varied ages sitting in a stone amphitheatre in the sunshine surrounded by trees in the park, Sunday in the park, a Georges Seurat painting come to life. Beautiful and moving as this backdrop was, I felt somewhat unprepared coming to a concert where I would not know half the songs because the new album would not be released for a fortnight and I was not willing to pay for a promo copy on E-bay (it cheats the artist and pays the cheats). Still, I knew the promise of what was to come would not disappoint. Any material from these pillars of perfection would be songs born of the finest pedigree, and any opportunity to hear the Finn Brothers live, together, would be a gift from God. I had only seen the Finn Brothers, whom I have adored for about 25 years, play together once in Crowded House in 1991, so they were on a winner before they even took the grassy stage. If I were to use the cliché that excitement filled the air, I would have to admit to a sizeable amount of those highly charged emissions coming from me.

The start of this "secret" gig had been brought forward, and it was still light out at 8.15pm when the Finns rather promptly took to the stage where Vivien Leigh and Deborah Kerr had performed before a thousand fans.  Without fanfare,  Tim Finn OBE and Neil Finn OBE casually wandered out of the woods with their three accompanists. Neil, a bit of grey peeking over his temples as he retained his trademark slightly floppy yet short fringe, was dressed in a moss green shirt with its long sleeves folded up to his elbows. Tim was wearing a black T-shirt with a red and white emblem comprising eight Vs that formed "NZ" twice—once upside down. Both wore dark trousers, and both of their shirts were untucked. But hey, they’re middle-aged men now, they might have paunchy waistlines to cover, though I seriously doubt it.  They both look more fit than I do in my 30s, and I felt the press were bizarrely making far too much of their ages (46 and 52) in reviews of their forthcoming album. Tim, always to be counted on for unexpected footwear, was wearing what looked like tan suede slippers—perhaps they matched a handbag he’d left backstage. Neil had a red and yellow electric guitar strapped around him and Tim, a mass of wild longish grey hair in a casual coif clearly untouched by Toni & Guy, grabbed an acoustic guitar. Both stood up front, treating us to a dream symmetry.

Immediately, the band cranked up some surprisingly loud music and we were glad we were a few rows back from the front with a chance of retaining our hearing. The youthful looking guitarist with long sideburns who sensibly sported a linen shirt, albeit a bright pink one, looked from a distance a bit like music guru Mark Ellen, currently the editor of the quintessential Word magazine (the September issue of which contains a sizeable, incisive article on the Finns). The bearded and bejewelled slightly heavier drummer looked a bit like John Thompson’s jazz aficionado character Louis Balfour from the Fast Show. The young bassist stood subtly in the background, as bassists often do, wearing a casual dark suit in this intense heat and sporting a thick moptop of dark hair that made him look like Louis Eliot of Rialto, but a bit more like he stepped straight out of the 1970s. Actually, I called him young because he looked decades younger than the others, but he’s actually about 37. Which is about my age so, yeah, young.

The band were playing Anything Can Happen from their forthcoming album, both brothers singing mostly in unison, and it was dreamily remarkable to hear the two unmistakable voices singing together again. Their harmonies during the bridge were outstanding, but the mix in favour of the two electric guitars criminally drowned out the voices considering we had come to hear the two singers. It was a relief when, for one too quick moment, all of the instruments went silent except for a few strums from Tim’s acoustic guitar. During the instrumental part in the middle, Tim turned his back to us and faced the drummer for a bit. The song, whilst enjoyable, was so guitar-heavy that it was like the Stereophonics, but with voices you wish you could hear, particularly when the song ended with an extremely long electric guitar solo. The musicians loved the loud electric combinations even if I didn’t, and Neil began beaming at the power of his fellow guitarist and enjoyed joining in. I must confess to hoping that the mixing on the new album will tone down the grind of the guitars enough to allow us to hear the song itself. The booming track was a bold entrance and not what I expected, but exciting nonetheless.

As they said "Hello, London!" whilst a roadie smuggled an opened bottle of red wine behind the equipment by the drummer--although I only ever saw the Finns drink water--the audience cheered abundantly to welcome these long lost friends. Many tried to take photos of the beloved performers, but a strong Anti-Camera Gestapo were on red alert throughout the evening, pouncing on anyone who even looked at the stage with a glass eye. Perhaps the musicians found photography distracting, but early on, there would have been no need for flashes. It was a disappointing lost opportunity for a tremendous, heart-warming memento of a glorious gig that was, after all, meant to be for the fans, who would not sell the photos to tabloids or anything odd and unacceptable. Never mind; I was simply pleased to be part of the sensational evening, particularly as the thief who stole my wallet, chequebook, all my money and credit cards two days before these tickets went on sale nearly managed to foil everything for me.

Next, Tim alone played a marvellously subtle introduction on the acoustic guitar to the quickly recognisable Crowded House classic Weather With You, its immediately familiar guitar riff reminding me of a drugged version of the peppy synthesiser melody in Depêché Mode’s Just Can’t Get Enough. The Finn song is certainly grand, but I never understood why it won the hearts of the world when so many vastly superior songs in their repertoire went unnoticed. Perhaps it helped that the song was used whenever a soundtrack to the weather report was required, and it is, of course, quite catchy. The pink guitarist briefly became the pink keyboardist, lurking beside the drums, and Tim repeatedly smiled in his direction as though they were sharing some in-joke. When not singing, Neil would often wander over with his guitar towards his brother, which was another indication that I wasn’t still at the Simon and Garfunkel concert, where Paul Simon moved as far away as possible from Art Garfunkel whenever he could. Meanwhile, a roadie in the Guitar Centre was busy quietly tuning an instrument for a future song, which I suppose is not normally done in full view of the audience, but this was no ordinary venue.

During the musical interlude, Neil yelled, "I can hear you, Regent’s Park!" to raucous cheers, and everyone began to clap to the beat before joining the brothers in the chorus a few times. What made my spine truly tingle was that continued thought of average Park-goers outside the fairytale compound hearing these distinctive voices singing this well-known song, realising it was not a recording and wondering what was going on--and why they weren’t invited!

When the band finished the song, the crowd went understandably ballistic, although no one had jumped up to dance—this is London, after all, and most of us were over 35. I have to confess to being a bit glad that people remained in their seats as it meant that I had an unobstructed view of the performers throughout the concert and was never forced against my will to stand on my lazy, ageing legs.

Neil briefly turned rocker by calling out, "Thank you, London!" before adding, "…or England or wherever you’re from. We know you’re there! We can see every single one of you!" That easily excited the crowd, and it was true that we were all visible, as the summer evening sun was still quite bright. Tim added, "What a great place!" Their appreciation of the setting was a testament to their vast experience. Lesser performers, or shy ones like Neil unbelievably was in the early days of Split Enz when he would try to hide in his own skin when the house lights went up, would have cringed in the stare of so many clearly visible fans at close range.

Barely pausing for breath after commenting on the theatre, Tim sang a cappella, "When I was a young boy," taking his voice just as high as the tune demands, proving that it can still ring like the clear beautiful bell it once was despite its new sometimes raspier character. As he took us gracefully through the popular Split Enz tune Six Months in a Leaky Boat, even whistling expertly as though through a tin whistle, the pink guitarist fussed over the keyboards, demanding lots of attention from a roadie as though they weren’t working as he had hoped. For most of the song, he was playing a plodding percussive beat on the toy piano. When Neil picked up the bright electric guitar solo, he varied it a bit to make things more interesting, and I was reminded what an incredibly skilled guitarist he has become. This is the boy who joined his brother’s band Split Enz just because he understood their ethos; he didn’t actually play the guitar at the time, but fortunately they spotted his potential.

By the time it came to step into Eddie Rayner’s shoes and play the marvellous keyboard part that closes the tune, the pink guy had solved whatever problems he’d had with the instrument and all was well. Thankfully, with the electric guitars now silenced, we could really hear and savour Tim’s voice as he sang the bewitching "da-da-da-da-da" part at the end of the song. Neil brought in an extra solo on the electric guitar and Tim, still playing acoustic guitar, began flinging his long hair about like a model in a shampoo commercial, facing the drums again. At one point, he became so overcome with the beauty they were creating (he wasn’t alone in that sensation), he stopped playing for long enough to punch the air in delight and jump up and down a few times—what we came to know as Tim Dancing. Neil’s guitar began booming and everyone jammed to finish the number as though we were not even there. It was lovely to see the two brothers end up together again, facing each other as they played.

During the massive cheers when the song ended, I remembered how disappointed I was as a 15-year-old in the Hugh Padgham-produced album Time and Tide, as it was such an unexpected departure from the poppier sounds of the David Tickle-produced Waiata/Corroboree album of the previous year. The band members were thrilled with the new take on production, the critics were raving about this brilliant new concept album, and yet most of the songs alienated me on first listen other than Haul Away, which I think I loved because it involved Tim, my own David Cassidy, telling his life history, and this song about the leaky boat. Only the BBC frowned upon this song at a time when the Royal Navy was heading to defend the Falkland Islands, but then the Beeb has always been quite touchy about any imagined negative tenuous links. If I consider the track listing of Time and Tide now, all user-friendly songs that I have loved for over 20 years, I can’t imagine why I didn’t take to the album immediately and why there aren’t many songs of that calibre crafted anymore. But I sound like someone’s embarrassing parent, sighing that they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Fortunately, no one ever needs to say that about either Finn as they have continued producing stupendous music for years.

After finishing that song, each brother separately thanked the audience for their robust applause, and Neil in pondering mode said, "Imagine if you guys just wandered in to see Shakespeare and this is what you ended up with." I think we would have counted ourselves lucky.

Tim sat at the electric piano up front to introduce the next song as a new one, asking us to imagine that we were at a wedding where there was a never-ending sound of scrapes on glasses—the precursor to speeches and toasts. Neil added a reference to what he saw as memorable wedding sounds: "…or people belching." During the introduction to the new song, the show-offs in the audience who have already somehow obtained it (she says bitterly) began applauding upon recognition of their first single from the new album, Won’t Give In. This was immediately a Finn classic and based upon one hearing of it, I can hum it for weeks. It even had a bridge similar to that of the beloved It’s Only Natural. Tim didn’t play the piano at first, just swayed from side to side whilst seated on its bench facing us, and we immediately recognised the glass-scraping analogy in the sound of the electric keyboards’ odd percussive beat. The Pink chap playing them then returned to electric guitar, whilst Neil had changed to acoustic.

Neil led on the vocals initially with Tim providing harmonies, and then they switched roles for the second verse. The fantastic song was delivered at an almost deafening volume, but it was the type of tune for which you just might sacrifice your hearing, as little better was likely to come your way. At the end, Tim picked up a star-shaped tambourine and bashed a beat out of it whilst dancing about like a whirling dervish, encouraged by everyone during a long stint by both electric guitars. The Finn brothers migrated towards each other, Neil swaying with his guitar and Tim unable to contain his Happy Feet. Watching Tim in this mode made me realise that this man, so polished, accomplished, and charming with a bit of quirkiness, was easily summed up in the title of one of his songs: Strangeness and Charm.

The electric guitar solo delivered by Pink Guy went on far too long for my liking and turned what was a beautiful song into some sort of 80s heavy metal power ballad, but fortunately the memory of what had gone before will be what sticks with me. Neil clearly loved the Pink chap’s imitation of Nigel Tufnell from Spinal Tap and told us his name was Paul Stacey.

Neil then introduced the drummer as Jeremy Stacey. "Yes--brothers! Twins! They’re everywhere!" Whilst my friend had spotted the resemblance, I thought the two men could hardly have looked more different. In my mind, it was a matter of comparing dapper Mark Ellen, who has been mistaken for Paul McCartney, with David Brent from the Office. The idea that those two were twins was as absurd as suggesting that that tall wild-haired singer with a stately Kenneth Moore look about him was related in any way to that more compact, freer fair one with the subtler features.

I stand corrected. Both Staceys are about 41, and it must be the beard on Jeremy that made me think that his slimmer pink-sporting brother was younger. Jeremy has worked with the superb Aztec Camera as well as Elvis Costello, Joe Cocker, Tori Amos, Echo & the Bunnymen and, for the younger of you, I shall throw in a mention of Robbie Williams. In fact, Paul and Jeremy were once in a band with Williams collaborator Guy Chambers called the Lemon Trees, and Chambers got name-checked in an interesting way by Neil later in the gig. I own at least one album on which both brothers have appeared, by the silky deep-voiced Colin Vearncombe, known in the 80s as Black.

Paul has a similarly impressive c.v. and even acted in "the Scottish play" with the Royal National Theatre. He also appeared as half of the unforgettable "frightful folk duo" that sings Stand By Your Man at the end of the first wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and in Sliding Doors as the man on the Tube singing badly along with his Walkman to a band John Hannah’s character insists poached lyrics from the Beatles. (Two John Hannah films—do you think Paul could fix us up? Oh yeah, wife and all that—even he has twins.) He can even be seen in the same Inspector Morse episode as Sir John Gielgud and has worked musically with many artists I admire such as Eddi Reader, Elkie Brooks, Alison Moyet, Shirley Bassey, and Tori Amos, as well as many I don’t, such as Madonna, Oasis and Michael Ball.

So both have sufficiently impressive pedigrees to warrant sharing a stage with the brothers Finn, and their skills as performers were always evident, if a bit overpowering at times, particularly in the case of Paul. However, it was equally clear that Neil encouraged the lengthy Van Halen style guitar solos; it was hardly a matter of Paul improvising in an attempt to take centre stage.

Continuing his introductions, Neil introduced the bassist as a young lad from Atlanta called Tim Smith. Tim Finn leapt in with an introduction of his own. Keeping to Neil’s style but with the air of a stern schoolmarm, Tim said, "And on the piano…Neil, you!" It was an artful command, and Neil quickly leapt to do as he was told by his big brother and took his seat at the piano for the next number.

Tim was always the one who seemed keen to keep moving forward, sticking to the schedule and never wasting time. Seemingly a stickler for rules, he was a slick showman with a preference for polished, rehearsed performances, whereas Neil grew into a more casual, chatty, laid-back performer who was happy to play a set based on requests thrown to the stage in the form of paper aeroplanes. Their vastly different stage styles were most strikingly obvious when comparing the precisely delivered Crowded House show in London at the start of their Woodface tour to the London show at the end of the tour after Tim had left, when the band’s philosophy seemed to change to wearing torn jeans and winging it. Neil’s Tim-less band later even performed an endless show that involved repeatedly inviting drunks onto the stage to slur their tuneless way through the entire length of songs that the band had already performed, which left me wondering why I travelled to Wembley for such shambolic drunken Karaoke that was freely available at the local pub. Tim remains more disciplined yet is conversely more prone to bursting into Jack Palance-style push ups and wild dances, which he had to do on a smaller scale at Regent’s Park as there was no space in the Open Air Theatre for mad moves. Somehow, these two contrasting methodologies merge to create something truly divine.

Despite his brother’s admonishment tonight at Regent’s Park, Neil wandered off into more conversation, which was fine with us. Undoubtedly, this made Tim a bit more impatient, as I have read that Tim admired artists who could move from one song to another without pausing, and he aspired to being so technically precise that he could one day do the same. Frankly, I think that the witty banter in between songs is half the joy of seeing someone live, particularly the Finns. Whilst the technique of eliminating any noticeable transition between songs can be exciting as a one-off, particularly when two hits are linked, doing so constantly creates a cold atmosphere and teaches the audience that, even if they can figure out where they should applaud, they mustn’t lest they miss something, which could affect the artist’s mood as he might think the audience is unappreciative. The warmth of the experience drains away. I saw Elvis Costello deliver a loud, thumping concert on his When I Was Cruel tour in this pause-less manner, and whilst it was fairly entertaining, I felt like I could have been at home listening to the performance on Radio 2; I didn’t need to be there, and I couldn’t call it fun.

At this point, Neil said that on their way to the concert, they’d bumped into a fan wearing a Finn T-shirt, which I’d noticed on a chap who sat a few seats away on my row. Indeed, that man stood up and cheered enthusiastically, as Neil laughed and said, "You must have got the shock of your life, just crossing Marylebone Road and bumping into us!" I understand that the Finns had been visiting Noel Gallagher, who then joined us in the theatre for the concert, along with fellow Kiwi wonder Bic Runga (who of course has toured with Tim) and Chris Difford. I should have spotted them in the small theatre in broad daylight, but had instead been watching the stage for an appearance by Bic.

As a roadie came up behind Neil and started making a fuss, Neil claimed to be getting a tutorial on how to play piano from Andy—he always name-checked the help—and jokingly asked, "Which one is middle C though?" It was left to Tim again to take things forward, explaining that the next tune was about that "feeling of being homesick when you’re already home." Neil chose that moment to add a Michael Moore allusion with "Dude, where’s my country?"

The next song began a bit like Fatboy Slim’s Praise You, which is interesting because I always thought that the live version of Eyes of the World began a bit like that, but they were now playing their new song Homesick. Again, Paul Stacey (formerly known as The Pink Guy) began by playing the toy piano near the drums before returning to his electric guitar, and Tim played acoustic guitar whilst Neil, who sang in unison with his brother, remained on the piano. The other Tim occasionally provided backing vocals, and soon Neil took off on an entrancing piano solo as Paul busied himself with commands to a roadie, which he did throughout the evening. Perhaps the producer in him had created a perfectionist. During a quieter moment in the song, Paul and Neil tinkered on the keyboards whilst Tim Finn wailed wonderfully and Tim Smith blew through a mouth organ, adding to the fabulous atmosphere. The song itself was yet another new one to look forward to, simple but catchy in typical Finn style.

When they finished that gem, Tim said they were going to do some songs from the original Finn album tonight "in honour of the man with the shirt". Naturally, this delighted the man a few seats away from me, who was unexpectedly featuring in the show after thinking that his biggest thrill all year had been to bump into the Finn brothers as he crossed the street. Neil, returning to the right of Tim and picking up an electric guitar, quipped that the T-shirt Man had thought he was coming to see the Tempest.

Neil began to sing Suffer Never as Tim remained on acoustic guitar, wandering around until it was time to join his brother on vocals, although it was difficult to hear Tim, who stared back at us as we watched him sing. A roadie added a layer of sound by playing acoustic guitar near Paul, who had changed to a little brown electric guitar. The stage was swimming in guitars, so why not make use of a variety of them? Once again, the song melted into a fury of thundering electric guitars and bass, Neil clearly adoring the mega-guitar sound, treating himself to a lengthy, grinding solo that, frankly, if I had come across on VH1 without realising it was Neil, would have caused me to change the channel quickly. But the boys were having fun and no doubt most of the audience were not old fogies like me, so they rocked out in a major metal way, with Jeremy bashing away on the cymbals as though they were his worst enemy. Tim Finn eventually sat sideways on the piano bench with his tame acoustic guitar, perhaps like me just patiently waiting for the noise to stop. They eventually built up to a huge finishing moment, but then didn’t finish, just launched into yet another part of the song, albeit a slightly quieter one with Neil adding a few last minute "She will suffer never" lines into the mike. Don’t get me wrong, the song was great, the performers were talented, it was just…well, loud. And long. Long and loud. Very. One man in the audience appreciated its very long and loudness so much that he gave it a standing ovation. I think I recognised him as last year’s finalist in the air guitar championship.

My friend made me laugh when she leaned over and mused, "I wonder what the zoo animals thought of that?!" I certainly hope there had been no consequent coronaries.

Tim, who we know doesn’t like to waste time between numbers, barely allowed anyone to pause for breath before telling us that the next song was from the same album, created when taking a ride in an old banger. "With the babysitter," Neil added, before Tim muttered something that sounded like, "You maybe know, Neil?" but I got lost when Neil tacked on, "She did, too, I think". Must be innuendo; I never get innuendo, prude that I am. I always thought Are You Being Served? was a straightforward sitcom about shop workers who owned cats.

Both Finn brothers stood up front with acoustic guitars (Neil changed guitars like a female awards host changes dresses) and moved into some lovely, gentle harmonies that we could actually hear for a change. As they sang one of the more instantly likeable songs off 1995’s Finn album, Angel’s Heap, Paul sat at the keyboards near the drums but played nothing, and his brother shook some wood block shakers rather than engaging his drum set. The peace of hearing just the Finn brothers on vocals and guitar was divine and their voices blended together in sublimity. Then the tranquil splendour was shattered as Paul began playing an electric guitar sound on the keyboard, which at least was not as discordant as the real thing. He even played a solo on the keyboards as Tim clapped his hands to the beat, joined quickly by the audience. Tim then added some random high-pitched wailing akin to that often emitted by Eddi Reader and brought the lovely number to a pleasant close as the amphitheatre was filled with vigorous applause.

As the band prepared for the next number, Tim observed that the environment was "very nice—the lights, the trees, you, us…." Neil enquired if any of us had been to Fruitstock, and Tim asked if he should make a fart joke, muttered something about methane and then happily trailed off. Sticking with that theme, Neil said that he’d seen a television programme the previous night called, "Who’s going to come and clean your bum?" Though there are a couple of dire programmes that could almost claim that as their theme, neither was shown on Saturday, so I assume Neil watched that on Pay-per-view. "It’s come to that," he said, shaking his head in mock despair.

He then looked down at the stage so beautifully green and manicured that they appeared to be performing on a putting green, but he blew its cover. "Here we are in Regent’s Park," Neil said, "and that’s fake grass—how about that!" As we laughed, he contemplated it a bit more and said that he might have to roll around on it. Little did we realise that he was serious and we’d actually get to see that later.

Always to be counted on for moving the show forward, Tim said that the next song was for their father Richard who was in New Zealand and apparently enjoyed playing golf and poaching eggs (I assume that meant Richard preferred that method of cooking rather than that he was an osprey nest thief.) Upon the mention of their father, someone in the audience tried to be clever by shouting out the name of the New Zealand town where the boys lived as children: "Te Awamutu!" Tim barely skipped a beat as he chuckled a bit whilst saying, "yes, Te Awamutu, but he’s in Cambridge now. But he’s 82 and going strong."

Having abandoned his guitar, Tim began singing the first lines of Mood Swinging Man from the Finn album. He punched the air like a boxer a few times, demonstrating a move to reiterate the line, "this town feels empty now he’s gone away". Neil gently strummed an acoustic guitar, and Paul played more subtly than usual on an electric guitar that looked like it was straight out of the 50s but sounded rather western. The song came over much better than I remembered it, perhaps improved by peerless harmonies between the brothers that resembled early Split Enz, and somehow it suited the surroundings perfectly; it was very Sunday in the Park. The line "tall dark stranger of the restless kind" seemed to describe the son who was singing rather than his father, and in fact I have heard rumours that Tim isn’t exactly without mood swings himself, but then what geniuses aren’t. Unable to contain his wild showman tendencies, but blending it into the relaxed rhumba feel of the tune’s delivery, Tim’s arms almost did the hula for a few measures.

Tim Smith was given a chance to sing, proving that he was a bass as well as a bassist by delivering one of the lines in an almost comically deep voice. The Louisiana native perhaps came on board with the Finns through his work with Jellyfish, whose producer Jack Joseph Puig worked with the Stacey brothers’ band The Lemon Trees. Before that, Smith had joined that 80s band of boy beauties the Producers after their catchy hit What’s He Got?, replacing bassist (and original lead vocalist) Kyle Henderson. Before now, it is possible that his biggest job—other than being a father and heading his own band, Shiva Machine--was touring and recording with the vastly overrated Sheryl Crow, which allowed him to join Eric Clapton on stage at the White House. But surely the honour of playing with the Finns topped even that.

Tim Finn turned towards the drummer and said, "Come on Jeremy, give it everything," then turned back to us, dramatically demanding "Big, big, I want big!" as though he were a camped up director. Actually, that sounds more like something Neil would do, so I might be remembering it wrong. Tim then strode over to the electric piano and improvised on it a bit as everyone but the drummer continued singing the easy, sleepy song. It complimented the venue wonderfully but did continue slightly too long. Perhaps these indulgences could be expected of this first outing.

At the end, Neil fell onto the ground as if he had fainted from fatigue or the beauty of the last creation. Amusingly, Tim just stepped over his brother to get to his acoustic guitar for the next number. From the ground—Neil must have anticipated his fall by taking a mike with him—Neil explained that the grass felt really good to him, that it was "caressing my back in a really mysterious way." Like wow, man.

Tim looked down at his brother in the moss green shirt who was now rising from the moss green Astroturf and said, "You just sort of merged; you were at one."

Neil then joked about how that was an effect they had planned for the show, that after discussion they’d decided that he would fall to the ground at the end of that song and just merge with the grass. "Not really," he admitted, and as though he were worried about getting chastised for his high jinks by, say, an elder member of the family, promised "I won’t do that again." However, Tim piped up brightly with, "I liked it!"

Neil explained to us that the brothers were "just seeking each other’s approval, even after all these years."

"Doing this album," Tim added, "we started to notice each other more," which he said was good and bad.

"I’d forgotten I had a brother!" Neil added in a bubbly manner (i.e. bubblyly).

Tim followed the link to the next song by saying that two people staring across at each other were like a couple of riverbanks really. "Neil, you do the first bit," he ordered, and Neil dutifully began singing the first verse of A Life Between Us from their new album. Neil was now playing a beige electric guitar, which thoughtfully matched Tim’s shoes since nothing else did, singing "In so many ways, I’m the same as you," which I suppose, yes, were interchangeable lyrics that either brother could sing. Tim’s comments earlier made more sense when they reached the chorus of, "And we're staring at each other like the banks of a river and we can't get any closer". Indeed, it seemed that Tim rarely made a remark between songs that wasn’t offering part of a literal explanation of the next song; he always remained terribly focused even if he seemed to be joining in the loose banter of his brother’s more relaxed style.

Finn the Elder began the second verse of what was another noisy song with a catchy chorus. At the time, I had been looking down for a moment and mistook his voice for Neil’s, which is the first time in my life I have ever thought they sounded alike. So they were the same after all, just like the song said! As though illustrating its lyrics even further, the brothers moved to face each other as they both played guitars—Tim sticking with acoustic, and Neil bouncing a bit as he moved towards his brother. They looked a bit surprised when the drums started up again, but continued to move towards each other until they were terribly close, jamming on their respective guitars. It would have been lovely to photograph that touching moment, but the Camera Gestapo of apparent 12-year-olds was in full force. I had a camera with me, an unobscured view, good lighting, and my favourite performers not too far away from me, yet I didn’t want to be pounced upon like the daring others, so I obeyed the rules like the annoying goody two shoes that I am. It was heartbreaking, and I should have gone for it before the final ‘curtain call’; if only I were braver.

The guitar jamming continued, with Neil the main culprit in what was an amazingly electric solo. When they drew the song to a close, they paused just long enough for Tim to introduce the next number as being from their collaboration on Crowded House’s brilliant Woodface album. Neil began hitting some more wild notes on the electric guitar, then turned to the drummer to wait for him to come in, continuing to add electric undercurrents to the boppy There Goes God. All the performers sang backing vocals to Neil’s lead except for Paul, who mainly played a burgundy electric guitar (I think the numerous guitars must have had a coach to themselves on the tour) and flew away briefly on another noisy electric guitar solo. At the end of that, he played the keyboards with his left hand whilst playing guitar with just his right somehow. I was waiting for him to start juggling both instruments in the air as his next trick. Tim wandered around a bit as the two electric guitarists jammed out and the unexpected extremely electric version of the phenomenal song—always better live--died out to restore peace at last.

Neil, on a similar wavelength to my friend, said, "I wonder how the ducks liked that!"

"Pardon?" the deafened ducks would say, I imagine.

Tim, racing down memory lane towards the next number, reminisced about playing the Marquee Club in 1976, "and here we are. It’s lovely when it’s with Neil." He said he liked all the various performing incarnations but it was great when it was The Finn Brothers. Awwwww, bless. Naturally, we cheered in agreement.

As we did so, the band was already playing the opening chords of the old Split Enz song Poor Boy, the first of the True Colours songs we got to hear performed live tonight. Whilst it is a lovely tune with typically 80s pop lyrics, I found myself pondering its inclusion in the set—not because I felt it did not fit, and certainly not because I didn’t welcome it; I have always thought it a lovely song and agree it is still worth playing. It superbly displayed Tim’s superlative vocal skills. I merely wondered how they pared down their selection of the bazillion Split Enz songs so that Poor Boy emerged successfully. Perhaps it was one of which Tim was particularly fond, or perhaps it has aged better than many. In any case, it was thrilling to hear it performed live. Here Tim was, singing alone into the microphone he was clutching as his brother focused on playing a big electric guitar and Paul played the keyboards by the drums. Tim, returning to his youthful, mad Split Enz days in his mind, couldn’t help but dance around a bit in circles, even on the cramped Astroturf-covered stage. The confined space limited him to an odd shuffle of his feet that looked like a slave dance as though he were shackled to a line of others in the same boat.

With this additional proof that Tim retains the Split Enz artiste style of mad showmanship, I mused over my relief that Split Enz had more of the wacky Bonzo Dog Doo Dah influence than going the way of 70s Glam Rock. Tim and the others with long flowing curly locks in a tight sequinned "catsuit" with a bare chest and platform shoes doesn’t bear thinking about.

Everything was peaceful on the time machine and the song transported the Regent’s Park audience back to the early 80s until Neil burst into a major, long electric guitar solo that took off into another lifetime. The audience cheered appreciatively when the band had finished the alluring piece.

Neil then took stock of the theatre around him that was normally used for Shakespeare plays and observed that at least three people on the stage with him had performed Shakespeare. Tim looked puzzled until it dawned on him that he’d done Shakespeare at school, but he suggested that didn’t really count. Turning to the drummer and guitarist, Neil said, "You’ve done it professionally, you Staceys."

Joining the bandwagon to encourage the Staceys to embarrass themselves, Tim egged them on, saying "Jeremy, you can be Bottom!" Although A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be entirely fitting, both Staceys protested, so Tim suggested that they recite some passage in unison as that would be less embarrassing.

Paul, clearly sensing that in the battle of the brothers, the Finns would not give in, leaned into the mike suddenly and recited in a soft but deadpan voice a bit from Hamlet in a depressed state, specifically "Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!"

The audience let him know they were terribly impressed, following which Neil turned to the drummer and said, "Come on, Jeremy, Paul got a big clap!" I’m sure he meant applause. Jeremy, however, remained unwilling and refused to budge even when the audience encouraged him. Neil gave up and took the role of his less indulgent brother in deciding to get on with the music. Tim sat at the piano and said, "something from Finn, I feel."

They began playing a song that sounded a bit like Four Seasons in One Day at first. Neil provided lead vocals and acoustic guitar, and at one point he wandered over to the Staceys and said something that made Paul laugh. Tim sang backing vocals whilst playing the electronic piano, even delving into an elegant solo at one point, adding some arpeggio scales at the end of the song that engaged his concentration so that he almost repeated the refrain once too often. Hamlet played the keyboards beside his brother’s drum set and they all created a marvellously dark, lovely sound in Where is My Soul. Somehow I had not remembered this tune from Neil and Tim’s first album as a duo, and I delighted in revisiting it when I returned home; it’s a glorious, warm but dark soul-touching composition.

At this stage, I noticed a young man helping the person in charge of the guitar centre, a backstage pass dangling from his trousers. It seems this boy was Elroy Finn, Neil’s youngest son. He later gave us the treat of seeing three Finns perform on stage, so I imagine he will follow family tradition like his brother Liam and get his own band one day.

Their Uncle Tim then burst into a flutter of flattery for his brother, praising the brilliant way that Neil had pulled together the Seven Worlds Collide project, and he asked if anyone had been there. The album was recorded from five live shows at the St James Theatre in Auckland in April 2001, covering some Split Enz and Crowded House classics, a few Neil Finn solo songs and other treats, including Neil singing the Smiths classic There is a Light That Never Goes Out. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder took lead vocals on some of the songs, including Tim’s spectacular paragon Stuff and Nonsense, with Tim tragically relegated to backing vocals. Radiohead members contributed guitar and drums, and Neil indulged some of his band members and guests as they played solo material.

Although we were gurgling enthusiastically at the mention of the project and no doubt we all had the album and/or DVD, we betrayed the fact that we probably weren’t in New Zealand at the time, so Neil feigned disgust at our attendance statistics, pronouncing, "Not a one!" He then pointed to someone unseen in the audience and laughed, which made me wonder if Noel Gallagher had raised his hand to show he had been present (it can’t have been Johnny Marr because, if he were in the audience, surely we would not have missed that hair.)

"Let’s do it Jeremy," Tim said to get the song going, and the theatre was immediately engulfed in some Pioneer-like keyboards played by Paul. As Paul was tied up with that, 14-year-old Elroy Finn made up for the guitar shortage (if there can be such a thing), standing subtly to the side of the main control room whilst playing a blue electric guitar a fair way behind his father who was playing an acoustic guitar. Tim began quietly singing with an air of deliberate despondency over his gentle touch on the piano in a deep, melancholic voice about how we all aim to reach another birthday, before they reached the chorus that began, "Who owns that space? Declare it if you dare tonight", which was belted out brightly by Neil with both Tims adding backing vocals. The stunning Finn co-write, Edible Flowers, was generally in style of Crowded House’s Four Seasons in One Day but parts resembled early Split Enz—the less manic ballads sung by Tim. Although I believe the song was one of their early collaborations, it only surfaced on Neil’s Seven Worlds Collide album and now thankfully would appear on their new CD, presumably with a gentler treatment than that provided by Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien with electric guitar and effects on the live album. Really, even that version was dearly welcome; the song has a chilling beauty that should be widely heard, and tonight the brothers’ voices complemented each other with jaw-dropping perfection.

By now, it was almost 9.30pm, and the late summer’s darkness was setting in. Some lights were turned on the audience and everyone cheered as though shouting, "hi, mom!" in unison to an invisible television camera. I guess it took little to push our raw excitement to hyper levels considering what we were enjoying on stage.

I referred earlier to a time long ago in the hey-day of Split Enz when Neil would shrink away when the audience was lit up in this way, as though he didn’t want to see what he was facing. Now, he was so bold that he gladly invaded it. "I’m going to have a stroll, Tim, because the PC just crashed and he’s got no sound," Neil explained to his brother, gesturing towards the helpless man in the Great Guitar Centre who was frantically trying to restore life to the unseen computer that presumably helped tune the trillions of guitars lined up around him.

Neil walked deliberately up the aisle nearest the centre of the audience to an upper tier and sat down on the raised step of that aisle near some people who, until now, might have been bemoaning that their seats were too far above the stage. From his new perspective, Neil called down to the band in front of him, "Great, guys, you’re awesome!" Tim and the others filled the time by playing a bit of improvised smooth jazz on the instruments that didn’t depend on the technology for tuning.

Someone in the audience shouted out, "We want Dirty Creature!" to the Finn who remained on the stage. "Oh, yeah?" Tim responded, and surprised me by accepting a request from the audience, which is normally Neil’s scene, as Tim tends to stick to plans and rehearsals. He began to play an acoustic guitar whilst still seated at the piano, and Neil, like a little brother who didn’t want to be left out of the game, leapt down the steps two-at-a-time to return quickly to the stage. "I just wanted to go up and see who hadn’t turned up," Neil said into the mike. "Apparently it was this f**king guy Chambers." It was my friend who realised that Neil meant the aforementioned Guy Chambers, he of Stacey brothers’ collaborations and co-writer of the one Robbie Williams song I used to be able to listen to, Angels.

The lights remained on us as the rhythm section and Tim played the distinctive introduction to Dirty Creature, and eventually Neil was handed a black electric guitar that I can confirm was in tune. Paul joined the monochrome theme by playing a black and white electric guitar, and Tim eventually moved away from the piano with his acoustic guitar to sing into the microphone beside his brother. His voice was flourishing in this fun number from Split Enz’s Time and Tide, and the boisterous, spellbinding rhythm continued as Neil offered another electric guitar solo in the style of Guns ‘n’ Roses. Tim eventually made a "time out" gesture that might have been a dance move and then began flinging that mass of silver hair around like a L’Oreal advert (because he’s worth it). The electric guitars grew in volume but contributed wonderfully to the atmosphere, with lights peaking out from their hiding places in the trees that surrounded the players, and an amazing energy exploding throughout the amphitheatre. It was terrific fun. Tim at one point shouted, "take it away!" which must have been code as the band then stopped abruptly, and the clangour of the band was replaced with equally loud loving roars from the audience.

Tim and Neil had a quick chat off-mike as to what they might do next, presumably because the computer crash and Dirty Creature performance had diverted them from their original plans. Neil then moved to the mike to address his brother publicly, commenting that, "It’s so different when you go out there," pointing toward his previous seat in the audience. "I’d recommend it! Any time you get a break…." That clearly wouldn’t be any time soon, as a roadie went up to Neil and began fiddling with his back, presumably freeing a lead or something, to ensure he was ready for the next number. "Thanks, John, for adjusting my shirt," Neil mused merrily into the mike. Whenever they could on any tour, the Finns seemed to name-check their roadies and even let them play guitar at times, which another roadie was about to do. How kind those Finn Brothers are. No wonder they’re so fussed over by said roadies.

Although Neil remained on electric guitar and Tim on acoustic, presumably the fact that Paul had returned to the keyboards by his brother prescribed the need for another electric guitarist, as their 98% electric guitar quota couldn’t be filled (not that I’d ever exaggerate in a million years). The Finns started singing gently and in unison an immediately appealing new song. Tim Smith merely swayed slowly, not adding any bass until the chorus, which picked up to the point where the Finn Brothers were almost shouting, "All the mud in this town, all the dirt in this world; none of it sticks on you." Because the shouting ended with "There’s nothing wrong with you," I initially assumed it to be a sarcastic sentiment with a sense of something political, but upon closer evaluation, the song is a comforting one praising and admiring one’s survivor instinct. I should have known as the new songs mostly have a theme of the celebration of family. Neil and Tim occasionally faced each other a bit as though they were singing it to each other. Nothing Wrong with You was yet another highlight and a welcome indication of the treasures to come when the new album was released.

Without much of a pause for our euphoric cheers, Tim went straight up to Neil and struck up a tune on his acoustic guitar that made Neil smile as though Tim had had a great idea. The two brothers faced each other in close proximity and led the rest of the band into one of their greatest ever collaborations, It’s Only Natural. Paul played a brown and black electric guitar—seriously, did the guitars need their own aeroplane for this tour?—but the song remained pure with the focus on the brothers and no distractions. Four people who could no longer bear the constraints of being Londoners enjoying things quietly jumped up and started dancing. Most people looked at them with envy rather than the disdain we had been taught to show this sort of outrageous expressionism. Within seconds, most of the crowd were on their feet, dropping that stiff upper lip to live the moment. The chances are that many of us were not English anyway, and even so, Tim and Neil Finn were on stage singing It’s Only Natural! Surely not even the Queen could resist bopping around to that. This live experience embodied true privilege and we knew it.

I expect the Camera Gestapo were having heart attacks as they surely never saw this sort of thing happen during Shakespeare, but deep down in their cold hearts, they must have been wanting to join in.  Some of the audience broke free from their control. Sadly, we soon learned it mattered little as this was the last song. Before we could come to terms with what was happening, the boys were waving good-bye as they downed tools and headed for the woods, where the Towel Girl handed out her wares to the undoubtedly glistening chaps who had worked so hard to entertain us. They all disappeared into the little hut set in the trees behind the stage area. It was 9.45pm.

I am always conscious of the time since my last train home leaves so early—particularly on a Sunday—and spending a night rough on the streets of London is never an appealing prospect, so I was partly pleased to see that it was early, yet mostly heartbroken. I suppose the young teenage heart and soul deep down inside my crusty, stuffy ageing body wanted the Finns to return for another hour’s set, whilst the creaky adult exterior had to think about responsibilities at home and getting to work the next day, preferably wearing a different outfit and without street slime dripping down my face. So I guess the ideal compromise would be an encore, but not too lengthy an encore. And that is what we got.

The fact that two roadies remained on the fake grass below us, placing guitars on stands where the band members would be, was a bit of a hint that there was more to come. Plus, let’s face it, there always is. Fortunately, the Finn Brothers and their band returned in just about five minutes. Neil sat at the electronic piano and Tim put on an acoustic guitar.

As they returned, three people threw paper aeroplanes at the stage. Whilst these planes containing comments, jokes and requests were a regular feature of Neil’s highly interactive solo shows, the Finn Brothers’ show seemed to be sticking to a pre-planned set list except when technical difficulties arose. Neil eyed the paper planes flying towards him and said playfully, "There are a few very poor paper aeroplanes that haven’t quite made the stage." Suddenly lots more took flight, but most crash-landed long before nearing the brothers and none were picked up.

Paul began playing the same electric guitar he had been using before they left, and Tim stood near his brother as he strummed his guitar. Both brothers sang in unison an immediately catchy tune that would appear on the new album called Part of Me, Part of You. The upbeat, pleasantly rocking song began with a reference to the influential green hills that understandably get name-checked in many Finn songs. The entire band provided backing vocals on the lively chorus, Neil and Tim each treated us to gratifying solos on their respective instruments. The remarkable new songs certainly earned the happy welcome they received from their audience; some more people dared to dance despite fears that the venue also employed a Dance Gestapo. It is often difficult for both parties when new songs, particularly as yet unheard new songs, are played in concert as people react better to the classics to which they can sing along, but the Finns certainly had no justifiable fears about that tonight. Their new material was tremendously strong, already polished and instantly adored.

Without much of a break between songs, Neil moved back to his place stage right and put on his red and beige electric guitar as his brother announced, "This is for anyone who’s up against it a bit." I noticed that a roadie began preparing the dreaded banjo that had thankfully remained unused so far, but at least that suggested that this song would not be the last. Paul was holding the black and white electric guitar and Tim stuck with his acoustic one as they launched into a Finn collaboration from Crowded House’s Woodface album, How Will You Go. They harmonised dreamily and it was fabulous to hear this track again; I had forgotten its many merits. Neil’s voice particularly came to life during the bridge that spins to a different dimension from the gentle calm of the verses and chorus. As we cheered, I was sorry to notice the Towel Woman lurking ominously in the trees again. The end was nigh.

The musically versatile Finn brothers swapped over again, with Tim shuffling over to the piano and Neil changing to an acoustic guitar. Some audience members, having abandoned the failed method of paper aeroplanes and thinking better of carrier pigeons, quit their quiet good behaviour and shouted out requests now for songs such as Split Enz’s hit I Got You.

"Apparently we have a curfew tonight," Neil explained, breaking many hearts, "and it’s five minutes before the ducks go to sleep." With a threat of mischief and undoubtedly a twinkle in his eye, he added "But we’ll see what happens."

What would happen is the rich residents around the park would be on the phone to the council in droves if they had to suffer amplified music after 10pm on a Sunday, so the venue could have its public entertainment license revoked. Whilst surely we all believed that hearing a free Finn concert was a privilege, it’s true they’re a bit louder than a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Bearing in mind the curfew, the rule abiding Tim piped in with "let’s get singing!", understandably preferring to cram in as much music as possible.

At this point, Paul strapped on the dreaded banjo, so we were presumably about to hear that fine old bluegrass hit by the Finns…uh… Admittedly, I had no idea what they would perform with a banjo. Neil introduced the song by saying, "We once did this one at the Hammersmith Apollo and a guy stripped. Then his girlfriend got up, pulled his underpants down and completed the job!" Full of smiles of that fond memory, Neil began playing his guitar, initially joined only by Jeremy on the brushed cymbals and Tim Smith on bass, and eventually Finn the Elder added piano along with captivating vocal harmonies. They were performing the epitome of magnificence, adored by all: Four Seasons in One Day. During the choruses, Paul added a subtle barrage of rhythmic banjo. It actually didn’t sound quite so out of place, although it did sound a bit out of tune, and I was astonished when I played the song upon my return home to find that a similar sound is evident on the recorded version, and I never noticed. My psyche must have blocked it out to protect me, or I had convinced myself that it was a mandolin, which is always welcome. Paul’s background contribution was subtle and somehow did not detract from the beauty of the song. I have to credit his skill in playing it and the sound mixers, who had been too heavy-handed with the volume control for the electric guitars earlier in the show, for getting the balance just right now.

Near the end, Neil called into the mike, "Come on, have a sing before you go home!" and, barely needing encouragement, the audience joined in on the next chorus. Without stopping at all, the musicians merged the song into Crowded House’s Better Be Home Soon, beginning near the end of that tune so that it could only legitimately be listed on the set list as part of a Four Seasons in One Day/Better Be Home Soon medley, which was a rather sweet dessert. We joined in again as though seated around a campfire, and Neil conducted us, encouraging us to hold out that last "home" for ages before letting us move on to the last word, "soon."

Horribly, that was the end. "Thank you, London!" the Finns called as the performers all waved and disappeared into the trees again. We were all standing, but no one wanted to accept that the fantastic fairground ride of an evening had come to an end. But it was 10pm, duck curfew, time to run for our last trains. They had played solidly, marvellously, for almost two hours, so we had no grounds for complaint. It was touching that they had arranged this exclusive concert for fans at all; they did not need to do that whilst promoting the album on various radio stations in London on their way home from their North American tour. How noble that they gave us die-hard fans an opportunity to snap up decent seats without having to compete against ticket agencies and touts. This event had been an absolute unadulterated joy with a feeling of camaraderie amongst the audience that elevated the evening. What an extraordinary way to introduce us to the new songs. The best festival in the park that day had been Finnstock.

So it was difficult when our euphoria was replaced with the heart-sinking feeling of knowing the evening’s exuberance had come to an end. Still, as we all stumbled through the darkness to find our way out of the park, past the ponds (with no noticeable ducks, as I see they had made it to bed on time), I know we were all beaming with retained excitement. To quote one of the new songs, Nothing Wrong With You, "The moment that we dread, it comes all too soon, but voices in your head Still carry on the tune." The end of the concert could be construed as a tragedy if we didn’t have the ebullience and music it had brought us to think about for many days to follow. In a few weeks, the album would be released, and that would keep us grinning until November, when the Finn Brothers would return to play live at Hammersmith again. I wonder if anyone would feel encouraged to strip….

Copyright © 2004 by TC. All rights reserved.

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