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The Finn Brothers - Virgin Megastore, Oxford Street, on 12 August 2004

I must offer a few words about this in-store appearance by the Neil and Tim Finn at Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street. Well, a few thousand words--it's me, after all. The impatient and intolerant of you should look away now!

I almost feel like there’s little point in reporting on the evening as it felt like every Finn fan was there. Surely at least 300 people crammed into the small stage area in the basement of the store. We were all taking photos, although I suspect that only the few who had been camping out there since 4pm will have some that aren’t just distant blurs of colour with a myriad heads in the way, possibly exposing a wee bit of Tim's hair or half of Neil's shoulder. Unfortunately, at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park fan club gig four days earlier, the taking of photos had been severely verboten, and that was equally severely enforced. Consequently, standing so close to these musical wonders without photographic restrictions was much like being presented with a banqueting table piled high with the richest samples of gastronomy after fasting for Lent, and I fear that 98% of us made a nuisance of ourselves with our cameras. At the time, it was not so obvious that we were so irritating, and if I had been able to get a few great shots, I would have put the camera away, but every time I pressed the shutter, someone moved into shot as it was so crowded, so I tried again. Anyway, being as far back as I was, I wasn’t aware that the many flashes were a nuisance; we seemed all to be friendly Finn fans sharing the great atmosphere, so my concerns were focused on enjoying the music whilst standing with a slight stoop so the people behind me could take their pictures. Only later did I learn that some people minded. Oops.

Anyway, to get the full feel of the evening, picture a crowded peak-hour Tube train where you have to jam yourself on and become accidentally intimate with the people around you as you are flattened against the doors. You know, that hideous sensation where you are wearing other people’s sweat as well as your own and you can find no space for breathing. Well, that was the Virgin store right in front of the stage tonight, except that we were happier than Tube passengers would be. Sadly, many of us had just experienced that same sensation making our way there thanks to a signal failure, which is why I arrived so late that I almost didn't even fit downstairs. Thank goodness my thoughtful friend saved me a space, and the other fans kindly let me manoeuvre my way to it. Then we all glistened together as the kind Virgin folks told us there was water available (for those capable of reaching the stage presumably by flying) and urged us not to faint. They even recommended loosening our clothing, but I don’t think they had a lap dancing licence so there were few takers of that suggestion, tempting though it was. The evening was supposedly cooler than recent days, but I guess the Met Office wasn't factoring in Finn fan body heat to the equation.

At 6.37pm, the lights went out and we began cheering like Pavlov’s dog, well, with possibly less barking. A Virgin chap (I’m not commenting on his innocence, you understand) came out onto the teeny little stage to introduce the people we had come to see. First, he broke hearts by explaining that the Finns would not be signing copies of their single, as advertised, as they were way too busy during their stay in London. However, he said in a teasingly exciting way, ‘something will probably happen.’ Given that we were talking about fun-loving seasoned performers Tim and Neil Finn, who seem to have a clear appreciation for their fans, we felt that we could rely upon that promise of some surprise. In any case, the chap said, the boys had signed 200 copies of the single already and the pre-signed copies would be available after the show upstairs at the tills. I immediately thought that would be nowhere near enough copies, given the size of the turnout and the fact that people would buy more than one each. The chap added that he was confident that, since many of us must be Crowded House fans and thus of a certain age, we wouldn’t be so foolish and wild as to stampede, now would we.

Lest anyone didn’t realise that was said in good humour, the chap went all gushy in introducing the Finns. A bit overcome by the moment and not realising there were a few children present, he spoke of how great his job was and insisted he wasn’t just saying that as, sometimes, they got some "talentless f**ks" playing there, but sometimes they got some "real geniuses you love to death". During the show, he apparently received a lecture from his superiors about the importance of being politically correct rather than speaking from the heart, for at the end of the show, he had to apologise for his language, saying he had not realised that there were young people present, and he withdrew the description of the lesser bands, as naturally everyone who performed there was great, though he added a sarcastic example to make his point.

After the Virgin chap’s honest introduction, Tim and Neil came onto the teeny stage where there were two mikes in the centre and, to the right, an electronic piano that was beneath my field of vision. As soon as they came on and realised they were practically facing the paparazzi as a hundred cameras began flashing, they posed as though on a red carpet—the two of them with their arms around each other smiling. That was an utterly lovely gesture and a picture to die for, though I did not have a clear shot of anything but the backs of the many tall people in front of me and part of Neil’s right ear. Still, the gig and the crowd was that good-natured, so I really didn’t mind…so much.

Above Neil’s ear was a bit of grey hair creeping over his temples, and he was wearing a moss green (of course) T-shirt with a long sleeved striped oxford shirt unbuttoned over it, but he quickly removed the latter in the heat. Tim, now gloriously grey, looked incredibly smart in a neat blue cotton shirt that resembled a crisp oxford shirt but only buttoned half way down, with the sleeves carefully folded to his elbows. His mane, though still quite long, looked less wild than it had at Regent’s Park –there was no wind to muss it here, and he looked pleasantly coiffed. He smiled so much during the evening that I was often reminded of the time when I was a 15-year-old who fancied him in videos on the brand new MTV channel. They both still look fantastic. I can't give you a trousers report as I was that far back that, for all I know, they weren't wearing any.

Tim immediately disappeared from view as he sat at the piano to the right, which I couldn’t see over all the bodies and heads and raised arms clutching digital cameras and mobile phones that took pictures. During Won’t Give In, Neil played acoustic guitar—a welcome relief, I thought, to hear the songs in their pure form with just Neil and Tim and their clear voices, both of which were in terrifically fine nick tonight. I loved the Regent’s Park gig and am enormously grateful to the Finns for arranging it, but the Spinal Tap style of electric guitar solos and mixing in favour of the ‘rock’ instruments at the expense of the crucial vocals frustrated me. The performance at Virgin was a dream being granted, seemingly the way the songs should be delivered…even if the Finns didn’t agree. Somehow the energy seemed greater, too, as though they were really having fun, although that might have been a finely honed act after so many promotional appearances. I like to think that what we saw was natural, though; it felt genuine. The crowd was fantastic and Tim and Neil fed off their enthusiasm well.

When they finished, we roared in approval of this welcome, clean rendition of their new single, which still sounded powerful and loud so it lacked nothing in the acoustic delivery. Tim remarked how nice it was to do some singing, as he and Neil were going "half mental" with all the promotional stints they had been doing that week.

Neil added that, at least with two of them, the air of the promos had not been all ‘me, me, me!’ but rather ‘us, us, us!’

None of us chose to mention that this, of course, was yet another promotional gig, and that many of the radio spots they had done had involved singing as they thankfully included some live sets. Their comments demonstrated that they seemed to be treating this more as a relaxed evening with their loving fans rather than a tiresome necessary engagement to market themselves and tick off the list before moving to the next.

As Tim grabbed an acoustic guitar and stood on his brother’s left, he told us they would next do a Split Enz song. Most of us let our elation be known as they both burst into the never-ageing catchiness of Six Months in a Leaky Boat. Although Tim soared seamlessly through the whistling part, he spoke over the music as soon as he finished to comment that it was "hard to whistle when you’re being flashed." I hope he meant camera flashes. He may well have been facing as many of those as Diana, Princess of Wales, would see on the occasional outing. I, too, was guilty—obviously—of snapping a fair few photos, but having loved these guys for almost three decades and only catching a glimpse of them extremely rarely, and having suffered the frustration of being a few yards away from them at Regent’s Park in clear light with no visual obstructions but being forbidden from raising the camera, I couldn’t help but try to grab several mementoes tonight, and they have cheered me up. Most people there did the same and I got caught up in what seemed to be a harmless frenzy, and sadly I didn’t realise until it was suggested by others later that it might have driven the brothers bonkers, which would be a terrible shame. It’s not a good excuse; it’s an explanation.

When Tim and Neil finished a lusciously lively version of the Split Enz classic from Time and Tide, Tim, smiling in such a way that I turned into an adoring teeny bopper despite turning 38 later this month, said that he could still reach those high notes—which I can confirm despite comments circulating that his voice has not worn well—"but you try whistling." Whilst he seemed to have whistled impeccably, Tim suggested that their Dad would have been ashamed as he was a great whistler.

Neil altruistically piped in with something to the effect of, ‘But how would he be in the hot Virgin megastore in front of millions of people?’ Tim agreed and thanked his brother for that kind consolation, before Neil continued musing about poor Richard Finn, adding, "Mind you, if he had a glass of Scotch in his hand, he would be fine."

Tim, who was equally capable of merry banter as his brother but always seemed to be the one to focus on the business at hand, moved on to introducing the next number, which he said we might have heard on Neil’s Seven World’s Collide, a project about which Tim had been highly complimentary at the Regent’s Park gig.

Whilst most of us cheered in anticipation of Edible Flowers, the flashes still continued, prompting Neil to say, "Thanks for all the pictures, guys. You can send those to Dad." I think somehow that only encouraged people, and I hope poor Richard Finn in New Zealand doesn’t one day receive a mailbag bigger than the one Tom Hanks’ character received in Sleepless in Seattle, full of pictures of bald spots on the backs of dozens of heads of his sons’ adorers with tiny bits of his sons’ faces exposed in the distance as a bit of a blur.

Tim returned to sit at the piano to the far right of the stage, and at that reduced height, he could no longer be seen by most of us, but his vocals certainly made up for that. Initially, I must admit there were a few bum notes played on the piano in the song’s introduction, but I’m sure that’s because the piano was out of tune. I know it was an electronic piano, but it was out of tune, okay? That must be what Neil wandered over to say to his brother, whilst still playing his acoustic guitar, before the first verse—something like, what a shame you have to suffer an out-of-tune piano; these Virgin cretins clearly know nothing about music.

I can only imagine that the brothers appreciate the utterly astonishing beauty of this touching, melancholic song as much as we do. Neil started off beaming as his brother sang and then could not resist lip synching to all the words. Tim was hidden behind the crowd but sang with extraordinary feeling, and perhaps it’s the chords or his more evident accent, but the way he sings it reminds me of the stunning ballads of early Split Enz, which I cherish as my all-time favourite songs to this day.

"Everybody wants the same thing: to see another birthday," Tim sang, turning my thoughts nervously to my previous unjustifiable confidence that I would reach 27 August in my crash course towards 40 (touch wood….) despite generally taking nothing in life for granted. Apart from the delicate grace of the tune and harmonies, the magical word construction, and the breathtaking performance of the song, an element I prize is how the brothers take turns singing. I always loved Split Enz’s What’s The Matter With You because it had Tim and Neil singing alternating parts, and somehow they manage such deliveries without the unwelcome soppiness of a duet in which, say, Jennifer Warnes might take part. Here, so many years later, is another sensational example of that winning technique, and although I do not yet have the Finn Brothers’ unreleased (other than via the E-bay label) album, I noticed at Regent’s Park that there seemed to be one or two songs using this style, so it should be one big faint-fest.

The performance of Edible Flowers at Virgin was perfection personified in these two wondrous humans. Whilst I regret not having a recording of that brief bit of happiness on Oxford Street that night, I am thrilled and eternally grateful to have a live recording of Neil and Tim performing it nearly as movingly on Seven Worlds Collide. Fortunately, the electric guitar and effects on that recording are just subtle aberrations, quiet enough to make you think the ill-fitting noise can be blamed on a truck driving past your window or someone leaning on your neighbour’s door buzzer, so they do not manage to ruin the peace of the song despite making several puzzling attempts. On the album, the vocals are triumphs that outshine any distractions, though. Despite everything I have just said, I still would give my left foot for a recording of just the two brothers performing the song as splendidly as they did tonight. Their voices were faultless and melted together like a vat of chocolate fudge sauce leaking from heaven. Yes, that was a goopy thing to say, but their voices were truly magnificent.

As the audience screamed a bit hysterically considering many were men and most were over 30—but who could blame us?—Tim re-appeared above the crowd’s heads and stood beside his brother again. As he put an acoustic guitar around his neck that was handed to him by a roadie (even at this scale of event, things ran like clockwork), he spotted their drummer standing beside the small stage and asked if there was a tambourine or something for him. "Jeremy, our drummer, is here but has no instruments," he shared with us, as Neil added that Paul was there, too. Paul and Jeremy were the brothers Stacey, both of whom had played with the brothers Finn at Regent’s Park. Paul played electric guitar and, unfortunately, the banjo—but I mustn’t hold that against him. I suppose somebody has to play it; I wouldn’t want any musical instrument to become extinct. Well, maybe the lap steel guitar.

So Paul and Jeremy became observers like the rest of us, and I mean them no cruelty when I say that I am pleased they had no instruments on this occasion. The thought of this pure, raw, plainly majestic combination of just the two brothers Finn being tainted with any other intrusion such as electric guitar, drums or even makes me a bit queasy. It was not that type of performance, and I can’t think that anyone in the audience would have wished for a more electric sound. The harmonies, allowed to soar over the music here, were doubly grand not just because both men are impeccable singers but also because there is something magical that kicks in when two voices from the same gene pool combine together. Any outsider would have spoiled it; it is rare that we get this treat, so I am glad they were left to perform on their own.

Before their next song, Neil asked if two nephews from New Zealand, I believe called Patrick and Quinn, were in the audience, but they did not answer if they were. Tim commented that that would be a good name for a band: Nephews from New Zealand. Neil didn’t seem to share his enthusiasm for that suggestion, so Tim moved on to the introduction of the next song, which he said was from the Finn album.

Neil piped in with, ‘You’ve all got that album, right?’ and the audience shouted ‘yeah!’

‘Yeah, right,’ Neil snickered cynically.

In order to ensure we were all talking about the same thing, Tim described the cover of their 1995 collaboration. ‘It’s got a green cover with two little sperms and a cervix on it.’ I would have said fried egg, but okay. ‘Neil painted it,’ he added, more with pride than as an accusation or defence.

Neil then admitted to having problems with how his guitar was tuned, so he asked us to sing amongst ourselves. As we disobeyed, the brothers huddled together, perhaps deciding which song they might be able to sing in whichever key the guitar had chosen.

They then strolled gently into an achingly charming performance of Angel’s Heap, which, as soon as they began, encouraged a chorus of cheers from people who clearly did have the Finn album and loved that song. Like many people, I’m sure, I was slightly disappointed at the time of that album’s release by a recording I must have unfairly expected to change my life if not the world. Then some years later, I heard this song and a couple others and could not believe how stupid I had been for failing to play it for so very long. The album contains some gorgeous tracks, as I was reminded at Regent’s Park when they played several of them, although sadly not the breathtaking Last Day of June, but then it would have been too quiet for the chosen mood of that concert. Funnily enough, another album that had exactly the same effect on me—a disappointment that I consequently ignored for some years and then was blown away by when I rediscovered it—was another of Neil Finn’s pies, Crowded House’s Temple of Low Men. So, considering the common threads of these sleeper hits, is it something to do with Neil—is he ahead of his time? Or should I search for something in the connection that they both have with, uh, reproduction, in that the Crowded House title was apparently a euphemism for a certain female nether region and bearing in mind how Tim had just described the Finn cover?

The boys seemed to be enjoying performing Angel’s Heap almost as much as we were enjoying hearing it, and they sounded unbelievably grand. They deserved every one of the many massive cheers that greeted them when they finished.

Neil then sat at the invisible piano, and I think he made a derogatory comment about its aural condition, which would probably explain why it sounded out of tune when Tim began to play it earlier. Maybe it wasn’t digital after all. However, I can’t confirm what he said precisely as he was speaking Kiwi with possible vague Australian influence and I was listening with American ears in an English store, so I couldn’t quite interpret the language.

Tim, always sticking to business, began to introduce the next song by noting that their father had received a few mentions that evening. "Dad likes a view," he added. "He sits with a glass of whisky staring at the hills and kind of merges…." Like his son Neil did with the turf in Regent’s Park when wearing one of his many green shirts, I thought. "This one is for Dad," Tim said, leaving me assuming we’d hear Mood Swinging Man, which they had played surprisingly brightly at Regent’s Park on Sunday.

As Neil burst into a rousing piano introduction, Tim broke a string on his acoustic guitar after just a few measures, and unwrapping the guitar strap from his tall frame, he turned away from us in order to investigate his options. Continuing to entertain us with the piano, Neil said, "You can use my one, Tim."

Get out your Sturgeron, but I have to say there was something truly endearing about his younger brother’s quick offer of his own guitar when Tim’s became incapacitated. It reminded me of the song Two Little Boys where one boy offers to share his toy with his playmate whose own toy had broken (and the latter repaid him by eventually saving him on the battlefield etc etc—that Rolf Harris, sigh, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to….’) While I was lost on these soppy thoughts, a roadie appeared from behind the little stage and handed Tim Neil’s guitar, I think—bearing in mind I had limited vision of the stage—as he took Tim’s away to replace the string backstage (or in the store cupboard, seeing as we were in a shop.)

Tim leaned towards the microphone and muttered by way of explanation, "Maybe I didn’t say enough good things about Dad," implying I suppose that his late mother had had a hand in things unless his father is Samantha from Bewitched. He then began seamlessly playing along to his kid brother’s piano part, which hadn’t faltered. In fact, by the end of Part of Me, Part of You, another treat I cannot wait to own on the album, Neil was pounding on the poor piano as though he were in a strong man competition, and I think he won.

Once again, the two looked like they were having tremendous fun performing together, which contributed to the enchanted atmosphere of the gig. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the recent Simon and Garfunkel concert in Hyde Park despite the fact they never looked at each other and that Simon wandered far away from Garfunkel whenever he didn’t have to sing, but I do think a bit of joy and fun evident on the face of the performers is infectious. Also, by contrast to the Regent’s Park gig where anyone who looked like he was taking even a mental picture of the concert was harshly chided by the myriad security children scattered throughout the amphitheatre, Virgin presented a sparkling, welcoming atmosphere. The staff were smiley and kind, worried about us fainting, shared our privileged feeling of having the Finns in their midst, and even gave out to the crowd afterwards the many posters lining the walls of the store that (falsely) advertised the Finns being there for a signing that night. I heard that even one poster that was several feet high was quickly retrieved by a member of staff on a ladder who handed it to a fan. I could be cynical and say that Virgin had a commercial interest in keeping us happy as they gained nothing from our presence unless we later purchased things from them, whereas the Open Air Theatre at Regent’s Park already had our money and had nothing to lose by making us live by their imposing rules. Also, the Camera Mafia at the Park, unlike the Virgin staff, might not have appreciated that they were in the company of geniuses, since most were only about 12.

Our appreciation for all this beatitude and joy burst out of us in the form of enormous cheers with some whooping, which prompted Tim to let a massive smile take over his face just before he took a swig of bottled water to the envy of us all. I am afraid some long-slumbering silly child in me allowed my heart to skip a beat when presented with that Tim smile. But let’s be fair, I rather worshipped him when I was a young teen. I was also quite fickly fond of Neil at times, but Tim was really my David Cassidy and, let’s face it, he doesn’t grace these shores every day, and he graced North Carolina even fewer times when I was growing up there. In fact, come to think of it, I can count the number of times I’ve seen Tim in the flesh (so to speak) on one hand, even if I had two fingers ripped off that hand in an industrial accident. The last time might have been another in-store appearance, in HMV promoting Before & After in 1993. [Uh, I stand corrected by my own website; I last saw Tim in Brixton in 2002 at one of the greatest concerts of all time.  The Alzheimer's is creeping in early....] I’ve benefited from Neil’s presence a few more times and certainly won’t complain about that pleasure. So that’s my defence for having an infantile reaction to such a dazzling smile. Plus I think all the constant camera flashes did something to my brain; it probably thought it was in a time machine going back to those halcyon Split Enz days where the Finns were performing together all the time. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

As the roadie returned with Tim’s mended guitar, which he replaced around his neck, Tim explained that he and his brother had been writing for the new album at a beach off the west coast of Auckland. I thought he’d said it was called PR, which would have been an appropriate name given the level of promotion they had been doing for the album, but that was just the Kiwi pronunciation of Piha. The audience must have contained many Antipodeans or surfers as they cheered at its mention.

Tim explained that Neil had come up with a drumbeat in 6/8 time, which one of them was now demonstrating by thumping his hand masterfully against his guitar to create said rhythm. I could not see which was the percussionist because of the billion heads in front of me, and perhaps, for all I know, Jeremy had found an instrument in the wall. But it was a fine sound, I agree. Both brothers began playing their guitars with a great might and treated us to Anything Can Happen from the new album, the lively song that had opened their Regent’s Park show. The song calls for a bit of rocking, which they managed to convey perfectly on two acoustic guitars and two booming voices, which once again took turns in the spotlight before merging into exquisite harmonies. At Regent’s Park, the electric guitars were far too overwhelming and criminally drowned out the singers on this number. Here, the song lost none of its power but the brothers on their own managed a forceful delivery without sacrificing their radiant voices and resplendent harmonies. Tim sang with his eyes closed for most of the song. I like to think that he was moved by the experience rather than blinded by the flashing of the time machine. Some hi-tech (particularly for a record shop) lighting in white casing came to life above the Finns, moving back and forth like futuristic robots. Tim ended the song by singing, "I can make it rain some time," and I am sure that all of us sweltering in the cramped humid heat wished that he would.

We whistled wildly in great appreciation of that number as Neil said, "This is fun!" Then he looked past the sizeable crowd to the rest of the Virgin basement floor and remarked that it was a real one-stop shop where you could even buy musical instruments and coffee (there was a Costa Coffee to his left), "and there’s even some kind of robotic thing going on—look at that!" he exclaimed, pointing up to the robot lights above him.

Both brothers began bashing away then at their guitars, and we quickly recognised the glorious It’s Only Natural and cheered to welcome it. Their outstandingly gorgeous delivery sounded absolutely perfect, creating another few minutes to preserve in dreamlike memory for posterity. After the second chorus, Tim made his ‘ooooo’ extra long before the brothers picked some beauty out of their guitars for quite a wonderful while. They seemed to play their hearts out, which got us cheering mid-song, and Tim got so excited that he tried to revert to his usual showman’s dancing, but there was no space to move so he ended up just turning towards his brother, shaking his head wildly and stamping his foot a bit. Neil then delved into some complicated fingerpicking on his guitar, and when Tim applied the same method but with different notes, we experienced a Deliverance style duel of the guitars, but with both playing their respective parts at the same time, and it worked wonders. Both voices dabbed at ad libbing at the end; I almost expected them to start scatting. It was unimaginably fantastic.

When our roars of delight eventually subsided, Neil told us that they faced a dilemma in that they needed to leave soon, so should they sing a bit more or come out and sign CDs? Everyone yelled their views at the same time, so Neil repeated each option one at a time: sing more? Come out? The latter got so many vocal votes that I wondered whether some were hoping for a racy interpretation of that offer that would shock their wives, but the volume of cheers in favour of singing indicated that to be the preference.

Tim said that, if they had come out to sign things, those of us who would have asked them to autograph our buttocks would have been out of luck. Neil didn’t skip a beat before coming out with, ‘I was going to suggest that that was all we would sign.’ If they had embarked upon signing anything, they would have been still attending to the queue for a good week and would surely have developed tendonitis, which would have punished us all. It’s just as well we had voted the way they wanted and avoided the territory of pregnant and dimpled chads. Granted this freedom to have a life outside the store later, Neil contemplated what song they should do next and asked if we wanted a sing-a-long.

The cheers of approval grew to a six on the Richter Scale when the crowd recognised that both guitars had begun playing Weather With You. Between verses, Tim and Neil would face each other with an air of warm camaraderie. Despite having only acoustic tools for the job, the song was loud and still rocked. Neil, in particular, practically took off in flight during the amazing guitar part he added.

While we busied ourselves with terrifyingly loud roars of gratitude and excitement at the song’s end, the two talked amongst themselves away from the mike, clearly deciding what else to offer us. Being intelligent men of discerning taste who realised that we shared those qualities, they started playing the guitar introduction to what we immediately recognised as the cherished 25-year-old song (older than a few of those present) I Got You. The shouts upon recognition of this old friend were almost deafening. The brothers’ delivery was awe-inspiring, with Tim lip synching to his brother’s verses until it came time for him to add surprisingly strong vocals to the chorus. He even began bouncing a bit with his guitar. Again, the time machine grabbed me as I remembered seeing this video a bazillion times on MTV in its infancy in the States in 1981, as it was one of only about three clips that the channel owned in the early days. I can still picture young Neil in a brown suit and make-up backing away from the window, gesturing just so with his hand and flexing his eye-brows as he sang certain lines, and Tim, part of a painting on the wall that faced backwards in the end, really accentuating his vocal part. I wondered, as I heard them play what was inevitably a more skilled performance, with decades of experience behind them now, how many of the people in this crowd had been won over by that video and had their lives enlightened for the first time by the many delightful gifts of the Finn brothers.

As that live treat regrettably drew to a close, Neil and Tim faced each other as though loving their performance as we did, playing an amazing surf guitar part like Dick Dale’s Desirlou. For the umpteenth time tonight, we were all enjoying heaven on earth. This in-store personal appearance turned out to be much more than we could have dreamed of, despite the cancelled CD-signing (but you could say that was a democratic decision, or at least they helped us think that it was.)

Sadly, Tim and Neil Finn then put down their guitars, gave us a final wave and slipped away into the tiny exit behind them. They had played masterfully for the best part of an hour, so I am inclined to count this as a full-fledged gig. I have paid money--a significant amount of money--to see more renowned artists play a shorter and much grumpier gig. I don’t wish to specify any legendary Belfast natives by name, but you can give me an in-store appearance like this any day instead. This evening had been an unquestionable privilege to witness.

The enthusiastic MC-type Virgin employee returned and, after giving his aforementioned apology for his honest introduction, suggested that something might happen in 10 minutes after the Finns rested, but maybe not.

The Finns’ departure from the stage was the cue to most of the crowd, despite being mature Crowded House (and Split Enz—even older!) fans, to turn and stampede to get upstairs to grab the limited number of pre-signed CDs, which sold out quickly. As a result of the stairs being clogged with humans, even those of us with little faith were trapped downstairs for a while. A few dozen people remained hopefully by the stage, but sadly, neither the MC’s mysterious threat of something possibly happening soon nor his earlier promise of some big surprise were fulfilled, and we were told to stand down after about 15 minutes. I half suspect that the empty promises were a method of crowd control to ensure that only several hundred people charged the stairs at once, but really I have no complaints. Mind you, I suppose the original promise that something would happen was fulfilled; I can certainly confirm that something did happen that evening! And I did not regret having a moment to pause downstairs, enjoying the newly found air and mentally revisiting the marvellous performance. Anyway, no lack of surprise or reappearance could tempt me to think an unhappy thought after such a phenomenal mini-show. I couldn’t have been happier unless the brothers took turns playing cello and trumpet whilst performing Stuff and Nonsense, Time for a Change, and I Hope I Never just before Phil Judd was welcomed onto the stage to sing a few hits by The Swingers whilst all three balanced on a unicycle.

The week was an amazing one for Finn fans in London after a long drought, and we still have the November tour ahead of us. I have always thought that one unfortunate thing about living in England is that you have nothing to break up the long, grey, wet winter period, with no real holiday between the August bank holiday and Christmas. Thanksgiving would serve that purpose beautifully, but failing that, the Finn Brothers’ return to England will make the perfect, longed-for November celebration.

Copyright © 2004 by TC. All rights reserved.

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