The Finn Brothers, Olympia Theatre, Dublin- November 2 2004
Here's my take on last night in Dublin. First to get a few minor niggles out of the way - why can't the merchandising include more music and less overpriced cotton garments? (Peter - we missed you) Also and, more crucially, the sound where I was sitting wasn't the best. But I was very close to the speaker stacks and I'm one of the few people in the world desperate for the 5.1 surround sound DVD-Audio/SACD version of EIH.
It might be all to do with expectations. EIH is such a complex and subtle piece of work, it's quite a shock to hear it and other Finn songs played with a full-on band. I found it a touch heavy-handed at times - maybe Distant Sun survived the aural bombardment but It's Only Natural certainly didn't.
Maybe the loudness did surprise the crowd a bit. They seemed a bit shyer than I normally would have thought at a Dublin Finn concert especially at the start of the gig. It is almost nine years to the night the Finns last played together in this venue and I thought I remembered a more in-sync audience but that could just be my memory playing tricks. But by the end of last night's concert, the lads had won them over and the singing, especially of Better Be Home Soon, was terrific.
Ireland is clearly a special place for the brothers. Neil said one of the reasons for this was that "everyone here looks a bit like us - kinda nerdy" and Tim spoke about a nostalgic swim he took early in the day at Dalkey with Liam - presumably Liam O'Maonlai from the Hothouse Flowers and his erstwhile bandmate in ALT. Neil joked that the effect of the cold was so great that after the swim, it was hard to tell if they were boys or girls!
The other ALT bandmate Andy White also got a credit for helping the Finns with Mary of the South Seas which the brothers felt they had to play in Ireland in tribute to their mother. Neil said that she always thought the song too long and so they had dropped a verse to shorten it. There seemed to be a bit of a Finn family get together in the audience with their sister Caroline(?) in the theatre along with Sharon Finn.
But what about the music? Well, iffy sound can not destroy the power and the beauty of songs like Edible Flowers, Part of Me, Part of You and the frankly incredible Disembodied Voices. Delivered on an almost dark stage, this is an all-time Finn classic - we are just too close to realise this yet. The next single, surely?
We also had a powerful version of Persuasion which had many fans going wild. The effect of the time signature on Anything Can Happen on fans, male and female, was also clear to see!
Another highlight was Neil 's guitar playing. Like Elvis Costello, Neil's vocal prowess sometimes means his skill in this area is underestimated. A superb version of I Got You was another high as was Land Torments The Sea - the core of EIH album according to the boys, even though it didn't make the final tracklisting. Minnie Driver joined them on stage for this one. (Her music is not really my cup of tea but I think we all have to acknowledge than she can sing.)
What else was especially good? Angel's Heap (complete with a NF string break) Six Months in a Leaky Boat and There Goes God all sounded as fresh as a November day in Ireland, with Neil replacing the line in the last song about the mobile home, with "in your voting booth". He later expressed the view (or hope) that Kerry would be a hit in the States.
At the time of writing, he may be disappointed. But the crowd at the Olympia certainly didn't share that emotion. What other musicians could create such diverse music as ,say, the first and second Finn Brothers albums? Who could always surprise you no matter how many times you see them? And what other established act can you think of who you are more excited about hearing their new stuff live - than their proven classics? We've always know the Finns were good, exceptional even, but at this stage in their careers they are on course to be real musical legends? Just listen again to that bridge in Disembodied Voices and you'll know why.