Crowded House brought people together with last weekend’s encore performances.
I’m not going to talk about the lighting.
I won’t bother commenting on the nervous atmosphere, or the musicianship.
I won’t mention the iconic harbor backdrop we take for granted (although I know some prefer St Kilda’s promenade anyway).
I’m not going to tell you ‘they played all the hits’, ‘they’ve still got it’ or even, ‘they won’t disappoint’.
You know all about those things.
It’s why you bought tickets by the truckload. It’s why you flew in from all over the joint.
Because Crowded House are one of the best bands we’ve ever had the pleasure to pretend was completely our own.
Instead, I’m going to tell you the reason Neil Finn agreed to risk the legacy of their 1996 fairytale Opera House steps finale.
Standing in the audience, the answer was clear.
The real reason Crowded House connected on a universal scale was because they are realists. They write about hardship, overcoming it and, yes, sometimes acknowledging it can get the best of you.
There was always something apocalyptic about Crowded House’s Farewell to the World show.
So much of the band’s message was about resilience. In ‘96, it seemed like a contradiction they weren’t even able to keep the band together.
After a decade of “not letting them win” it felt more like they were saying good riddance to the world.
Now I’m a little older I understand ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ is not about the meteorology of Melbourne.
I understand the magnitude of courage Neil Finn expresses when he asks ‘lay me out with your heart’ in ‘Now We’re Getting Somewhere’.
And I realise the ‘cup’ they’re constantly referring to (‘Four Seasons In One Day’, ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’, ‘Italian Plastic’) is always half-full.
When Neil Finn says The Beatles were a major inspiration, he’s not just talking about a few chord progressions he ripped from ‘Penny Lane’.
Finn channeled something much deeper; a positivity bold enough to write about the world sorting out its problems, even if it’s one relationship at a time. And there’s no doubt, if ever there was ever a time when the world needs Crowded House, it is now.
a). lie like a lounge room lizard, or
b). sing like a bird released
But the question is posed in a genius way only Crowded House would think of. See, to ask the question itself is to sing like a bird released. And at Crowded House’s Encore performance it’s guaranteed you’ll sing along like a flock of magpies straight out of the cage.
I took my younger brother to the show. To prove Crowded House’s timelessness, I’ll point out that he was born the year of Farewell to the World. In recent years he’s had his fair share of personal challenges but I’m happy to say he’s pulled through.
I couldn’t help but think about how the moment we were sharing together will seep into our subconscious. Not just the historic nature – although that was cool. I’m referring to the experience of 6000-odd people chanting lines like, ‘it’s only natural, that I should want to be there for you’.
That is real strength. That is life-affirming. That’s the reason you felt the urge to wrap your arms around the person next to you.
Do not be alarmed. That’s just Crowded House doing what Crowded House does best; restoring faith in humanity and bringing people together.
And they know it.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Neil Finn says between songs. And despite the overwhelming weight of evidence that says he’s wrong, I believe him.
Because for a moment, on the steps of the Opera House, on an otherwise average night in Sydney, they just demonstrated what happens when we come together to sing as one.
It was inevitable that Crowded House would return to the Opera House steps. Turning their back on the world never fit their optimistic philosophy. Their attitude that promised, if nothing else, hope.
It’s even more poignant when you realise how tough it must be to return to the place where they last played with their friend, Paul Hester.
By example, they offer themselves to the slow turning pain, and all we can do is fall at their feet, take the inspiration, and make this world a better place. Even if that just means holding your brother, screaming ‘Better Be Home Soon’ on an otherwise average night in Sydney.