There’s another Finn in the water.
Keeping up with the Finns is not an easy business. Brothers Tim and Neil Finn made up Split Enz. Tim had a nice solo run. Neil gave us Crowded House, as well as a superb Finn Brothers collaboration. Neil’s latest band, Pajama Club with wife Sharon Finn, snuck up on me as the opening act for Wilco on Day One of Solid Sound.
I had seen the name Liam Finn on Neil Finn’s all-star “7 Worlds Collide” CD. So I turned up front and center for Liam’s trio performance on Day Two of Solid Sound wanting to like it, but reserving judgment until he proved himself worthy.
A bearded Liam and his New Zealand posse took the stage like a bolt out of the blue. Visually, the odd drums-front, bass-rear configured stage-plot broke from convention. Liam’s guitar playing was enhanced by live loops he created on the fly, and his vocals were delivered with a sense of urgency in a bit of a Game Theory range with great effect.
A Siamese joined-at–the-hip second drum kit was attacked by a Liam gone mad. On the drum throne to his right yet another Finn, his brother Elroy Finn, a rock-steady stick man for the trio. Liam’s return to guitar was marked by more manic movement; he was an energy source unbound. There was no let down when Wilco stickman Glenn Kotche dropped by for drive-by sit-in on “Second Chance,” using the conveniently situated second drum kit.
The swelling crowd seemed to be sold – the Finn was in. He made a fan of me, with his well-crafted songs – like his current single “Cold Feet” off “FOMO” and “Second Chance” from his first solo CD – delivered live like he meant it.
On Day Three of Solid Sound, a small note on a chalk board at the main entrance of the fest pointed out that Liam could be seen in an impromptu MASS MoCA gallery concert. Sure enough,with his guitar case in hand, Liam appeared in the three-room gallery, and his fans zeroed in. “Follow me,” he said, and off we went to a roomful of round, foam sculptures by Nari Ward. He joked with the audience as he set up two AM radio sized Vox amps and a sampler. Liam proved just as engaging in this impromptu intimate setting, drawing on material largely from his solo debut album, “I’ll Be Lightning.” Liam delivered a fine mix of killer songs, high-range vocals and electric guitar with a pinch of gadgetry to keep it weird.
Neil’s son may not sing, play or write like his famous father, but talent can be inherited. Liam Finn has it, and I like it.
Review and photographs by Matt Mac Haffie
Liam Finn on the web