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Review: Neil Finn at Port Beach, Fremantle, 9 March 2017

A true gentleman.

“Thanks for coming, have a great night,” smiled a security guard as we left Port Beach on Thursday night.

This level of politeness would ordinarily seem out of place at a rock show, but when you’ve just spent an evening with one of the true gentlemen of music, it makes perfect sense.

Crowded House frontman Neil Finn headlined the opening night of the Port Beach Weekender in Fremantle, with a two-hour set spanning all four decades of his illustrious career.

He was supported by rising star Meg Mac, who impressed the crowd as the sun went down.

Mac appeared onstage in a wide-brimmed hat, which only lasted 30 seconds into the first song thanks to a gusty sea breeze.

Despite not yet having a full-length album to her name (her debut LP is due for release early this year), Mac already has a few hits under her belt with catchy singles Roll Up Your Sleeves and Never Be – both of which featured tonight.

Lush vocals set against warm keys and sparse percussion were a match made in heaven.

Finn arrived promptly at 8pm, joined by a band full of familiar friends – Crowded House bandmate Nick Seymour among them.

Finn’s son Elroy was on the drums, while Paul Kelly’s son Dan shone on guitar and Finn Scholes played keys and trumpet.

The show kicked off with Anything Can Happen, from 2004 Finn Brothers album Everyone Is Here.

“Aren’t we lucky people to be gathered here by this beautiful ocean on this glorious night,” he declared, looking out across the Indian Ocean.

“I feel blessed.”

Arguably one of this generation’s finest songwriters, Finn’s music is etched in our culture and our collective memories.

When you’ve had a career as long as this man has, you can’t please everyone with your setlist, but Finn did his best to cover every era – including venturing into Split Enz territory no less than three times.

Along with massive hits I Got You and History Never Repeats, 1983’s Message to My Girl provided one of the highlights of the night – featuring Finn on keys in a simple but effective arrangement that had fans swooning.

He continued to tug at our heartstrings with Crowded House ballads Into Temptation, Fall At Your Feet and Don’t Dream It’s Over prompting the obligatory crowd singalong and evoking vivid memories of the band’s famous Farewell to the World concert in 1996.

His work with brother Tim got a second look in with 2004 Finn Brothers hit Won’t Give In.

Finn’s voice cracked on a few high notes and other parts were carried away by the wind, but all was redeemed when the band cut loose on what can only be described as one hell of a jam session.

The arrangements throughout the set were mainly stripped back, with brass adding a fresh element to the mix.

Ending with Crowdies favourite Seven Worlds Collide, a standing ovation urged Finn back onstage and he obliged, delivering three more tracks before calling it a night.

Lesser known ballad Gentle Hum featured Finn alone on keys, backed by the ‘gentle hum’ of the audience. It was a poignant moment before Crowded House hits Sister Madly and Better Be Home Soon rounded out the set with all the crowd participation you’d expect.

Arguably one of this generation’s finest songwriters, Finn’s music is etched in our culture and our collective memories.

Seeing him live is akin to wearing a favourite hoodie or eating your mum’s spaghetti bolognese. There are no surprises; it’s comfortable, familiar and warm.

Despite having plenty of newer material, Finn respects his audience enough give them what they want and used his full two hours to do just that.

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