REVIEW: Crowded House, Scarborough's Open Air Theatre, Saturday, June 11

WHEN the news broke that Australian band Crowded House had simply delayed their UK tour by a year due to the pandemic and that they would still visit the UK this summer it was a big relief to their multitude of fans.

It meant that their one northern date at Scarborough's Open Air Theatre was able to take place on Saturday.

It was their first in the region since a visit to Newcastle in 2010.

A four-night run at London's Roundhouse had warmed them up nicely for their visit and cured any jet lag the band may have had after their journey from down under and the bracing air of Scarborough undoubtedly help then acclimatize before their upcoming appearance at the Glastonbury festival later this month.

There have been a few line-up changes since that last visit 12 years ago. Still at the band's core are primary songwriter Neil Finn on guitar and vocals along with Nick Seymour on bass. They were joined by Mitchel Froom on keyboards and Finn's sons Elroy on drums, Liam on guitar/vocals and Paul Taylor on percussion. Quite a family affair, made even more so by Liam providing an opening solo set of material ahead of the main act.

The band have, of course, a wonderful back catalogue of memorable tunes, many of which got a hearing in Scarborough in an enticing setlist. Last year they also released an excellent new album entitled Dreamers Are Waiting and they treated us to several numbers from it, including To the Island, Show me the Way and Playing With Fire.

Neil Finn - who happens to be such a good guitarist that he had a spell replacing Lindsay Buckingham for a while in Fleetwood Mac in 2018 - was in particularly good form, chatting to the crowd and recalled a visit to Hull when first touring here with his band Split Enz in the early 80s and even joining in the inevitable, Yorkshire, Yorkshire chant.

With a twinkle in eye, Neil also mentioned but didn’t dwell on England’s dismal performance in the cricket earlier in the day. With his silver hair and ready smile, Finn may look like a favourite uncle or grandparent capable of producing a candy magically out of thin air but Dreamers Are Waiting is proof he can also still write memorable, melodic songs and his vocals on the band’s many classic songs were powerful and clear.

They began strongly with two old favourites – Distant Sun and It’s Only Natural - and during Pineapple Head the band managed to incorporate a verse of The Beatles’ Norwegian Wood.

Introducing the melancholic Playing With Fire, Finn explained some of the family mythology about the song which recounts a brief relationship his battle-weary father had in Italy during the war with a local girl.

A mid-set section of Private Universe, Four Seasons in One Day and Weather With You was possibly the highlight of the evening, and was followed by the more recent Whatever You Want, a blistering takedown of persistent liars telling you whatever you want to hear. “But they will follow him down / To the edge of the cliff / And if he tells them to jump / They will jump right in.” A prescient song for these strange times for many around the world.

Don’t Dream and a mass singalong to Something So Strong finished the set before the band returned to the stage for a couple of nostalgic Split Enz songs, Message to my Girl” and I Got You. There was more audience participation on Better Be Home Soon as the band brought a wonderful show to a close.

The band proved that despite their back catalogue they are no nostalgia act. The new songs were strong, the obvious chemistry between the various band members was clear for all to see and they sounded terrific. Above all, both band and audience were ready to forget the last couple of years and simply have a great evening in each other’s company.