Crowded House at the Fillmore

A while back I noticed that this band called “Crowded House” was playing in S.F. This seemed quite a travesty – some pissy little San Franciscan grunge band had stolen the name of one far, far above their standing. And yet, when I checked it out, lo and behold it really was Crowded House. I had no idea they’d even reformed – heck, I still remember being saddened that they broke up, way back in ’96 Wikipedia claims it was, and watching recordings of their Sydney Opera house farewell with Sarah in, what, 2001 or so? It’s kinda scary to realise how long ago this all was.. though I’m impressed that I can remember back that far. :D

A short trip to iTMS later I’d confirmed that they’ve actually been busy putting out new stuff. So naturally I bought a ticket for their gig. It seemed to take forever to come around, but finally last Wednesday did eventually arrive. After some fighting with Google Maps double-lying to me (I hate it when it does that), I did eventually find the place… the Fillmore is the hardest to find bloody bar I’ve ever known; not only is it hidden away on the second and third floors of some completely nondescript building, above a laundromat or somesuch, but when I drove past (twice) a big arse truck was parked right out front, blocking any view of the entrance. Gah.

So, all in all I didn’t get in the place and onto the floor ’till about 20 past the start. And I was thrown too, ’cause I could hear some playing and I didn’t recognise the songs, but they sounded Crowded Housey and I was pretty sure I heard Neil Finn’s voice… as it turns out, their opener was Don McGlashan (nope, I’ve never heard of him either, but he wasn’t bad) with Neil Finn helping out. Mystery solved, and I could relax now that I hadn’t, in fact, missed the start.

They started playing around 8:45, I guess. So, the Fillmore is basically a big open floor with two story ceiling, with two bars along two walls, a very rare table or two in other places, and some balconies for – presumably – VIPs and people who paid a lot more than me. I dunno. It’s not a bad venue – kinda has a nice feel to it. Having to stand again sucked, and my back ended up hurting much the same as the Kaboom last Saturday, but meh.

So anyway, long story short they were frikkin’ fantastic. I was really amazed – there was a heck of a lot of hope and sentimentality in me going in, so I was bracing to be disappointed even while I was getting excited, but they completely exceeded any expectations. The sound in the Fillmore is close enough to perfect – kinda random, given it’s much like many other places, but I think most importantly they relied on their actual talents rather than the volume knob.

It took a little while for me to warm up – I drove the entire way, since the Fillmore is on the corner of Geary & Fillmore and thus not really accessible via public transport (well, probably by bus, but, meh) – and the drive to S.F. always just about puts me to sleep. But they had a good thing going with the crowd – some guy yelled out things occasionally, and the story as played out was that he was ‘Scott’, some rabid groupie that has been at every North American gig they’ve done this tour. And Neil also jumped down off the stage at one point to give the mic to some girls, so they could lead the crowd in singing happy birthday for someone. It was all kinda too serendipitous; I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all plants in the crowd and it was all part of the show. They also made out that occasionally one or other of the band forgot what song was coming up, or that they changed things around, etc. You know; it just seemed too genuine to be true. But I suspended disbelief, since if nothing else it was a darn good ruse anyway. :)

And Neil broke a string on his acoustic at one point too, which was funny. He and Mark Hart had about fourteen guitars between them – they swapped them out between virtually every song that they weren’t on keyboard.

So anyway… yes, really really really good. They didn’t play all their classics – I was kinda hoping for Mean to Me and It’s Only Natural, but alas, none – but they certainly did many of them, as well as a lot of their newer stuff. I didn’t know any of their newer stuff, so I wasn’t as into it of course, but it was definitely them and their style and quite good, so it was nice.

At one point Mark did a cover of American Woman, which was actually really good – he can sing just fine, but his voice doesn’t really suit Crowded House’s style, so perhaps this is the treat he gets to really let out a bit during their concerts. :)

They also covered another song at one point, I’m pretty sure, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was now..

Anyway… yes, fantastic night. They played for about three hours with only a pair of five minute breaks, which I thought was very impressive and satisfying – it’s a little bit shitty to go to a concert and have the opening band(s) play for two hours, then the main act for all of one. Especially for S.F. things, where it’s at least two hours of travel, in all, to see it.

It also thus made it a very lucky decision to have driven the whole way, since at that time of night getting back to Millbrae would probably have sucked.

I sent out an email to my group at work the next day, highly recommending the show – especially since a few of them actually knew Crowded House by name alone – but I don’t know if any of them checked out their second show that night.

I get the feeling the crowd contained a higher than average proportion of Aussies and Kiwis, though there were certainly plenty of people there with American accents too. I figured the only people who’d know them would be Aussies and Kiwis, but apparently they did really really well in the U.S. back in their heyday. Most people in the crowd were older, though – late twenties and above, for the most part. That didn’t really bother me, though it did help remind me how old the band is. :)

So yes, that concert is without doubt in the top three I’ve ever seen, along with Celtic Woman and Michael Jackson (which I can hardly remember in all honesty, and I was such a mad fan back when I saw him as a kid, so, I guess I can’t honestly say it was actually good :) ). Taxiride miss out but get honourable mention for being really really awesome but picking a really crap venue (Union Hall) and having retarded monkeys for sound crew, that believe they can solve all manner of peaking and resonance issues by increasing the volume. *hand to forehead*

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