By SCOTT MacLEOD
Dust off that ol' guitar, warble a Split Enz song onto tape and send it to Neil Finn - there's a good chance he will ask you to join his band.
For one night, anyway.
The legendary Te Awamutu-born musician is emerging from three years of near-hibernation in a bid to get closer to The People.
From today, Finn is asking fans with a hint of musical talent to mail their recordings of one Split Enz, Crowded House or Finn song to one of five student unions. The best amateurs will be picked to play three or four songs as part of Finn's backing band during his university orientation tour from February 20.
Finn announced the plan yesterday at the launch of his new album, One Nil.
"It's flirtation with complete strangers," he said. "It may be hair-raising, funny, disastrous or sublime, but it will certainly be an adventure."
The orientation tour will be Finn's first in 25 years. He will play Hamilton, Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Taihape, Christchurch and Dunedin, before starting a season at the Regent Theatre in Auckland from March 26.
Students' association spokesman Rob McCann said it was a real coup to get Finn.
Tickets would be sold to the public.
Finn said: "Split Enz and Crowded House had that same tradition of getting people on-stage. We would get them together on the day, practise, and whizz through the hits."
Fans who cannot play an instrument can still get intimate online. Finn has become one of the few top New Zealand musicians to embrace the internet, often playing to small groups of fans all over the world from his website.
"The web is a place for all music," he said. "Last week I played from my basement and had feedback from Norway and people in other places requesting songs. One guy in Ohio said he was meant to be going to work, but wanted to stay and listen."
Finn is thinking of broadcasting his Auckland gigs over the net.
He said the new album was largely inspired by his past six years in New Zealand after a lengthy stint touring overseas with Crowded House.
He now felt deeply embedded here, even though there seemed to be too much navel-gazing going on.
Finn played three songs at the album launch yesterday, all with his trademark infectious melody and introspective lyrics. The first single is Rest of the Day Off.
After brother Tim's recent tour with Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn, Kiwi music fans may get to see more of Neil - if they can drag him away from his basement computers.
"Maybe I have been hermit-like lately," he said. "But there's an intimacy on the web that I never knew about."
How to play along with Neil Finn during his university tour:
Tape yourself playing any well-known Finn song. Mail it with details of your age, instrument, contact numbers and which concert you are auditioning for, to:
Neil Finn, care of (one of these addresses)
* UFM, PO Box 19-389, Hamilton.
* Radio Massey, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North.
* Richard Nicholson, 913 Fitzroy Ave, Hastings.
* Dan McCartin, RD4, Taihape.
* Radio Active 89FM, PO Box 11-971, Wellington.