Key Points:

It had variety. It had comedy. It had songs by the greats - Radiohead, Wilco, Crowded House, er, Thunderclap Newman.

But most of all this Neil Finn-facilitated dream-team line-up had a couple of things you don't see at big shows.

Like risk-taking, spontaneity, genuine surprises, and a great fat wodge of heart.

Yes it might have been a spin-off to the album Finn and his musical mates exotic and domestic are recording in his Auckland studio for Oxfam, as well as a follow-up to the first series of Seven Worlds Collide concerts back in 2001.

But this first night of a sold-out three-night blast at the Powerstation was anything but a predictable charity bash or dull supergroup jam.

Nor was it a case of Neil-and-friends.

He took a backseat for the first half of the show and much of the second. Though the night didn't lack for Finn presence with sons Liam - now established as a brilliant solo act - and younger brother Ellroy roped in. When he wasn't being the night's most valuable player, Liam also provided comic foil.

"Get over it Dad," he quipped as Finn snr pondered aloud yet again on what the assembled band should be called.

"You're 25 now, I guess you can say that to me," answered his father.

"You can hit me now," quipped Finn jnr once more.

'"Well I could always stop feeding you," finished Finn snr.

We're sure he didn't mean that. But if he did, Oxfam do a very good job of helping the starving...

Anyway, it was a show of two neatly unpredictable robust halves. After opening with an all-in swing through Crowded House's Distant Sun, The first was mostly of a tag-team effort with songs old and new each from Don McGlashan, Bic Runga, Liam Finn, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall and former Smiths super-guitarist Johnny Marr while backed by various combinations of the dozen or so other musicians.

That included four members of American rock wonders Wilco and - returning from duties on the first Seven Worlds Collide series - Radiohead's Ed O'Brien and drummer Phil Selway.

The second half largely belonged to a combination of the Wilco and Radiohead songbook, a match seemingly made in rock-crit heaven.

It also provided the night's biggest wobble. Finn snr wrestled manfully with the vocal to Radiohead's Bodysnatchers, but couldn't quite pin Thom Yorke's original hyperventilations over its monster riff. Not one for the live concert DVD perhaps.

Otherwise, the depleted-to-four-piece Wilco and ring-ins kicked almost as hard as their last Auckland show in March. Their short bracket included oldies including Woody Guthrie's California Stars, a freshly recorded newie while later frontman Jeff Tweedy made a fine job of Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees, even if beforehand he worried out loud "this is going to be like Paul Rodgers fronting Queen."

Radiohead's drummer Phil Selway delivered one of the night's nicest surprises in what was his live singing debut of a rather lovely self-penned song destined for the album.

Elsewhere, among the smattering of new numbers, Tunstall and Runga delivered a co-written impressively gothic murder ballad to give the feelgood meter a brief respite - but that gauge stayed pretty much in the red zone for the remains of the night.

That was especially when Finn and Marr lead the ensemble through the Smiths' There is a Light that Never Goes Out (reprised from the 2001 7WC shows), or exuberant high harmony jangles through Finn's Four Seasons in One Day and She Will Have Her Way. And best and most disarming of all - was Thunderclap Newman's Something in the Air in the night's encores.

It helped make for a sweetly funny ending to this first night marking a project which Finn snr describes as a "splendid expedition of ours".

Sure was good to be there for this early part of the ride.