A Crowded House concert is always a joyous occasion and the 2021 version is no different.
Robyn and I have been fortunate enough to see every Crowded House tour in New Zealand – and for the To The Island Tour we took in the outdoor show at New Plymouth's Bowl of Brooklands on Saturday night and Tuesday night's ''homecoming'' show at Claudelands Arena.
I noted at New Plymouth how happy Neil looked being on stage with a smoking-hot band – fellow Crowded House founder Nick Seymour, experienced keyboard player and producer Mitchell Froom and Finn's sons Liam and Elroy on guitars, drums and backing vocals.
And at a chance to catch up at Tuesday's soundcheck and before the show, Neil made a point more than once on how great the band were playing and how privileged they were to be able to tour and play his extensive back catalogue and new material.
At both shows the crowd warmed quickly, but most just wanted to watch and listen and Finn and family and friends gave a masterclass on popular music.
Most songs afforded the crowd the chance to sing along – all were given a warm reception, even the three new offerings.
At Hamilton, Neil said it was good to be home as he launched into Mean To Me second up – the Waikato anthem as he described it because Te Awamutu gets a mention – and a big cheer from the crowd. Obviously, plenty of you were there.
And he loved the room – the first time he's played at Claudelands.
"As much as I love Founders, this room has a great feel."
Favourites such as Four Seasons In One Day, Better Be Home Soon, Weather With You, Something So Strong and Don't Dream It's Over gave Neil the chance to stretch the audience's vocal abilities.
And the band showed they could rock with steaming versions of Pineapple Head, When You Come, Private Universe and Distant Sun.
A Crowded House tradition of playing a cover – for many years Hunters and Collectors' Throw Your Arms Around Me – continued with David Bowie's Heroes firmly part of the encore.
The song is a tribute both to Bowie and the essential and frontline workers through Covid – and a rocking way to keep the crowd on their feet at the end of the night.
In Hamilton it was preceded by another cover – Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender.
After two hours the crowds were still smiling and raving about the show as they left – Neil Finn and his Crowded House showing that great songs and great musicians can create magic.
As Mitchell Froom commented before the show: "Not having music is like not having a sense of humour."