April was the kindest month in the cruelest of years. Neil Finn threw a party that lasted five nights, and invited members of the 1990s rock A-list to come along. In the depths of a northern winter, a South Pacific holiday probably sounded enticing, but moments after the musicians got off the plane, they were at Karekare for hours of rehearsals. By opening night, they had learnt dozens of new songs, many of them from Finn’s just-released One Nil – and the troupe had become a sprawling but well-oiled musical machine.
On guitars, besides Finn, were the stars of the 1980s (the Smiths’ Johnny Marr) and 1990s (Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien); Soul Coughing’s Sebastian Steinberg on bass and Radiohead’s Phil Selway on drums; providing vocal support were Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and multi-instrumentalist Lisa Germano. This wasn’t Live Aid but Neil Aid – and the star of the show wasn’t the songwriter but his songs. O’Brien was like a praying mantis as he crawled about the stage fiddling with his guitar effects; Vedder’s rich baritone added depth to his favourite Enz songs (‘Take a Walk’ off Time & Tide, and ‘I See Red’) as well as his own ‘Parting Ways’. If Lisa Germano’s singing was a downer, her swapping of instruments added extra colour to the arrangements.
But there is one name on the marquee, and with songs like ‘Anytime’, ‘Turn and Run’ and ‘The Climber’ he conveys the sense-of-place that haunts the under-appreciated One Nil and earlier songs such as the evocative, ukelele-driven ‘Paradise’. On the Smiths’ ‘There is a Light’ Neil displays an uncanny ability to imitate Morrissey, but a surprise is Vedder’s identification with the hymn-like ‘Stuff and Nonsense’. Naturally Tim Finn is along, displaying the unique sibling chemistry on ‘Angel’s Heap’, though the duo’s rarely heard ‘Edible Flowers’ has a peculiar descending, ruminative verse barely revived by a bright chorus. But the real excitement occurs on the staple ‘I See Red’ in which a top-form Tim is joined by some of his biggest fans: Eddie Vedder and Betchadupa, reproducing all the energy of 1978 that they weren’t alive to hear.
7 Worlds Collide is a memento of a very special week in our music history: when the world’s big names came to celebrate the songs of our most well-known songwriter, and we got to enjoy the moment.
CHRIS BOURKE ©