Saw a killer Crowded House show last night in an intimate setting of about 300 people. It was one of those "secret show" deals that are never really all that secret — Paul McCartney did some of these recently himself in L.A. and NYC — but they're still quite limited in terms of access.
If you know the House — and I'll be reviewing their reunion album, Time on Earth (ATO), over on the main S&V site early next week — you know you're in for stellar songwriting and musicianship in the Beatlesque tradition that's just hard to get enough of.
The venue was the Masonic Temple on 23rd Street, a place I've never seen a show at before but have heard good things about. 8:30 was given as the start time, so we ("we" being me and the Mrs.) arrived around 7:15 and joined the line that had already started snaking down the block. So how did we get in on this one?
The (supposed) only way to get into the show was to respond to an email sent out by the official CHouse mailing list and hope for an "e-back" a week before the show (e.g., a virtual Golden Ticket). Neither of us heard back. Things looked bleak, but then the band's amazing publicity team, Big Hassle, contacted me over the weekend to see if I wanted to go. Hey, do bees bee? (Bonus points if you tell me where that line is from.) Publicist extraordinaire Ken "The Sagest of Sages" Weinstein and I exchanged a flurry of emails over the ensuing days, sharing our favorite House and Neil songs. Among other things, I told him to drop everything and get Neil's first and best solo album, Try Whistling This, ASAP. (So should you!)
My wife, of course, was oblivious to all of this. As far as she knew, we weren't going to the show at all, which she was clearly bummed about. Mr. Poker Face over here, of course, had it all under control. I finally let her know late Wednesday night that we were going, and to say she was clearly ecstatic may be understating things.
So back to the show. We were three people deep from the front, which was roped off a few feet from the exact front of the stage for a camera track (the gig was being filmed to air in some form or another on Ovation, though I don't yet know when), and we were spot-on in front of Neil (as the included photos, taken by the Mrs., can attest). The cool-vibe room (the Artists Den) was on the third floor. There was a merch table before you entered and I immediately bought — of course! — the vinyl version of the new album since I've yet to see it in stores. (A lot of the audience bought vinyl at this show, actually.)
The Housers came on at 8:45 and played until 11. Apparently, this show was a half-hour longer than the "secret" gig they did at L.A.'s Troubador a few days ago. Neil was clearly in good spirits, as was the quite vocal audience, and he totally played off it. (Neil and bassist Nick Seymour are consummate stage patterers.) The audience was frequently employed for harmonizing on the classic songs, and we even jointly co-wrote a new one Neil improvised on the spot, "The Room's Good Now." A heady cover of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" made it into the encore, as did a number of chants of two lines from the chorus of "Spill the Wine" when a roadie knocked over Neil's glass of wine onstage. You won't see any of those three on the setlist above, the one taped to Neil's keyboard that was given to the Mrs. by a roadie. The order of the encore songs was shuffled a bit — not just what you see crossed out and moved (gotta whole lotta "Lurve" for that one!) but also "Better Be Home Soon," which moved up two or three spots when somebody in the audience yelled out the title after Neil had been talking about his two dogs back home.
The new material came off well, and the audience already seemed to know it already. "She Called Up," "Silent House," and "Transit Lounge" stood out to me. The album is something I'd call a "grower." But more on all that in my album review next week.
We'll be seeing three more House shows in August — two in New York, one in Connecticut. It'll be interesting to see how the set evolves. Here's hoping we get "Weather with You" during at least two of 'em.
Ah, live music. As much as I LOVE listening to vinyl and surround-sound mixes, there's nothing quite like being in the thick of a good show. I'm all ears here if you wanna tell me about the show you went to most recently, or your favorite show of the year (or EVER). —Mike Mettler
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