The Bird In Hand Winery Summer Concert Series has now been running for a number of years but last night’s Neil & Liam Finn show was my first experience of the event.
I did initially have some trepidation about going – based solely on some less than enjoyable A Day On The Green events at wineries in the past, where sun and wine had eventually adversely affected too many patrons so that ‘listening’ had became a lost art for most.
Last night went a long way to restoring my faith in audiences. The crowd was large, enthusiastic about the performers on stage, yet also respectful of those around them.
Let’s hope such respect is contagious and spreads to all other local venues quickly.
Bird In Hand Winery has to take a lot of the credit for the success of the evening. It is a wonderful venue where the stage is set at the base of a gently sloped lawn area ensuring sight lines are unimpeded for all in attendance. The amenities are clean and easily accessed, the bar area is efficiently laid out and service is streamlined. All bar staff were friendly, waving and joking with patrons, and no queuing occurred at any point throughout my (fairly numerous) visits to the bar and food area.
Parking was ample on the airstrip across the road which was within a minute’s walk from the venue. This was very convenient although departing at the end of the night – through one narrow gate – did require more than a modicum of patience as the line of slow moving vehicles made their way towards main road take-off.
The sound quality for support act, Holy Holy, was clear and crisp and the band played a terrific short set, which showcased their tight melodic sound, before heading back to the city for their headline gig at The Gov.
Drummer Ryan Strathie who, due to plane delays from the Eastern seaboard, only made it to the venue minutes before showtime, seemed to still have the adrenaline from this close call pumping furiously and he turned in a masterful performance behind the kit confirming him to be one of the best rock drummers in the country today.
Holy Holy left the stage in the heart of ‘magic hour’ and the light of the setting summer sun lit up the surrounding vineyards and trees with a magnificent glow. The scene was perfectly set for the headliners to cap off a wonderful evening.
Neil Finn and his band opened up with the apt Distant Sun as night fell and the crowd began to crowd the front of stage ready for a night of basking in the company of those irresistible songs that have elevated Finn into the highest pantheon of Antipodean songwriters.
There was a rude shock in store for everyone though.
In true maverick fashion, and with the help of a sympathetic band that contained more than just a couple of immediate family members, the senior Finn launched into a series of newer and yet to be released songs that were built around psychedelic progressive rock soundscapes, dominated by Eno-like synthesiser bleeps and old school electronic oscillations.
After the crystal clear sound of Holy Holy, it was a surprise that the prevailing sound had became murkier. The sound of individual instruments became quickly lost in the overpowering melange of noise. It reminded me of the old days when those transistor radios with manual tuning slightly drifted off signal and forced you to listen to the broadcast through a background bed of echoing hiss.
Even the more readily familiar songs such as the Crowded House classic, Private Universe, were subjected to similar treatment. Private Universe was reimagined as if it were a jam session at the infamous 24 Hour Technicolour Dream at London’s UFO Club which had launched Pink Floyd upon the world in the late sixties. This aural messing with our heads obviously had an adverse effect on some in attendance and they were forced to anxiously employ herbal medication in an attempt to calm their nerves.
Things were, however, somewhat restored to normal after we had endured a deconstructed and dissonant version of the Split Enz staple Message To My Girl. Liam Finn’s Second Chance, originally from his I’ll Be Lightning album, was magnificent, as the band suddenly seemed to revert to a more balanced and traditional approach.
A rockier than the original History Never Repeats came next and this saw the crowd at front of stage ecstatically erupt. This state of euphoria heightened even further once the opening notes of I Got You rang out across the vineyards.
Don’t Dream It’s Over, as is now customary, had the crowd in full voice and tonight served as a fine introduction to Liam’s brilliant song, Cold Feet, which demonstrates just how well this junior Finn has absorbed his father’s pop sensibilities. It was, for me, the best song of the night – uplifting, gloriously catchy as all good pop should be, and played with an infectious passion and verve.
Closing out the show was Better Be Home Soon – a subtle hint that curfew was approaching – and, as the closing bars massaged the pleasure centres of Neil’s satiated acolytes, all frustration at our earlier exposure to the great New Zealander’s adventures in aural experimentation were quickly forgotten or forgiven.
Later, as I waited to move, immobile in the car park, I reflected on how the whole evening had been a good experience overall.
Bird In Hand is a fantastic venue, the food had been tasty, the wine and Prancing Pony beer on tap were all top notch, and the performances had, in the main, been pretty entertaining, albeit not always as predictable and melodic as expected.
Anyone considering going to see The Gang Of Youths Bird In Hand show tonight should make the effort. The venue makes it is one of Adelaide’s finest concert experiences.
Neil & Liam Finn, supported by Holy Holy, performed at Bird In Hand Winery on Friday 16 February 2018.