with Ebba Forsberg
House Of Blues, Orlando • July 18th, 1998
Michael D. Fellows
I now know why I am not a frequent visitor to the corporate trappings of the House of Blues. I was thoroughly surprised as to what a fucked up place it is. The same night as Neil and Ebba were scheduled to perform, the corporate morons thought they might have another band play at 10 PM, so they could charge $27.50 and make Neil stop playing before 10 PM. This would have been halfway OK, had they told people this when they bought the tickets. Neil was listed on the tickets to be on at 9 PM, but in reality, the show was at 7 PM. I luckily found out about this on Finn’s Web site, or I would have missed the lovely Mrs. Forsberg and half of Neil’s set.
OK, enough venting. This was the first night of their US tour, and I was absolutely pleased. Ebba waltzed out at 7 PM to start her first ever performance in the USA. She is a cross between Alanis Morrissette and ABBA, but with more class and tons of Swedish charm. She wowed the male members of the audience into submission with her tales of lost love and spent hopes. I really hope she makes a dent in the ever-expanding field of female songwriters that have come out over the past few years. She recently stole the second stage at the Orlando stop of the Lilith Fair from the bland and sterile voice of Sarah McLachlan. At this show, she was alive and real, and not used to the real praise given by her new audience who had just heard her material for the first time.
At 8 PM, Mr. Neil Finn (and son) rushed the stage to play a mix of Crowded House classics and new songs from his first solo album, Try Whistling This. Neil is probably one of the most influential songwriters of our generation. He knows the importance of pop sensibility and the necessity of well-crafted lyrics that you will remember, and like me, keep deep in your heart. I was amazed that (for the first time) his 16-year-old son, Liam, played rhythm guitar for the evening. He was just like his dad, from his looks to the way he held his guitar. I can only imagine how proud Neil must have felt on that stage, watching his son play his songs. Liam also played guitar and sang on a few songs on his father’s new solo album.
Neil opened with two songs from his new album, “Last One Standing” and “King Tide,” which, to my surprise, most of the audience knew. He also played several solo sets on his acoustic and keyboard, for such songs as “Fall on Your Feet,” “Private Universe,” and “Message to My Girl.” The songs “I Got You” and “Distant Sun” are eternal favorites of mine, so it was nice to finally hear them live that night. His voice did waver at times, and he forgot some of his bass lines, but Neil just laughed them off and played on. He sort of took requests from the audience at the end, but decided to play the classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over” on acoustic guitar to end the set. He came back once more to end the evening with newer material, “Sinner” and “Twisty Bass.” He was sadly forced to end the show by 10, which was my only complaint of this lovely evening with the ever-gracious Neil Finn.