Worshipping at the Temple of Low Men
Throughout my career, I have taken great pride in never being a “fanboy,” but in a busy shopping district in Kansas City, Mo., my celeb-stalker resistance reflex utterly failed me.
My wife, Laura, and I drove to Kansas City over the weekend for Crowded House’s Monday concert at the Uptown Theater, a pilgrimage that might seem patently ridiculous to people whose sole appreciation of the New Zealand band is for its 1987 hit single, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” After that brilliantly Beatlesesque hit and its follow-up single, “Something So Strong,” Crowded House ceased to exist for most of the U.S. radio-listening population.
Subsequent releases such as 1988′s “Temple of Low Men” and 1991′s “Woodface” — considered by most fans the group’s hands-down masterpiece — were all but ignored on these shores. This is due in part to staff shuffles at Capitol Records but mainly because the group’s bright and brief flash of domestic success was an outlier. Crowded House was never part of a trend, and lead singer-songwriter Neil Finn never tried. There was a brief moment when his former band, Split Enz, found that its art-pop leanings meshed with the New Wave movement when songs such as “I Got You” and “One Step Ahead” became minor hits, and that group’s baroque visual sensibility worked beautifully in the early, anything-goes days of MTV. But beyond that, Finn has traveled his own road, creating classic pop music that almost defies actual popularity.
But for me and Laura, Finn is a superstar of the highest order. We fell in love to “Woodface” songs such as “Fall at Your Feet,” “Italian Plastic” and “She Goes On,” and that perfect disc will always be enshrined in my personal Top 10. We saw Crowded House at the 1994 EdgeFest in Dallas — just a few days before the group broke up. Most of the audience was there to see Tim DeLaughter’s pre-Polyphonic Spree band, Tripping Daisy, and Finn looked like he wanted nothing more than to leave the stage.
I had followed Finn through his decade as a solo act and his recordings with brother Tim Finn, who founded Split Enz in the early ’70s and joined Crowded House briefly for “Woodface.” But when I heard this spring that Crowded House were reuniting for an album and tour, I knew I would drive to the closest concert, and this one coincided with Laura’s birthday.
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