Craig Box's journeys, stories and notes...

Tim Finn, The Courthouse, Toronto: 7 Feb 2008

While Tim Finn shows are a dime a dozen in New Zealand, they're somewhat rarer here. Finn hasn't played solo in Toronto since the early 1990s.

Disagreement between the tickets and the venue about door opening time led to us arriving just on 9pm, which was either just right, or one hour later, missing the support act. Turns out neither of these was true: the venue wasn't even open at 9, for reasons unknown, so we all queued in the cold until everyone was rushed in and not 15 minutes later the support act was rushed onto stage.

Acoustic in front of the stageGlad we didn't miss it, either, because we were treated to a great set by Irish-Italian-American singer-songwriter-guitarist Eileen Rose, supported ably by her nephew Nicholas Ward on guitar and piano (I believe I used up my allocation of hyphens for the day on that sentence). A passionate set was unfortunately a little hampered by technical problems. Playing the final song caused bandsaw-esque feedback after about 20 seconds, so after three false starts (and numerous pleas to the unprepared soundman) Rose and Ward came down off their step and delivered the song unplugged.

The venue is a lovely old building with high ceilings and a good feeling of heritage. Their website has some nice pictures. A nice touch, something I've never seen before, was an LCD TV screen either side of the bar, displaying the output of a camera pointed at the stage. This neatly solved the problem of having to turn your back to the show in order to buy drinks.

Finn travels light: the prohibitive distance between New Zealand and North America has reduced his band The Dirty Creatures to guitarist Brett Adams and his foot-operated drum setup. A show in Milwaukee had to be canceled the night before due to bad weather, which he said was the first in 36 years.

The set was a good mix of songs from his latest album, Imaginary Kingdom; previous solo hits, Woodface and Split Enz numbers, and even a couple of new songs. Adams really adds colour to the performance and with drums from Finn's feet, a surprising full sound rang through the room. After a rough period in the 90s, Finn has been in great voice of late and this show was no exception.

I don't really like the new lower arrangement of How Will You Go that is being toured, but it's different.

Interesting to hear the requests called for after coming back for an encore - Hello Sandy Allen, Time For a Change and I Don't Wanna Dance were called for Tim claiming he could only remember how to play one, and not telling us what it was! (It was Time For A Change, but he didn't play it. "Not like Neil, he remembers everything!") Charley and What You've Done were considered, but we were eventually treated to a stripped bare version of I See Red. This was very unexpected, but karmic payoff after years of Ewan and I chanting "RED! RED! RED!" at encores. Sometimes even at The Feelers and Dave Dobbyn, because it's what you do.

A new album was promised, featuring Eddie Rayner and Miles Golding of Split Enz, along with Adams. It was said to have an acoustic, laid-back vibe, and could have an interesting sound as Golding has been a professional concert violinist since he left the Enz in 1973. He signed off with the obligatory "see you in November", but Counting Crows did that to me once and I'm still waiting.

There were a couple of audience members wearing merchandise from the 2006 Australian Split Enz tour and we overheard a discussion on the way out about Woodface this and Crowded House that. These people should move to New Zealand, where Geoff and Jamie get better seats than Eddie at Crowded House shows.

Bootleg fans may be interested in a copy of the show for themselves. I recorded a couple of videos of the new songs, one of which (entitled Making a Mockery) can be seen here:

Or, check out more Tim Finn and Eileen Rose photos on my gallery.

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