I waited 3 years to see this! When I found out in 2019 that Crowded House, one of my favourite bands, were to be part of Sounds of the City (a series of summer concerts in Manchester), I was excited to book the tickets. They only occasionally got back together for tours. The event was several months away. A long time to wait, I thought… And then the pandemic happened. The gig was postponed in 2020, then in 2021, and I felt that if it wasn’t third time lucky then it might never happen at all. The fact that everyone had been waiting so long made the experience extra-special. Crowded House wowed a massive audience at Glastonbury the previous week, so when I watched them on TV could tell that Manchester was going to be even better.
It was worth getting there early – and the foot-ache! – to get a position close to the front. Many people were bagging places on the stone steps at the back of the venue. The DJ played a great selection of songs, including ‘Mr Blue Sky’, ‘Killer Queen’, ‘The Chain’, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’ and ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’, as the space filled up. The weather forecast was a 30% chance of rain, but it was dry and sunny (the rain came the next day).
The support act turned out to be Liam Finn, in a bright red suit. He entertained the crowd with his own songs, a cover of OutKast’s ‘Hey Ya’ with brother Elroy and a composition inspired by son Buddy, entitled ‘Bum Bums and Toilets’. His family were watching from the side of the stage. There was a technical problem but all part of the show, of course…
When the whole band returned, to excited cheers from the few thousand people in the audience, they launched into ‘Distant Sun’, thrilling everyone with a fantastic performance until the closing song, ‘Better Be Home Soon’. The setlist included 5 songs from the most recent album, Dreamers Are Waiting: ‘Show Me the Way’, ‘Whatever You Want’, ‘Playing with Fire’, ‘To the Island’ and ‘Goodnight Everyone’. There was a new song ‘Some Greater Plan’ aired and a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, plus a Split Enz song, ‘Message to My Girl’. The rest were Crowded House classics: ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ (for which Neil urged us to consider what freedom means in the light of current events), ‘Weather With You’, ‘Fall At Your Feet’, ‘Seven Seasons in One Day’, ‘Private Universe’, ‘When You Come’, ‘Nails in My Feet’, ‘Sister Madly’, ‘Chocolate Cake’, ‘Black and White Boy’, ‘Pineapple Head’, ‘Something So Strong.’
There were surprises throughout the show. Johnny Marr suddenly appeared on stage with his guitar for ‘Weather With You’, to immediate rapture from those who realised what was going on. A young man called Stan did some amazing breakdancing on stage, twice. A woman in front of me held up an Elroy Finn appreciation banner and it looked like all the band noticed it except for him. Neil in a pristine white suit was in great form and even played the piano with his back to it. Nick looked comfortable in a kilt and should have won a prize for holding his vocal notes the longest. Liam, now wearing a shirt patterned with hats, threw his guitar up in the air and almost didn’t catch it. Every ten minutes or so, a train would rumble over the bridge and if it was going slow enough, the audience, passengers and train guards waved to each other. Neil theorised that someone who couldn’t get a ticket to the gig might be riding back and forth on the trains just for a view of it.
All in all, this was a fun, atmospheric gig which appealed to all generations. The band were obviously having a great time too and I’m sure they’ll remember it as fondly as the audience will.
Image of tour poster from band’s Twitter page.