I know the word hero is bandied about freely, so I kind of hate to use it. But
tonight I spent the evening with one of mine – Neil Finn. He was on stage and I was in the audience, which is the way it should be.
It began with “I Got You”, which cracked the Top 40 back in 1980 and made me a Split Enz fan. I saw them open for Tom Petty in the Rochester War Memorial. Killer show. Loved the suits. Bought all their albums and grew curious about New Zealand, a country I knew virtually nothing about, but it must be something to produce such unusual talent. I stayed curious through the Crowded House years and finally got to visit in 1993. In 1994 I shifted, lock, stock and barrel to bog-standard kiwi house in Mount Roskill and spent a long, dreary winter lost in “Together Alone,” wondering if maybe this wasn’t the craziest, worst mistake of my life.
15 years on it was the smartest thing I ever did. My life here has been almost blessed. I go and see him play every chance I get. Had a few opportunities to meet him through friends over the years, but decided not to. What would I say? “I’m your biggest fan and you’re the reason I moved to NZ?” Perhaps I could wear a badge saying ‘stalker’ when introduced…
A couple of years ago, we were out driving around Piha and I stopped into a dairy to get something to drink and there he was, chatting to the man at the till. I felt flushed for a second – yip, there he was. Wow! And I thought to myself that this was just so cool, being in this dairy with Neil Finn over there and me over here looking through the drinks fridge. And I loved the ordinariness of it. So I went and paid for my drink and I looked at him and he looked at me and I said ‘Hi’ and he said ‘Hi,’ and I turned and walked out feeling goofily jubilant.
I saw him again a few months ago reuited with Split Enz and again tonight for a 7 Worlds Collide show. He was playing with his sons Liam and Elroy, all of Wilco, Bic Runga, KT Dunstall, Lisa Germano, Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway from Radiohead, Johnny Marr from the Smiths with his two offspring, Don McGlashan from the Muttonbirds and others who escape me at the moment. They’ve been recording an album to raise money for Oxfam and this was the first of three live shows they’re doing in a local club. Incredible show!
And for me, another opportunity to appreciate the magic Neil Finn brought to my life just doing what he does.
I’ve got tickets for tomorrow night, too!