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Finn's fame is certain, no rock hall required

By Rick Koster

Publication: theday.com

Published April 11. 2014 11:00AM   Updated April 11. 2014 11:51AM

On Thursday night in Brooklyn, that most clownish sham of an organization, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, inducted several folks in their latest class.

None of them was named Neil Finn.

Meanwhile, the 55-year-old Finn, who will assuredly never be in the Hall, was performing with his solo band in New Haven's sold-out Shubert Theater.

For almost two-and-a-half hours and almost 30 songs, Finn — whose onstage banter always resonates in the way of casual conversations you have with your wittiest pal — conducted a cross-section survey of a 35-year career that spans Split Enz, Crowded House, Pajama Club, the Finn Brothers and the 7 Worlds Collide collective.

As he's on tour behind his third solo effort, "Dizzy Heights," Finn performed most of the material from the album, which is compellingly more experimental than his more renowned and hook-spangled pop. In fact, the new record seems heavily influenced by the groove of Roxy Music or even Steely Dan and is sauteed in atmospherics that suggest Flaming Lips. And, because Finn's simply incapable of not writing great melodies, it glistens with plenty of hummable moments.

There was never a sense that fans were patiently enduring "Dizzy Heights" tunes in anticipation of more familiar; Finn has earned our trust and pays off routinely. "Flying in the Face of Love," the title song and "In My Blood" were highlights. The earlier solo albums, "One Nil" and "Try Whistling This," were also visited with "Faster Than Light," "Driving Me Mad," "Sinner," "Souvenir" and the marvelous main-set closer, "She Will Have Her Way."

Split Enz was represented by "History Never Repeats," "I Got You," "Message to My Girl" and a fabulous arrangement of "One Step Ahead." Pajama Club's "Tell Me What You Want" worked in big fashion. From the Crowded House catalog were biggies like "Distant Sun," a sing-along "Fall at Your Feet," a dreamy, piano-ballad version of "Don't Dream It's Over," and the night's final selection was an acoustic duet with Finn and his son Elroy — who was a bit of an unofficial, off-and-on presence — on the glorious "Four Seasons in One Day."

Finn worked beautifully with a fine six-piece band that included background singer Lisa Tomlins and Mrs. Finn — his wife Sharon — on bass. The rest were hand-picked and fellow New Zealander musicians — younger-generation dudes who collectively looked as though Finn kidnapped the Auckland High School men's debate team — who comprised a charming and precociously talented assemblage.

Between the joyous and effortlessly accomplished musical presentation and Finn's nonstop good nature — including a representative stunt where he'd run from the wings, do a full-body slide along the top of his grand piano before hopping off and landing like a gymnast — The Master oversaw a magnificent evening that was, well, Hall of Fame-worthy.

Not to be overlooked: the magnificent Denton, Texas, band Midlake opened the show. Out in support of their incredible "Antiphon" album, they opened with a short acoustic set that would have blown away lesser headliners.

r.koster@theday.com

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