June 29, at the
ArtsQuest Café in Bethlehem, PA, the New Zealand legend unveiled his
Text & Photos by David Iskra
Empty Nest Syndrome usually results in parents finding
something to distract themselves from the fact that they are no longer
needed. The children have grown up, moved out and started their own
families and careers. Some parents will find new activities and hobbies
to occupy themselves. For most parents this includes golf and cooking.
Some may take a trip, a cruise or another excursion not only to distract
themselves but to celebrate their new found freedom. No more kids!
No more worrying! No more lending money! They may even get a pet to
replace the child and fulfill their need to nurture.
In the case of Neil and Sharon Finn however, the exodus of their two sons, Liam
and Elroy resulted in something a little more interesting and far more
melodic. They found themselves staying up late at night and creating
music in their pajamas, hence the band name “Pajama Club”. In
the case of Neil this was certainly nothing new as he is the well known lead
singer of both Crowded House and the Split Enz, not to mention his solo career
and benefit projects. Sharon however is
better known for creating chandeliers in her new Zealand workshop than her
backing vocals and bass skills. Though she did sing on the Alex Lloyd’s “Watching Angels Mend” album
in the early ‘00s.
It was only recently on Neil’s The Sun
Came Out project that she came out of the shadows to join her husband on
the track “Little By Little” a song perhaps not coincidentally about
boys turning into men.
It makes you wonder if this song was the genesis of Pajama Club. When she sings
about “You’re still my baby, could be holding on too tight” She
really nails that motherly instinct that realizes the time has come to let go.
As she does let go, she has much to be proud of. Liam has a burgeoning
solo career that it is just getting started. He just released his second
solo album and has not only opened for Eddie Vedder but has supported his
father on numerous occasions with his first band, Betchadupa and like his
brother Elroy has joined dear old dad onstage to bang out a few tunes.
This isn’t good old fashioned nepotism either, these kids can play. In
fact Liam is a monster on drums. Neil made a valiant attempt to keep
rhythm on a few songs last night but his obvious skill is still in songwriting
and on the guitar.
After several late night jams, the couple realized they were on to something
and enlisted New Zealand songwriter and
musician Sean Donnely and along with drummer Alana Skyring created an album of
fuzzed out pop tunes, some moody pop and a few other surprises. The album
isn’t out until the fall but several tracks are streaming on their site and the
first single “From a Friend to a Friend” is a lot spookier than Neil
or Crowded House’s usual sunny pop. You’d expect most parents of this age to go
down the folk path but this left turn is far more rewarding.
The band has recently embarked on a small tour to see what they were capable of
and tonight they played a little off the beaten path in Bethobsolescencelehem, PA.
One audience member shouted that she has waited 23 years for Neil to come to
her home town. When he playfully replied “Why haven’t you come to
see me somewhere else?” She like any faithful fan would, replied
The new venue boasted a pretty unique backdrop in the form of the now defunct
Bethlehem Steel Factory. As one thing faded into obsolescence in the
background, another came to life onstage.
Playing songs the audience doesn’t know is rarely a successful venture but it
worked better than expected and Neil didn’t have to resort to playing “Don’t
Dream Its Over” to win over the crowd.
obvious shyness a big factor live, the weight was squarely on Neil’s shoulders
to bring life to the stage. Whether it was a restrained but muscular
guitar solo or a turn on drums, he delivered while the “more talented than
she realizes” Sharon
took care of business from her end of the stage. Sean also lent a hand
not only on backing vocals but with a myriad of keyboards and sounds which
brought an impressive texture to these mysterious new songs. Alana did
more than hit the skins as she was also helping out at the merch stand before
and after the show. This added to the vibe of a new band just getting
started than a music veteran and his vanity project.
Neil’s always friendly banter included some remarks about the band just getting
started and their intent to come back and keep going. This may turn out
to be far more than they bargained for when they said goodbye to the kids and
picked up those instruments.
Let’s hope so.
Side Note: Perhaps experiencing some empty nest syndrome herself, Sharon’s mother watched the band perform via skype all the
way from New Zealand
via a macbook placed onstage. It doesn’t get any more modern family than