CD Review of Farewell to the World by Crowded House

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Farewell to the World
starstarstarstarno star Label: Capitol
Released: 2007
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The band’s first album was an unqualified worldwide success – eclipsing by far the American chart fortunes of leader Neil Finn’s previous gig, Split Enz – but subsequent releases failed to scale the same heights, leaving many on these shores with a mistaken impression of Crowded House. Far from being a one-hit wonder, the group remained commercially viable elsewhere in the world until its untimely disintegration in 1996. Consider, for instance, that Crowded House’s farewell concert – staged on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, and captured here for official posterity as a tenth-anniversary two-CD/two-DVD set – took place in front of over 100,000 people. (And that’s lowballing it: attendance estimates range from 120,000 to 250,000.)

Clearly, most of us missed out on something during Crowded House’s decade together; luckily, the group’s label has been in a state of perpetual flux over the ensuing decade, meaning nobody at Capitol Records is too proud to scour the vaults for another chance to make a few bucks off a band they couldn’t figure out how to promote the first time around. (Think of this as the second installment in a postscript trilogy started with 2000’s rarities collection Afterglow, and set to conclude later this year with a boxed set.)

Hardcore fans will recognize this concert, even if they weren’t there; it’s been widely bootlegged for years, and from the title on down, Capitol’s version hews surprisingly closely to the fan-circulated tapes. From a certain, albeit idiotic, point of view, it might be tempting to attribute this to laziness on the part of the surviving members; modern ears are accustomed to all sorts of post-show sweetening in our live albums, after all, so it might be a little jarring for some to hear the various clams and longish, jokey between-song patter on this album. But really, it’s a testament to the band that – some mastering and set list alterations aside – this is essentially the concert as it happened.

Given that Farewell will appeal mainly to Crowded House diehards, most of whom probably already have this show in some form, the band and/or label have taken pains to give fans reason to buy it twice. From the CD’s liner notes to the DVD’s documentaries and commentary track (performed with typical humor and self-deprecation by Neil Finn and Nick Seymour), this is a lovingly assembled gift to the relative few who continue to count themselves among the faithful. Inessential, obviously – but almost impossible to pass up.

~Jeff Giles