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Santa Barbara News-Press : IN CONCERT: Crowded House representatives - Fans: Don't dream it's over - After drummer's death, original members Finn, Seymour reunite, and add two musicians

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IN CONCERT: Crowded House representatives - Fans: Don't dream it's over - After drummer's death, original members Finn, Seymour reunite, and add two musicians

Crowded House has gone through some major changes since the band's last studio album, 1993's "Together Alone." Now, Crowded House is, from left, Nick Seymour, Neil Finn, Mark Hart and Matt Sherrod.

Although, on the surface, Pete Yorn doesn't seem to have a lot in common with Crowded House, the New Jersey-raised singer-songwriter is joining the pop-rock band with roots in New Zealand and Australia for Saturday's show at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

August 24, 2007 11:24 AM

CROWDED HOUSE, with PETE YORN, LIAM FINN

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Santa Barbara Bowl, 1122 N. Milpas St.

Tickets: $27.50 to $64.50

Information: 962-7411, www.sbbowl.com

There are many kinds of rock band reunions, with various back stories and lengths of separation. Take the case of Crowded House, the beloved pop band from Australia and New Zealand that struck pay dirt in the 1980s and early '90s. Catchy pop songs like "Something So Strong," the power ballad "Don't Dream It's Over" and "Fall at Your Feet" still resonate in the pop-culture collective.

Cut to 2007, and Crowded House is on the comeback trail, with a new album, "Time on Earth," and an extensive tour, which stops at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday.

But the gestation period for House was less than nine months, as bassist and founding member Nick Seymour explained, on the phone from a hotel in New York, where he was on a publicity stint. Singer-songwriter Neil Finn and Seymour had worked on tracks for a new album, but Seymour assumed the project would become a Finn solo album.

A phone call less than a year ago changed everything. Seymour had returned to Dublin, Ireland, where he has lived for a decade and built a commercial recording studio.

"Suddenly, about eight months ago," he says, "Neil wants to re-form the band in earnest and go on tour, promote it and do all of that."

They auditioned drummers in various cities, and ended up with Los Angeleno Matt Sherrod, who has played with Beck. A few more tracks were recorded in London to complete the album, which became the first Crowded House album of new material in 14 years.

Before heading out on a U.S. summer tour, the band took selective steps into the public eye, large and small. They performed at Coachella in May and at the gigantic global concert Live Earth, along with other, humbler gigs. According to Seymour, their appearances this year have been either to crowds of 40,000 or crowds of 300.

"It has been the test of our mettle," Seymour says, "being able to adapt from one size venue to the next. But that is what Crowded House is. We've always been able to do an acoustic set when it's required of us, or play to a festival and get the entire throng singing with one voice. That's still the same."

Digging a bit deeper into the story, the band's comeback is also something of an emotional response to the tragic passing of original drummer Paul Hester, who struggled with depression and committed suicide in 2005.

"It's undeniable that Paul's passing brought Neil and I back together musically," Seymour says. "At his wake, we played music for about a 10-hour session. It was in the ballroom of an old homestead in central Melbourne, (Australia), with all these different musicians collected from the Melbourne and Sydney scenes, who we'd known for pretty much all our adult lives. There they were assembled.

"Here they were, playing everything from 'These Boots are Made for Walking' to Beatles medleys. We played early Australian hits from the early '70s and Easybeats, AC/DC, Daddy Cool, all these bands and older musicians who turned up as well, guys from that generation -- two generations ahead of us. It was an incredibly powerful and compelling event, the most intense wake I've ever attended."

Seymour believes that for Finn -- through Hester's passing and the wake experience -- "a button was pushed at that moment, as to something that he really had been missing for a long time, working with musicians who just put one foot in front of the other intuitively in a room together and sang with one voice.

"I might add that Neil has also mentioned in interviews that there was an emotional need for him to somehow know that the legacy of Crowded House was not brought to a full stop by such a negative and unresolved passing of one of its members, one of its intrinsic members. Even though Paul, let's say, took an 'out clause' of life, for whatever reason, we genuinely believe that his spirit pushes us forward and compels us to maintain the positivity of what our relationship was based on.

"I think he's looking down and saying, 'Go forward, fellows,' in a very positive way."

On the new album, "Time on Earth," Finn's lyrics have a quality Seymour suggests is "in the essence of our songwriting and arrangement. Those things are fairly timeless and not production-specific. But the sound of this new record is contemporary in its simplicity. That is what is going on now. We've pretty much made a record that is relaxed enough to just sound the way the room did at the time, and that is contemporary as a style."

Others from their generation have hit the comeback trail, but avoid the problem of coming up new material, instead leaning on old hits. That wasn't something Crowded House wanted to do.

Years ago, when early talks were opening with Finn -- and also Hester -- about doing something as Crowded House again, Seymour says, "I knew there was only one way I would get back together: to actually make a record. Rather than to go out and just tour on the back of our catalogue and be presenting a nostalgia trip for our generation, if you will. That was a very conscious point of embarkation for me.

"But having said that, this is the first time in our musical career that we're actually part of a movement."

What movement would that be?

"The reuniting movement," he says (laughs).

Crowded years

Crowded House released a compilation of its best songs in 1996, "Recurring Dream," and then promptly broke up. It has been more than 10 years since the band ended its 11-year run and, like the '96 album seems to have predicted, Crowded House reunited, released new music and is on tour again.

1985 -- New Zealand singer-songwriter Neil Finn, drummer Paul Hester and bassist Nick Seymour form The Mullanes in Melbourne, Australia.

Late '85 -- The band moves to Los Angeles, and takes up residence in a small North Hollywood home. The Mullanes become Crowded House.

1987 -- "Don't Dream It's Over" wins an MTV Video Music Award.

1991 -- Neil Finn and his brother, Tim, write songs as a duo. Tim joins Crowded House, and many of the Finn Brothers songs are used on a new Crowded House album, "Woodface."

1993 -- "Together Alone" is the band's last album of new material, until 2007.

1996 -- The band breaks up, despite the success of its greatest-hits album, "Recurring Dream."

March 2005 -- Original drummer Hester commits suicide in Australia.

2005 -- Seymour plays bass during a tour with the Finns for Neil's solo material, which became the most recent Crowded House release.

2007 -- Original members Neil Finn and Seymour reunite with keyboard player Mark Hart, and add drummer Matt Sherrod to the group. Crowded House releases "Time on Earth" and sets out on its first tour in a decade.

-- Danny Cross

CROWDED HOUSE, "Time on Earth, ATO Records

After numerous personnel changes, one tragic death and a long hiatus, Neil Finn and the band return for their first studio album since 1993. Produced by Steve Lillywhite and Ethan Johns, Finn's 14 songs might not explicitly be about drummer Paul Hester's suicide, but the knowledge of it colors the songwriting throughout: Even the up-tempo songs like "She Called Up" hold sadness and shock within their lyrics. Johnny Marr (ex-Smiths) lends guitar to the first single, "Don't Stop Now," which builds from a pastoral head-bobber to a all-out rocker with cascading piano, in less than four minutes. "Pour Le Monde," Finn's anti-war song, replaces anger with a requiem for a bad idea. At an hour-plus, the album could use some pruning. But since fans have waited 14 years for a reunion that doesn't rehash or go off the rails, it's no biggie.

-- Ted Mills

 


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