Putting Neil Finn and Guster together on a bill might not seem like the most obvious pairing, but there were clearly threads of melodic pop, jangle rock and delightfully quirky demeanors that connected the Crowded House front man and the beloved Boston band during one of this Ravinia season’s most curious combinations. Guster’s Ryan Miller was quick to gush he’s a fan of Finn prior to the players sprinting off the stage to see if they could beat the record for the world’s quickest encore return, while the veteran also gave the guys several shout-outs and even one-upped them by never actually leaving the stage for his encore, but simply falling to the ground and getting back up as fans roared.
From his own catalogue, Finn cherry-picked the modern day indie rocker “Dizzy Heights,” the enduring “She Will Have Her Way” and a few others, but spent most of the 20-plus tune set on previous collaborations.
Now 58, Finn had every reason to feign exhaustion considering he’s spent nearly three decades on the road, and in the case of Thursday night, a near two hour sampling of his latest solo album “Dizzy Heights,” songs from Split Enz, The Finn Brothers, and of course, loads of Crowded House. Instead, the singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboard player and his mostly family band sounded arguably more rejuvenated than the latter’s last reunion as they opened with “Distant Sun,” “Fall At Your Feet” and “Something So Strong.”
From his own catalogue, Finn cherry-picked the modern day indie rocker “Dizzy Heights,” the enduring “She Will Have Her Way” and a few others, but spent most of the 20-plus tune set on previous collaborations. His brother Tim got a greeting prior to “Won’t Give In,” Donald Trump got a smack down during “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and a die-hard got to check “When You Come” off his request list, which alongside Split Enz’s new wave nugget “I Got You” and his most famous band’s “Weather With You” reaffirmed Finn’s status as one of the most gifted and prolific songwriters since the ‘70s.
Guster’s impact hasn’t lasted quite as long, but now a couple decades in, the group continues to amass a sizeable, almost cult-like following. Ravinia might not have been one of the group’s standard downtown spots, but Miller quickly got close with the audience throughout “Doin’ It By Myself,” so much so that he didn’t make it back on stage for a keyboard solo, though was quickly covered by bassist Luke Reynolds (who simultaneously played both instruments).
And such is the chemistry of the Guster guys, who can not only instinctively save one another, but switch instruments almost every song while navigating between the Beach Boys-esque “Do You Love Me,” the super catchy single “Amsterdam” of the synth-tipped “Endlessly.” Yet it was “This Could All Be Yours” that generated the most communal quality and explained why the group is so attractive to those who’ve stayed glued to its radar beyond merely the radio.
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (July 8-9); Phillip Phillips and Matt Nathanson (July 10); Ladysmith Black Mambazo (July 11); Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris (July 18); Kenny Rogers (July 24); Diana Ross (July 27); “Titanic” Live (July 29-30), plus Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck (July 31). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.