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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Crowded House Pleases Fans at Wiltern

March 18, 1994|STEVE HOCHMAN

When a band fails to play its best-known, best-loved songs in a concert, it's usually a sign of a major shift in direction--and a major letdown for its fans. In Crowded House's concert at the Wiltern Theatre on Wednesday, the first of two nights there, it proved to be neither.

Despite the absence of several sure-fire crowd-pleasers--including "Don't Dream It's Over," the band's first and biggest hit--the fans clearly enjoyed the abundant pleasures that have kept the band at the top of the power-pop pack since it formed from the ashes of New Zealand's Split Enz in 1986.

Primary singer-songwriter Neil Finn's bittersweet hooks are easy to get swept up in, just as the characters in his songs are swept up in the twisting eddies of romantic and spiritual fate.

And the mix of in-song melancholy and the between-song mirth of Finn and quick-witted mates Paul Hester and Nick Seymour remains a highly entertaining balance.

The impression left Wednesday was that the old songs were discarded simply because the band tired of them, not because it's outgrown them. Besides beefing up its sound with the addition of guitarist-keyboardist Mark Hart, Crowded House has changed little over the years. In the arts, there's a very fine line between being consistent and being static, and Crowded House seems to be straddling it.

* Crowded House plays tonight at the Arlington Theatre, 1317 State St., Santa Barbara, (805) 963-4408. Tickets are $22 and $19. 8 p.m.

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