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POP MUSIC REVIEWS

Finns' Strong Show Full of Rich Songs, Pleasing Paradoxes

July 18, 1996|STEVE HOCHMAN

Neil Finn gazed at the white cross that looms over the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, where he and his brother Tim had just started their concert on Tuesday.

"For two ex-Catholic boys, it's rather disturbing," he remarked. "And comforting."

Finn then observed that "comforting" and "disturbing" are the essential, paradoxical qualities of a good performance--a thesis the New Zealanders proceeded to prove for the next two hours.

After years of off-and-on partnerships (Neil joined older brother Tim's band Split Enz in the early '80s, Tim later joined Neil's Crowded House for one of its four albums), they're now a duo. They kept their music--hummable melodies in sophisticated pop structures--surprisingly rich on Tuesday, and the two-man alignment highlights the dynamics of their personalities, with Neil the boyish japer and Tim the barefoot, sometimes brooding artist.

Although they reached back to their past bands for songs that were enthusiastically received by the full house on the first of two nights at the Ford, several songs from their recent "Finn Brothers" album proved most revealing, especially "Angels Heap," a fond remembrance of sexual awakening, and "Mood Swinging Man," about an unpredictable father.

Through it all they stayed loose and giddy (Tim wandered to the hillside behind the stage and quoted "King Lear"), teasing each other mercilessly, as only siblings can, and meshing instinctively, as only siblings can. Comforting and disturbing.

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