Indie label Nettwerk America has brought Neil Finn, the patriarch of Crowded House and Split Enz, back to these shores, releasing a slightly altered version of last year’s studio disc “One Nil” as “One All” as well as the live “7 Worlds Collide,” which features guest appearances by Eddie Vedder, Johnny Marr, brother Tim and others. At an unannounced gig held before he heads to South X Southwest in Austin, Finn delivered a relaxed, somewhat goofy and consistently engaging show that borrowed a litany of audience members to constitute a backup band.
Finn started solo with a tune he performed as a 4-year-old in New Zealand before diving into new material as well as obscurities and chestnuts from the catalogs of Split Enz and Crowded House. He debated whether to use a set list and, after deciding to go without, found himself stuck trying to decide what to play. Sometimes it worked to his disadvantage — a couple of numbers had to be stopped short when he couldn’t remember a lyric — but then he turned out a brilliant version of “There Goes God” after protesting he had forgotten the number.
The newer tunes that retain the wistful yet spry charms of Crowded House material worked best, particularly “The Climber” and “Anytime.” Guitarist Wendy Melvoin, keyboardist Mitchell Froom and violinist Lisa Germano supply the bulk of the backing — it’s not clear how much rehearsal they’ve had despite playing on “One All” — keeping the tone reserved and gentle yet freewheeling. Finn’s expected to return with a tighter band in the summer.