The way Crowded House is working its return should be a model for any band plotting a reunion: Record a strong album that taps into strengths of your earlier incarnation; play venues that can easily be sold out; deliver a lengthy show that seamlessly blends the old and new; and look like you’re having fun being back together.
Original housemates Neil Finn and bassist Nick Seymour shared a playful repartee at the sold-out Troubadour, let fans sing two or three of the old faves and delivered a set that confirmed new drummer Mark Sherrod and Finn sidekick Mark Hart have been fully integrated in Crowded House. (Finn, Seymour and Paul Hester formed Crowded House in 1985 and split up in 1996. Hester’s suicide in 2005 got Finn and Hester talking and then collaborating; Sherrod was hired full-time late during the sessions for “Time on Earth” (ATO), and only plays on four tracks.)
Remarkably, for a 20-song show that left out a hit or two — significantly “Better Be Home Soon” — this CH concert worked like a well-planned block. Beyond a show-stopping rendition of “When You Come” three-quarters of the way into the set, concert was steady and spirited, remarkably devoid of a moment when the new material goes lacking. Aided by a clear sound system, Finn’s songs that read like private conversations — “Silent House,” “Fall at Your Feet,” “You’re the One to Make Me Cry” — worked as well live as they do on record.
Recorded versions are generally adhered to in the show, though it was an interesting choice for multi-instrumentalist Hart to take the solo on “Don’t Dream It’s Over” on acoustic guitar instead of keyboard. Perhaps it was a nod to the man who played the keyboard on the album, Mitchell Froom, who was looking down at the band from the balcony.
Crowded House plays a secret show tonight in New York and Aug. 8 and 9 at the Beacon Theater. They will return to L.A. to play the Greek Theater on Aug. 28.