People cry more in aeroplanes. There is literature written about how, hurtling through the stratosphere in a little bit of tin and gas at 800km/hr, we’re preternaturally given over to giving over to the most fundamental of emotions. Severely aware of the little that separates us from nothingness, and with little to do but focus on the nothingness inside that pressurized space, suddenly crying becomes a far more obvious emotional choice than it might be 35,000 feet below. I read a couple of articles on this a few years back with some skepticism, bargaining that I cried on planes mostly out of sheer frustration or exhaustion, reflecting on the often herculean efforts it takes to fly intercontinentally from the continent furthest away from all others. Until last Sunday. On Sunday night, well fed, supremely rested and not stressed in the slightest, I cried for about thirty minutes through Crowded House’s late 2016 Sydney Opera House steps concert while I tried to drink wine and draft emails.
Crowded House is a staple of Australian culture. The band, including a Kiwi frontman (Neil Finn) whose origin story we quickly and happily forget, played their original Opera House steps concert in 1996 as the sort of impressive farewell concert they’d thought they’d shortchanged their fans with by playing a low key farewell show earlier. By all accounts it was a gig for the ages, particularly fitting for a band that had sold almost 10 million albums at that point and were as near to part of the fabric of Australian life as four guys with instruments could get. And yet, while I was familiar with the tones of ‘Woodface’, which saw Neil team up with brother Tim to harmonise to devastating effect across eight of 14 tracks, the band had never really played a central role in any formative life experiences. Brother J got swept up in Crowded House about 15 years too late when a clearly switched on girlfriend turned him onto them, but I lacked the sensitivity (or romantic suggestion) to properly re-engage with a band that had been floating in the household ether since I could first remember sound.
But then, all alone in a patch of turbulence and distracted from both the wine and laptop at hand, the Dutch airline I was traveling on inexplicably decided to host the full 20 year farewell reunion shindig in all its Technicolor glory. It might have been something about traveling from one foreign country to another that I now call my home. It might have been the deep-seated childhood associations so many of these songs held for me. It might have been (it probably was) that third glass of red wine. But the excellence of Crowded House, which I had experienced firsthand years earlier in a small bar on the border of Austria and Germany (?), is kind of overwhelming in itself. Their ‘Greatest Hits’ sounds like ‘The Greatest Hits’. The songwriting talent, the harmonic nuance, and the very Australianness of it (inescapably wry, sun-soaked, warm) makes the band’s music endearing and relevant, even a quarter of a century after it was first penned. There’s no real reason I pick ‘Fall At Your Feet’ from the oeuvre but that it was the song during which I could see the least of my laptop screen, as even my glimpses of the most beautiful city on earth were obscured by tears.
Crowded House – Fall At Your Feet