Neil Finn & Paul Kelly: Goin’ Your Way

Neil Finn Paul Kelly

Videos by American Songwriter

Neil Finn & Paul Kelly
Goin’ Your Way
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This frills-free live double disc faithfully captures the final performance of Finn and Kelly’s 2013 tour at the famed Sydney Opera House. It features two of down under’s (Australia and New Zealand) finest singer/songwriters, seemingly with no overdubs or post-show polishing. While Neil Finn is far better known in the States through his work with Crowded House and even Split Enz, Kelly is just as popular, if not more so, in his home country.

The songs—cherry picked from both artists’ catalogs– are faithfully performed by a band that includes Finn’s son Elroy on drums, Kelly’s nephew Dan on guitar and bassist Zoe Hauptmann. Everyone sings making for sumptuous harmonies and the opening few acoustic tunes with just the frontmen capture the magic in stripped down versions in shorter supply as the show progresses. Finn and Kelly typically trade lead vocals and alternate songs. Everything sounds crisp (veteran Bob Clearmountain gets credit for mixing) and if you are new to the catalogs of either frontman, this is a terrific way to get acquainted.

The best tracks feature both singers exchanging verses as on Kelly’s “Deeper Water” and “Love is the Law,” and when they open up to rock out on Finn’s “Distant Sun.” Two covers close the concert; a somewhat rushed version of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love” gives the duo a chance to try Everly Brothers-styled singing and the closing “Moon River,” broken down to just harmonica and acoustic guitar, is sweet yet thin.

The twosome never sound less than committed to their folk/rock/pop and the band is tight and rehearsed. But the music seldom breathes with fresh arrangements or an energy/edge that should be generated by the live experience, especially on the final date of a tour. The producers also elected to remove any between-tune banter and fade out each selection on the applause, all of which makes this feel choppy and less organic, cohesive or natural than it probably was.

Finn and Kelly make logical touring partners and for those unfamiliar with either, this is a reasonable sampler of their extensive careers. Still, there is something missing in the transfer from stage to disc that often feels a little stiff and doesn’t effectively display the comradery of the duo. The show does most of what it sets out to and with songs like Kelly’s tough “Dumb Things” and Finn’s sweeping ballad “Better be Home Soon,” the material is all top shelf. Despite its many highlights though, it nonetheless falls short of accomplishing its goal with a performance that is highly professional, yet generally too measured and safe.

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