Tag Archives: Split Enz

Rocks In The Attic #794: Fleetwood Mac – ‘Tusk’ (1979)

RITA#794Fleetwood Mac recently played five nights in New Zealand – four of which in Auckland. They usually play one or two nights when they reach our shores, but this time they had a Kiwi among their ranks and all the proud New Zealanders wanted to see him.

The current touring line-up of the Mac was established when the band fired Lindsey Buckingham, apparently for not getting into the spirit of the band’s 50th anniversary and refusing to play material prior to his tenure with the band. Out went Buckingham, and brought in to replace him were Split Enz / Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, and Tom Petty sideman Mike Campbell. It’s a measure of how strong Buckingham was on both vocals and guitar, that the band split his responsibilities across two people (lead guitar work could easily have been handled by their touring guitarist, Neale Heywood).

RITA#794aSo, with a bit of new blood in the ranks, Fleetwood House and The Heartbreaker hit Auckland’s Spark Arena. Strangely, they opted to play exactly the same setlist for each of those nights – an odd choice for a band with such a wealth of material. The Peter Green-era material promised for their half-century anniversary was well received, and great to see. I already knew they were playing Man Of The World, and Black Magic Woman seemed an obvious choice, but it was the inclusion of Oh Well – my favourite single from that era of the band – that really put a smile on my face. This proved to be Mike Campbell’s showcase, and he played it perfectly. Given how the Buckingham / Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac are so very different to that original blues explosion version, I never thought I’d see any incarnation of the band play Oh Well.

After a shaky start – particularly in respect to Christine McVie’s voice – the band settled down and they eventually sounded almost as good as ever. I’m a huge fan of Lindsey Buckingham, and I think there’s an urgent, blind-corner aspect to his presence and his playing that was still missing. The subs still did a great job though.

RITA#794bIt almost seemed like a given that Neil Finn would be given the opportunity to perform Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over – which he did on an acoustic, with organ accompaniment from Ricky Peterson, to a rousing Kiwi chorus – but I was surprised to see the whole band back Finn on a cover of Split Enz’s I Got You. Finn’s introduction to song also explained that when the song would play on MTV in the 1980’s, Stevie Nicks would add her own background harmony, which she added during the night’s performance.

The encore started with the band’s tribute to Tom Petty – a cover of Free Fallin’ – complete with a photo montage of Campbell playing with Petty through the years, and Petty’s many appearances with Nicks. A lady behind me in the seats, probably unaware of Campbell’s credentials, saw one of the photos of Petty laughing with Nicks, and asked ‘Did she date him?’ I laughed at this typically Kiwi question – given reality TV’s stranglehold on Kiwi culture – but they did have a long and enduring friendship at least.

Obviously, with a Tom Petty song, a Crowded House song, a Split Enz song and three Peter Green-era songs, something had to move aside and unfortunately despite playing four songs from 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, and seven songs from Rumours, the band neglected to play any material from 1979’s Tusk, my second-favourite of the Buckingham/Nicks albums (after its diamond-selling predecessor).

The thing I love the most about Tusk, aside from its rousing title track, is the band’s decision to hold back and do something a little more experimental and home-made after the success (and marital strife) of Rumours. Influenced by the post-punk movement out of New York’s C.B.G.B. scene (particularly Talking Heads), Buckingham’s back-to-basics approach to songwriting, and home-studio recording, gives the album a measure of charm that goes against the usual sheen of their albums.

It’s a record I always enjoy pulling off the shelf, even if I always think I have it on the wrong speed, when Christine’s Over & Over lumbers out of the speakers. Fingers crossed the band will give the album the love it deserves when they next visit New Zealand, hopefully with Buckingham in tow, licking his wounds.

Hit: Tusk

Hidden Gem: The Ledge

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Rocks In The Attic #703: Split Enz – ‘True Colours’ (1980)

RITA#703Every country has their local heroes, the ones who are winners back home but never even compete overseas. A third of the WTF With Marc Maron podcast is frequented by American comedians nobody has heard of outside the United States. There are bands in London that don’t translate well outside the capital, let alone across its country’s borders.

It’s the Wakanda Curse. Some artists just struggle to get noticed through the cultural cloaking device that prevents other countries from taking them seriously. Black Panther could have been kicking arse for decades, but nobody noticed. His solo material just wasn’t up to snuff.

New Zealand has its fair share of parochial examples. There are comedians, such as the 7 Days crew, who don’t dare gig internationally. Better to roll out the same tired jokes on TV, week in, week out, than be faced with the fact that, compared to international comics, they’re just not very good. They must really shit themselves when the International Comedy Festival hits the country. But hang on, half of the ‘international’ comedians that come over here are just as unwanted in their native countries, like a really shit student-exchange programme where your homestay parents don’t understand any of your cultural references.

And New Zealand music? The most successful band on a global stage seems to be Crowded House, and even they seem to have been appropriated by the Australians. First pavlova, then our middle-of-the-road rock bands!

The problem is that most Kiwis don’t ever leave our shores, so they don’t know any different. They probably think Dave Dobbyn is a mainstay of British and American singles charts. The Nature’s Best collection is a great retrospective of New Zealand anthems, but nobody’s singing these songs past our passport control point.

And shame on you if you do succeed internationally. Lorde? Aldous Harding? How dare you play overseas festivals! How dare you play Later With Jools Holland. This isn’t good old fashioned Kiwi music. It doesn’t sound anything like that one song by Dragon, or Hello Sailor’s horrific cod-reggae song.

Split Enz are a great band though, and deserve way more worldwide recognition than they got. This, their fifth studio album, is widely regarded as their first commercial success. File next to the Police, Blondie and Talking Heads.

Hit: I Got You

Hidden Gem: The Choral Sea