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Crowded House still stands despite challenges

Crowded House,

Lawrence Arabia

8 p.m. Aug. 5

House of Blues

2200 N. Lamar St., Dallas


214-978-2583; www.hob.com

Posted 9:03am on Friday, Jul. 23, 2010

The last time the Australian/New Zealand construction known as Crowded House toured the U.S., to promote the 2007 disc Time on Earth, their only Texas date was in Austin. This time around, to push the new Intriguer album, the veteran quartet has added a Dallas stop, Aug. 5 at the House of Blues.

"I think there's an audience for us there," says Crowded House architect Neil Finn by phone from New York City. He acknowledges that in the past the American South was never the place where his band, known for such '80s hits as Don't Dream It's Over and Something So Strong, was most popular.

"It becomes -- I don't want to say a self-fulfilling prophecy -- but if you only play your strongest markets, they stay your strongest markets," the singer-songwriter-guitarist says. "We've played Dallas before and done well, and Austin, of course, that's a recognized college town."

This will be the first time a Dallas audience will have seen the group since it officially disbanded in 1995, suffered the suicide of drummer Paul Hester in 2005 and regrouped two years later. Finn says Intriguer came together more easily than Time on Earth because it didn't have the pressure of being the first album of new material in 14 years or being created in the shadow of Hester's death.

"The actual recording session was really enjoyable," says Finn, 52. "I always put some angst into it, but overall it was a much easier project."

Outside the House

Even though Crowded House was on hiatus for much of the '90s and '00s, Finn continued to burnish his reputation as a songwriter of introspective yet hook-heavy, McCartney-esque pop-rock through his solo albums, collaborations with brother Tim Finn (who was also briefly in Crowded House) and his "supergroup" of sorts, the loose-knit 7 Worlds Collide, featuring Radiohead's Phil Selway and Ed O'Brien, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Glenn Kotche, the Smiths' Johnny Marr, KT Tunstall and Lisa Germano, among others.

He says he approaches his songwriting in a similar fashion, no matter which of his projects lands the song. "You sit at the piano or guitar, and you will something into being to make you feel a certain way," he explains.

In fact, it was through his connections with his 7 Worlds Collide cohorts in Wilco that he decided to use their producer, Jim Scott, for Intriguer.

"They spoke highly of him," Finn recalls. "I thought he would be a good central figure in this whole thing, that his style and attitude would work. And he was a joy to work with."

Though Finn's style has fallen out of favor with contemporary Top 40 stations -- you're most likely to hear him on adult album alternative formats these days -- he's not too upset about the shift. "Nobody thought [in 1987] Don't Dream It's Over would get on Top 40, but a window opened for us. It's a different beast than it used to be, but it wasn't exactly great back then either.

"The idea of having a song in the Top 40 is still an appealing thought, but I'm beyond thinking that's the way to measure success. The audience we have that comes out and appreciates each record, that means more ultimately."

Like father, like son

In one way, Finn is reliving his youth -- which included a stint in the pioneering New Zealand band Split Enz before he formed Crowded House -- through his son, Liam, who is developing his own name as a solo act. Finn says he has run the gamut of emotions in terms of his son's career.

"When you have kids, they're an experiment," he says. "When the kid wants to do the same thing as you, you think you know best and then you realize you don't. He's such an accomplished musician, and he's in control of his own art and talent.

"I see him struggle at times and you wish you could take that burden away, but you recognize that you went through that.... It's a hard job, but he loves it."

Cary Darling, 817-390-7571

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