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Music Review

Decades on, Crowded House is as solid as ever

Neil Finn, here performing last month, leads Crowded House. Neil Finn, here performing last month, leads Crowded House. (Anoek de Groot/associated press/file)

"You're geniuses!," an audience member declared toward the Bank of America Pavilion stage, where Crowded House was midway through an ebullient, career-surveying set Sunday night. The remark reached its destination and was duly noted.

"What did he say -- senior citizens?" cracked singer-songwriter Neil Finn, glancing over at bassist Nick Seymour. "I believe he said 'geniuses,' " deadpanned Seymour, which set into motion a comedic riff by Finn on the dubious relationship between genius and senility.

It's safe to assume that it will be awhile before Finn, 49, has to worry about the onset of the latter. For much of the past 25 years, the one-time wunderkind of New Zealand's Split Enz (his big brother Tim's band) has had the mantle of the former to live up to. On Sunday, before a crowded but not full house of worshipers, Finn and his reunited cohorts performed with equal parts charm and a bushel of blissful pop hooks that were as luxurious as they were economical.

From the first notes of the crisply upbeat opener, "Locked Out," to the acoustic valentine "Better Be Home Soon," which closed the show nearly two hours and as many encores later, Crowded House made the decade between tours melt away. Finn's friendly blush of a tenor felt like an old embrace, and the band's biggest ballad, "Don't Dream It's Over," remained, as ever, a sweet-tempered anthem of resolve.

Of course, some things change. These days, Finn's son, Liam, is on hand to help out his old man on acoustic guitar (the younger Finn opened the show before affably bland singer-songwriter Pete Yorn's middling second-slot supporting set). And a lovingly revisited catalog could not bring back drummer Paul Hester, who committed suicide in 2005. (Finn dedicated "Italian Plastic" to his fallen bandmate.) But his replacement, Matt Sherrod, fit into the fold with tasteful elegance. Guitarist-keyboardist Mark Hart was also impeccable.

Finn seasoned the set with potent material from the band's new album, "Time on Earth," which held up admirably alongside the casked perennials. There was the jangle and verve of "Don't Stop Now"; a glistening, gossamer "English Trees"; and the moody, brambled-guitar opulence of "Silent House." Crowded House bypassed its other bona fide US hit, "Something So Strong," and that was probably a shrewd move: the new, infectious "She Called Up" hewed a tad too closely to the indelible hook of the group's 1987 smash. A stroke of genius? Perhaps. Smart at the very least.


Crowded House

With Pete Yorn and Liam Finn

At: Bank of America Pavilion, Sunday night