Live Review: Paul Kelly and Neil Finn + Lisa Mitchell - Sydney Opera House (10.03.13)


To see a first time Sydney Opera House performance of one of Australia’s newest talents at the same time as seeing a showcase of vintage Australiana is a pleasure beyond comparison. I’m sorry Neil, I know you’re a Kiwi, but face the facts: we’ve adopted you and your bro’ Tum and we ain’t letting go.

Lisa Mitchell walked on stage with a stylish red dress and a coy attitude. She doesn’t yet seem completely at home on stage and affects a shy teenage charm. She talks to the audience like a schoolgirl negotiating her way out of detention. It’s all “yeah” and “um”, and “like, you know”. At times, I was almost expecting a “lol”.

Anyway, Gen-Y bashing aside (I’m technically one), she was exceptional, and for her first time at Sydney Opera House she performed well within the league of ladies and gentlemen who have graced that stage. She certainly played all her hits that I deign to acknowledge although I know and love far more than I care to admit. From “The Raven and the Mushroom Man” to “Coin Laundry”, all the way through to “Spiritus”, it was all there. Unfortunately though, Mitchell’s electric guitar had a high-end jangle, like wind chimes you wish would fall to the ground and shatter in a thousand pieces. It was almost obtrusively piercing at times, though Mitchell’s voice and playing rectified any great displeasure.

Now to those paragons of Australian culture, or at least to the one that would admit it with pride, and the other that will live in denial forever due to the trans-Tasman rivalry. Sorry Neil, but we own you now. Once you play the Opera House, you're ours.


Paul Kelly and Neil Finn walked on stage holding camping lanterns with a gorgeous bush backdrop by Noel Crombie and Sally Mill and cicadas chirping in the background . They shook hands as if only meeting for the first time and launched into “Four Seasons In One Day”. They covered many of the classics early with Kelly’s “Before Too Long” coming soon after. Of course their repertoire is colossal so it was basically hit after hit.

Finn ripped a killer guitar solo during “She Will Have Her Way” proving he is the most versatile musician of the pair. In fact, there was quite a bit of gentle ribbing going on with Kelly admitting early on that he is not that knowledgeable about the guitar and had to learn several new chords in order to play some of Finn’s compositions such as the Sus2 chord at the beginning of “Hey Now” that had Kelly waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. Neil Finn later drew upon this to lightly mock Paul, but of course, the light derision went both ways with Kelly teasing Finn for the pronunciation of his brother Tim’s name (Tum).

The band, which consisted of close family including Dan Kelly and Elroy Finn practically didn’t skip a beat, although Kelly did kind of ruin my favourite, “Dumb Things”, by altering the melody to sound conversational. Other favourite classics like “One Step Ahead” and “How To Make Gravy” were sung practically like the original recordings. After a two and a half hour powerhouse of a set, Finn indulged a yelled audience request by playing “Message To My Girl”, and earning a standing ovation.