It felt like half of Australia watched Powderfinger “reunite” from a (social) distance at the weekend. A decade after parting ways, seemingly pretty amicably, while promising a reunion was not on the cards, they were brought back for one night.
Not for the dosh or to fill a hole where a public love affair used to exist but as a chance to raise funds and bring some good feeling. Typically, you might say, for a band that always had more of a conscience than an ego.
Wind Back Wednesday, in the continuing quest to make up for the complete absence of flesh/sweat/volume gigs, takes the opportunity to fly back to their final – for now? – tour.
Sydney Entertainment Centre, September 18
What, you expected explosions and grand statements, tears and dancing girls? As if.
This may well be the final shows for a band nestled at the heart of the local rock industry and deep within the hearts of a substantial number of trend-averse fans who would probably gag on Gaga. But if announcing a farewell tour (a sadly besmirched concept in these days of endless Melba moments) was a moment of forgivable grandstanding, Powderfinger were always going to go out pretty much as they came in: as ordinary blokes up for a bit of a go.
Oh there were glitziy computer graphics, old newsreel footage and some high falutin laser business. There was a lengthy show which canvassed a fair spread of their career - though as usual nothing from the tentative baby steps debut record and, more tellingly, only two songs from their one weak album, Dream Days At The Hotel Existence.
And there were flashes of the showmanship which belatedly coloured performances in the latter part of their 20-year career, with Darren Middleton flamboyantly dropping to his knees during some guitar pyrotechnics and Bernard Fanning cocking a hip and swinging a microphone stand in his stylish Cuban heels.
But really they were not much different to when I first saw them 14 years ago: a rock band of unassuming proportions, though undoubted talent, who happened to connect with you and were almost surprised to see that happen.
It was this connection which helped carry the first 50 minutes: a steady but never quite thrilling opening bracket which cried out for some of that extra, more defined, emotion. It was when the band briefly switched to a mini stage halfway up the room, punching out the harder edged Like A Dog and Stumblin’ (and even a drum solo leading into a chunky instrumental escapade) and followed it with Fanning’s Neil Young solo-with-harmonica moment in the fragile ballad, Nobody Sees, that matters took a noticeable upturn.
The crowd came into play then, initiating the biggest singalong of the night in My Happiness, riding both The Passenger and Pick You Up hard, and joining These Days for an ending which was, after all that, appropriate.
Not for its none-truer lyrics (“these days turned out nothing like I had planned”) but because it closed the night with feeling rather than high emotion, unity rather than claims on uniqueness, for a solid, unfussy, satisfying relationship.