‘Lightning’ strikes for Liam Finn

It was a good plan, at least on paper: Kiwi Liam Finn’s scheme of leaving his island for gritty London a couple of years ago to launch a folk-rock career from scratch.

But he simply couldn’t shake New Zealand, no matter how hard he tried. His father, Crowded House founder Neil Finn, moved to nearby Bath. His band, Betchadupa, eventually broke up, as did he and his longtime girlfriend.

Even his day job had an aura of home: a New Zealand-based coffeehouse chain.

“It was one of the few places in London where you could get a really good cup of coffee,” says Finn, who opens for Eddie Vedder in Santa Cruz on Saturday and in Berkeley on Monday and Tuesday.

But that plan, too, was foiled. The final insult came after he was reprimanded by his boss for goofing off and the friend who helped him get the job told the boss he wanted to quit. Says Finn, 24: “So that, by default, meant that I quit.” He was jobless, bandless, loveless.

The positive thing that resulted from his sabbatical was his Yep Roc debut disc, “I’ll Be Lightning,” featuring 14 diary-honest songs including “This Place Is Killing Me” and “Wide Awake on the Voyage Home.” It was, of course, recorded back home in Auckland.

Finn — who recently toured as both backing musician and opening act for Crowded House — says he didn’t comprehend his dad’s genius until his mid-teens, when he began composing himself.

He’s updated Neil’s quirky, off-kilter craftsmanship with a do-it-yourself topspin. He played almost every “Lightning” instrument himself, and in concert replicates the music via effects pedals and co-vocalist Eliza-Jane Barnes (daughter of Cold Chisel frontman Jimmy Barnes).

It’s all thanks to that period of “mayhem and chaos,” says Finn. “And it wasn’t like I was depressed, but I became very anxious. And I learned a lot about myself and how not to be anxious, how to be happy instead. And ultimately I ended up having a really good time after that — London came around and I started to really enjoy living there.”

But today he lives out of his suitcase, as a result of nonstop touring. In retrospect, he’s pretty upbeat about his Dickensian days.

He says, “You need to have those moments in life, don’t you? Where you get to the lowest of the low, then all of a sudden you turn a corner and everything’s great. So I haven’t looked back since.”

IF YOU GO

Eddie Vedder with Liam Finn

Where: Zellerbach Auditorium, near Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, UC Berkeley

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

Tickets: $65

Contact: (415) 421-8497; www.ticketmaster.com

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Chelsea Hung, who owns Washington Bakery and Restaurant in Chinatown with her mother, said the restaurant is only making about 30 percent of pre-pandemic revenues. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown’s slow recovery has business owners fearing for the future

Lack of outside visitors threatens to push neighborhood into ‘downward spiral’

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and members of the orchestra were thrilled to be back inside Davies Symphony Hall on May 6 in a program for first responders featuring string works by Jean Sibelius, George Walker, Carl Nielsen, Caroline Shaw and Edward Grieg. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Symphony)
SF Symphony makes joyful return to Davies Hall

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts program for first responders and community leaders

Students in an after-school community hub move quickly through a social circle as they play a game at the Mission YMCA on Friday, May 7, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Parents scramble for ‘Summer Together’ spaces

City program offering free camps sees high demand, confusion over enrollment

Jazz pianist and composer Jon Jang is an instructor at Community Music Center in the Mission District. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Jon Jang composes bittersweet symphonies

Musician-activist’s works are steeped in civil rights history

Keith Doran, left, and the author celebrate a short but successful outing on El Capitan. (Courtesy photo)
Climb on: 50 lessons in 50 years, part 3

Series offers tips for adventurers seeking fulfillment outdoors

Most Read