‘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

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