Following on from the successful ENZSO projects of the mid/late 1990s – where the music of Split Enz was arranged and performed with the help and heft of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra – Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner has taken an orchestra-lite ensemble on the road to revisit a swag of classic tracks.
Sonically, it’s a fascinating exercise in exploration and preservation, often within the space of a song itself: I See Red, and Shark Attack both have been pulled apart and tinkered with in their first parts, before clamouring back midway to the original tune by the end.
Phil Madsen, Rikki Morris, and Rima Te Wiata are on vocal duty here and handle the material in splendid fashion. Phil and Rikki sound not too unlike Tim and Neil Finn, which is possibly why they play things relatively straight when performing. On the other hand, Rima brings a beautiful anarchistic quality to her set, both physically and vocally, which only benefits numbers like Matinee Idyll, and Strait Old Line.
Despite a small brass section and five violinists, they certainly achieve an epic sound throughout. It worked for the most part, although some tracks didn’t always make for a comfortable fit. There was a lot of scale, but little to no sparseness, and you wonder whether a song like Stuff and Nonsense would benefit more from silence and a feel of devastation instead of the huge inspirational treatment it got.
But, the show isn’t really designed for such mucking about. Ultimately, it succeeds in being a loving celebration of a group of musicians still important to a lot of fans in New Zealand and Australia. A nice piece of nostalgia on a Friday night.
ENZO: The Songs of Split Enz
Hamer Hall – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 17 November 2017 – 8.00pm
Image: Eddie Rayner (supplied)
Review: David Collins