Neil Finn and Paul Kelly
ON A night when a Beatle led a singalong in West Melbourne and My Bloody Valentine were preparing to create molten guitar shapes in Altona, two middle-aged men carrying lanterns walked onto a black stage in St Kilda to the sound of cicadas. They shook hands, picked up acoustic guitars and launched into Don't Stand So Close to the Window, Paul Kelly taking the vocal low road on his 1988 infidelity tale, Neil Finn riding him word-for-word in high harmony.
The campfire motif reoccurred throughout the opening night of the joint tour by two of Australasia's great songwriters - in smoky versions of Finn's Private Universe and Not the Girl You Think You Are, in Kelly's blues harp turning up in unlikely places, and in the bush backdrop. But the theme was loose. Mostly, the 2½-hour show was a relaxed celebration, as the pair traded songs from personal archives of folk, balladry and rock'n'roll stretching more than three decade.
Deftly backed by Kelly's nephew Dan, Finn's son Elroy and bassist Zoe Hauptmann, the stars mostly took the lead on their own songs, though some of the best moments came when they dived into each other's repertoires. Kelly gave a knowing take on Into Temptation, Crowded House's divine lullaby about carnal sin; Finn returned the favour on a world-weary You Can Put Your Shoes Under My Bed. There were hits and golden rarities, and while a couple of cues were missed, it only added to the warmth of the night.