Neil Finn performs at the Live Earth Concert at Aussie Stadium in Sydney in 2007. Patrick Riviere / Reuters
Neil Finn performs at the Live Earth Concert at Aussie Stadium in Sydney in 2007. Patrick Riviere / Reuters

Neil Finn chats ahead of his show at The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium



Think Crowded House — and its enduringly agreeable songwriter Neil Finn — and the lascivious baritone croon of Barry White is probably the last artist who springs to mind. After all, over the sunny melodies of Weather With You, Don't Dream It's Over and Chocolate Cake, Finn's lyrics talk of blue skies, television pages and, well, chocolate cake. And yet, Finn's latest solo record begins with a slow jam dripping with sensual soul.

"I was really taken with Barry White's Love Serenade," he says from a hotel room on his United Kingdom tour, tongue not entirely in cheek. Thankfully, this 55-year-old New Zealander isn't getting frisky just yet, even if the first track Impressions might suggest just that.

“It’s a big, dreamy soup to ease you into the record and I was imagining what Barry White might have done with that song when I put the string arrangements on,” Finn explains. “I know that conventional wisdom is to put a pop tune at the front of the album. But I was trying to upset my own expectations and resist the temptation to make things more agreeable.”

Not that Dizzy Heights is a difficult album to like. It's packed with typical Finn pop-rock songcraft and winning choruses. But the commitment to experiment is partly why Finn has remained interesting and relevant where other fiftysomething singers might trade off past glories. As he prepares to play in Dubai for the first time — "something I'm really looking forward to" — Finn doesn't necessarily have to rely on the nostalgic memories of his audience.

“I’m trying to find new angles all the time, mostly for my own piece of mind,” he says, pointing to his work with Dave Fridmann, the producer responsible for Flaming Lips, Tame Impala and MGMT’s more adventurous records. “It’s so easy to repeat yourself. For some artists that works, but I want to feel like I’ve travelled through my life and represented the sum of my ­experience.”

It helps, he thinks, that he's surrounded himself with younger people in the recording process for Dizzy Heights. And with his sons, Liam and Elroy, playing on the record and wife, Sharon, playing the bass, Dizzy Heights is quite a family affair.

“Having young people around lends a certain energy,” he agrees. “Of course, older musicians can have that, too. I saw Neil Young and Crazy Horse not so long ago, all of whom played like teenagers in a rehearsal room. But there’s this sense of wonder with young people.

"I'm really fond of Pony Ride on the album. It's largely what we played as a family on the studio floor and it's my 92-year-old father's favourite. I think that's because he won a horse-riding competition in his little town when he was young."

Finn’s songs have always had a propensity to trigger memories of place and time. He thinks this ability to soundtrack people’s lives is the best part of being a songwriter.

“I’ve had the most extraordinary range of reactions to songs I’ve written all through my life,” he says. “They help people through tough times, they provide a spark. I’ve come to realise it’s more important to write songs that stand the test of time than write an immediate hit. Although sometimes you get both, which is no bad thing, either.”

Finn is, of course, talking of the string of hits that came in the early 1990s with Crowded House. Fall At Your Feet, Weather With You and Distant Sun all hit the charts at the back end of grunge and the beginnings of Britpop. Finn couldn't hope to match the cool value of Oasis' Definitely Maybe — but listen to the 1993 album Together Alone now, and it has a real lasting value.

“We used to get a lot of reviews that began: ‘I’m not supposed to like this, but,’ and to me that was more of a reflection on the writer. It’s unhelpful to consider whether you’re hip or not — it doesn’t assist you when you’re trying to write a song. To me, the coolness is in the body of the work, rather than where the songs were in one ­moment.”

This is perhaps why Finn will never tire of playing Weather With You, and promises the Dubai set will be packed with familiar songs.

“It’s not like they’re novelty tracks that became burdensome hits — they represent me pretty well,” he says. “A youthful zip, you might say.”

Neil Finn is at The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Thursday. Visit www.doneevents.com

A beginner’s guide to Neil Finn

1 Got You (Split Enz, 1980)

Neil joined his elder brother Tim’s band as a teenager in 1977 and wrote one of the first identifiably 1980s pop songs soon after.

2 Don't Dream It's Over (Crowded House, 1986)

Confirmation of this ballad's classic status surely came when Don't Dream It's Over featured on Glee.

3 Weather With You (Crowded House, 1992)

Archetypal Crowded House and the soundtrack to many lazy summer days.

4 Distant Sun (Crowded House, 1993)

Finn didn't always write about meteorological conditions (see also Four Seasons In One Day) but this is one of his favourite tracks on album Together Alone.

5 In My Blood (Neil Finn, 2013)

A quietly reflective verse gives way to a typically singalong Finn chorus. Highlight of his new album.

HIV on the rise in the region

A 2019 United Nations special analysis on Aids reveals 37 per cent of new HIV infections in the Mena region are from people injecting drugs.

New HIV infections have also risen by 29 per cent in western Europe and Asia, and by 7 per cent in Latin America, but declined elsewhere.

Egypt has shown the highest increase in recorded cases of HIV since 2010, up by 196 per cent.

Access to HIV testing, treatment and care in the region is well below the global average.  

Few statistics have been published on the number of cases in the UAE, although a UNAIDS report said 1.5 per cent of the prison population has the virus.

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Quick facts
  • Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) offers free guided tours of art in the metro and at the stations
  • The tours are free of charge; all you need is a valid SL ticket, for which a single journey (valid for 75 minutes) costs 39 Swedish krone ($3.75)
  • Travel cards for unlimited journeys are priced at 165 Swedish krone for 24 hours
  • Avoid rush hour – between 9.30 am and 4.30 pm – to explore the artwork at leisure
'My Son'

Director: Christian Carion

Starring: James McAvoy, Claire Foy, Tom Cullen, Gary Lewis

Rating: 2/5

The Bio

Ram Buxani earned a salary of 125 rupees per month in 1959

Indian currency was then legal tender in the Trucial States.

He received the wages plus food, accommodation, a haircut and cinema ticket twice a month and actuals for shaving and laundry expenses

Buxani followed in his father’s footsteps when he applied for a job overseas

His father Jivat Ram worked in general merchandize store in Gibraltar and the Canary Islands in the early 1930s

Buxani grew the UAE business over several sectors from retail to financial services but is attached to the original textile business

He talks in detail about natural fibres, the texture of cloth, mirrorwork and embroidery 

Buxani lives by a simple philosophy – do good to all

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

LOVE AGAIN

Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

The specs

Engine: 3.9-litre twin-turbo V8
Power: 620hp from 5,750-7,500rpm
Torque: 760Nm from 3,000-5,750rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale: Now
Price: From Dh1.05 million ($286,000)

RESULTS

 

Catchweight 63.5kg: Shakriyor Juraev (UZB) beat Bahez Khoshnaw (IRQ). Round 3 TKO (body kick)

Lightweight: Nart Abida (JOR) beat Moussa Salih (MAR). Round 1 by rear naked choke

Catchweight 79kg: Laid Zerhouni (ALG) beat Ahmed Saeb (IRQ). Round 1 TKO (punches)

Catchweight 58kg: Omar Al Hussaini (UAE) beat Mohamed Sahabdeen (SLA) Round 1 rear naked choke

Flyweight: Lina Fayyad (JOR) beat Sophia Haddouche (ALG) Round 2 TKO (ground and pound)

Catchweight 80kg: Badreddine Diani (MAR) beat Sofiane Aïssaoui (ALG) Round 2 TKO

Flyweight: Sabriye Sengul (TUR) beat Mona Ftouhi (TUN). Unanimous decision

Middleweight: Kher Khalifa Eshoushan (LIB) beat Essa Basem (JOR). Round 1 rear naked choke

Heavyweight: Mohamed Jumaa (SUD) beat Hassen Rahat (MAR). Round 1 TKO (ground and pound)

Lightweight: Abdullah Mohammad Ali Musalim (UAE beat Omar Emad (EGY). Round 1 triangle choke

Catchweight 62kg: Ali Taleb (IRQ) beat Mohamed El Mesbahi (MAR). Round 2 KO

Catchweight 88kg: Mohamad Osseili (LEB) beat Samir Zaidi (COM). Unanimous decision

Sour Grapes

Author: Zakaria Tamer
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Pages: 176

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Day 1, Dubai Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Sadeera Samarawickrama set pulses racing with his strokeplay on his introduction to Test cricket. It reached a feverish peak when he stepped down the wicket and launched Yasir Shah, who many regard as the world’s leading spinner, back over his head for six. No matter that he was out soon after: it felt as though the future had arrived.

Stat of the day - 5 The last time Sri Lanka played a Test in Dubai – they won here in 2013 – they had four players in their XI who were known as wicketkeepers. This time they have gone one better. Each of Dinesh Chandimal, Kaushal Silva, Samarawickrama, Kusal Mendis, and Niroshan Dickwella – the nominated gloveman here – can keep wicket.

The verdict Sri Lanka want to make history by becoming the first team to beat Pakistan in a full Test series in the UAE. They could not have made a better start, first by winning the toss, then by scoring freely on an easy-paced pitch. The fact Yasir Shah found some turn on Day 1, too, will have interested their own spin bowlers.

The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 201hp at 5,200rpm

Torque: 320Nm at 1,750-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.7L/100km

Price: Dh133,900

On sale: now

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

The Equaliser 2

Director Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Denzel Washington, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders

Three stars

Libya's Gold

UN Panel of Experts found regime secretly sold a fifth of the country's gold reserves.

The panel’s 2017 report followed a trail to West Africa where large sums of cash and gold were hidden by Abdullah Al Senussi, Qaddafi’s former intelligence chief, in 2011.

Cases filled with cash that was said to amount to $560m in 100 dollar notes, that was kept by a group of Libyans in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A second stash was said to have been held in Accra, Ghana, inside boxes at the local offices of an international human rights organisation based in France.