Do you remember the first boy you ever loved?
I was 14. He was much older, but I didn’t care. I’d watched him on Countdown completely smitten, and when my friends bought me Crowded House the album for my birthday I was gone for all money.
I went home from school that afternoon, and every afternoon for months, and dropped the stylus on my Dad’s record player, just waiting for that voice .. She came all the way from America .. and on and on he sang, while I read the print off the liner notes and memorised every line.
I loved Neil Finn then, with every fibre of my being. I loved him so much that the feelings I had for him as a 14-year-old girl have never really gone away. They’re hidden by other things - let’s call them reality - until I hear a Crowded House song on the radio and that voice is singing Shakespeare to me all over again. Or until, as so happened last Monday night, I am sitting in a front-row box seat in the Sydney Opera House concert hall, watching my first love and trying not to let my heart beat right out of its chest.
When I heard that Neil Finn and Paul Kelly were touring together, it was like a Christian being told that Jesus was moving in next door and bringing his Dad. I was 19 when I first fell in love with Paul Kelly and his stories - a little bit older but not much wiser .. Kiss me quick, kiss me warm, put your dress on and hurry back home .. I knew I couldn’t miss it. But I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle it - at all. What if I was overcome and had to be ushered out of the room, collapsing in the foyer in a puddle of hormones and emotional immaturity? What if I just started sobbing uncontrollably?
I’m not ashamed to say that both of these scenarios were a real possibility as the lights dropped and the Finn/Kelly experience began. There they both were, guitars in full song, and I was mesmerised. I soon let go of any tenuous link to my real, 40-year-old life and just relished every minute, like I was 14 (or 19) all over again.
Several times I was struck with complete awe. There was Paul Kelly, singing his beautiful heart out, making new poetry out of the words of Neil Finn. And there beside him was - yes, it really was - Neil Finn.
It went like that for almost three hours, and as each hour passed I started to dread it coming to an end. But after three encores and more beauty than I could ever have imagined, the two men returned to centre stage, picked up their guitars and sang Moon River.
I could have wept and kept on weeping, but my heart was too full.