Hi. Thanks for writing.
Yes, Neil has indeed done some excellent studio work that can’t be matched live: much of his work with Crowded House, and Everyone Is Here, for example.
However, I’ll take Neil live over nearly every Split Enz studio recording. The guys in the band weren’t very good musicians, yet. The production was generally poor, and the sound dated badly. A great song like “I Got You” can transcend those limitations and still sound OK, but I still prefer Neil’s live version on Sessions at West 54th, because he really knew how to sing and play by then. I never much liked “Take a Walk” until I heard the Seven Worlds Collide version — though I’d prefer a live version without Vedder.
Songs from the first Finn Brothers solo album sound better live. First, because they made a puzzling production decision to go for a muddy, lo-fi sound. Second, because the Finns don’t play bass or drums very well. The songs sounded much better live on Seven Worlds Collide and on the Everyone Is Here tour.
For similar reasons, I like Neil live with a band better than most of his solo studio work. Even for a capable multi-instrumentalist like Neil, it often feels soulless when a single musician builds a song (or most of a song) by multitracking. Consequently, listening to some of Neil’s solo work can feel like a chore. Put the same songs in the hands of gifted musicians playing together in the same room, and magic happens. Compare, for example, the studio versions of “She Will Have Her Way” and “Loose Tongue” on Try Whistling This with the vastly superior live versions on Seven Worlds Collide. With Time on Earth, you can hear and feel a distinctly different energy between the tracks Neil cobbled together solo and the four songs recorded by Crowded House as a band (“Don’t Stop Now,” “She Called Up,” “Even a Child,” “Transit Lounge”).
Out of Silence is the first Neil solo album that would be hard to improve on live.
7 Split Enz studio albums + Neil’s first 3 solo studio albums + the first Finn Brothers studio album + Time on Earth + Pajama Club = 13 Neil studio albums comprised mostly of songs that would sound better live
The other 6 Crowded House studio albums + Everyone Is Here + Out of Silence = 8 albums comprised mostly of songs that are hard to match live
I stand by my “often.”