Why this fantastic and tearful Crowded House performance of 'Don't Dream It's Over' is utterly tragic

20 August 2021, 14:29

Crowded House's 1996 farewell show
Crowded House's 1996 farewell show. Picture: Parlophone/YouTube

By Tom Eames

By the mid-1990s, Crowded House had become one of the world's most popular bands.

With hits such as 'Weather With You' and 'Don't Dream It's Over', they had become one of Australia and New Zealand's biggest exports.

Crowded House's founding members were New Zealander Neil Finn and Australians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour, with Mark Hart joining in 1992.

But by 1996, the band decided to call it a day. The group announced a one-off Farewell To The World show on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Seeing the band ending the night with 'Don't Dream It's Over' would have been an emotional moment at the best of times, but it has since proved to be even more poignant due to what happened next.

Saying goodbye

Crowded House were in the middle of a US tour when drummer Paul Hester quit the band in April 1994.

Paul flew home to Melbourne for the birth of his first child, and said that he needed more time with his family. Replacement Peter Jones eventually replaced him.

In June 1996, at a press conference to announce the release of their greatest hits album Recurring Dream, singer Neil Finn announced that Crowded House were to end.

Crowded House's 1996 farewell show
Crowded House's 1996 farewell show. Picture: Parlophone/YouTube

However, concerned that their goodbye with shows in Europe and Canada had ignored their home fans, the band performed the Farewell to the World on November 24, 1996.

The show raised funds for the Sydney Children's Hospital, and featured the line-up of Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Mark Hart and Paul Hester. Neil's brother Tim Finn and drummer Peter Jones also made guest appearances.

The concert had one of the highest live audiences in Australian history, with the crowd being around 120,000 to 250,000 people.

The night ended with a performance of 'Don't Dream It's Over', with Paul Hester visbily upset on the drums, before the band bowed to the crowd with the Opera House in the distance.

Watch the performance below:

This would prove to be the final time Paul Hester performed with the band.

Paul Hester's death

Paul Hester had previously been the drummer for Neil Finn's brother Tim's band Split Enz before forming Crowded House.

By 1993, Paul had grown frustrated of the demands of his career, and began suffering from a phobia about leaving to go on tour.

On March 26, 2005, aged 46, Paul Hester died by suicide, in Elsternwick Park near his home. His two daughters, Olive and Sunday, were aged five and 10 at the time of his death.

Crowded House (left to right Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Paul Hester, Tim Finn) in 1991
Crowded House (left to right Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Paul Hester, Tim Finn) in 1991. Picture: Getty

His family and close friends had stated that he had been suffering from depression for several years, and was prone to severe mood swings.

Paul was buried at Blackwood in the Central Highlands region of Victoria. His life was commemorated at the 2005 Aria Awards, with Neil Finn singing Crowded House's 'Better Be Home Soon'.

Crowded House's reunions

The band stayed apart until a reunion in 2007, with the lineup consisting of Neil Finn, Mark Hart, Nick Seymour and new drummer Matt Sherrod.

Paul Hester's previous replacement Peter Jones died from brain cancer in 2012, aged just 49.

Read more: Beach Boys' Brian Wilson shares Crowded House star's stunning cover of ‘God Only Knows’

The band split again in 2011, but they reunited once more in 2016 to mark 20 years since the Farewell to the World show. The band, with the same lineup as its previous reunion and Tim Finn as a guest, performed four shows at the Sydney Opera House in November 2016.

A further reunion occurred in 2020. Currently the band consists of Neil Finn, Nick Seymour, Mitchell Froom, and Neil's sons Liam and Elroy Finn.

The band performed another stunning version of 'Don't Dream It's Over' on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in August 2021 to mark the release of their new album Dreamers Are Waiting.