“New Sensation” (1987) and “Girl on Fire” (1997) – INXS

Posted: January 7, 2016 in 1987, 1997
Tags: , , , ,

Long before INXS became an 80’s hit-making super group, the Australian band spent years playing clubs in every nook and cranny of their native country perfecting their pop/dance/rock sound. More than anything INXS was a great live band. Along with several U2 shows, I had always proclaimed the INXS KICK tour at the top of best concerts I had ever seen. Seeing a band at the height of their popularity in a large venue with tens of thousands ‘out-of-their-mind’ fans is an unbeatable thrill. But when musical magic happens in an intimate setting with miserable weather conditions and sparse attendance, that is truly something special — and how I witnessed INXS at their absolute best. On their ELEGANTLY WASTED tour, just a couple months before singer Michael Hutchence’s unfortunate death in Sydney at the young age of 37, the band forever solidified my respect for them as musicians and performers. It is the best live rock concert I have attended.

August 24th, 1997. It was a Sunday night. Pouring rain and unseasonably cool temperatures for a late Summer evening. My wife and I were both sick and seriously debated on whether we should even go to the concert — but it was one of our favorite bands, so we decided we must. The venue was Nautica Stage, a small and comfortable outdoor amphitheater on the west bank of the Flats in Cleveland. Located right next to the Cuyahoga River and the Powerhouse, an old power plant which was converted into an indoor entertainment complex which now houses Cleveland Aquarium.

INXS was on the downward slope of their commercial success. The 1000 or so fans meandering around for the general admission seating show was a stark contrast to the sold-out arena and stadium tours INXS played for many years. The band could have easily just gone through the motions. Instead, fresh with a strong new record, ELEGANTLY WASTED, INXS lit up Cleveland with an incredibly high-energy performance. The powerful, full and clean wall of sound that came off the stage rivaled any concert I ever attended, including Metallica and many other metals bands. Led by the mysterious and always entertaining Hutchence, the band fired out one great song after — “Devil Inside”, “Suicide Blonde”, “What You Need”, “New Sensation”, “Heaven Sent”, “Disappear” and “Mediate”. Mixed in were new tunes, some of the best material ever done by the A. Farris/M. Hutchence songwriting team – “Elegantly Wasted”, “I’m Just a Man” and my personal favorite, “Girl on Fire.” The guitar playing of Tim Farris stood out on this night – his big and crunching sound intensified the delivery of the songs. Hutchence was in rare form and very comical often commenting on Cleveland’s many raised bridges, visible from the stage, which point straight up in the sky – “Where to do those go?” and “How do you people drive here in Cleveland?”

The music abruptly stopped a few months later when Hutchence passed. As a fan I hoped the remaining members could regroup and successfully continue, but you simply cannot replace the voice and colonial spirit of Hutchence. INXS has recorded and toured with other singers, including J.D. Fortune winner ROCKSTAR INXS, the 2005 reality show in which the surviving members of INXS auditioned and picked a new lead singer. While the band’s last studio release SWITCH in 2005 produced some good songs and positive musical results by the new lineup, it was short-lived. Unfortunately, and unlike countless other bands from earlier rock decades, there will never be a reunion of the original members – the version everyone would love to hear again. INXS enjoyed a resurgence in their Australia homeland with the 2014 release of their documentary NEVER TEAR US APART. The renewed interest shot several of their albums released in the 80’s to the top of the charts – success the band had not experienced for many years. Thanks to recordings and technology we are able to remember Hutchence, in my opinion one of the greatest rock front men ever, and continue to enjoy INXS for great recording and live band they have always been.

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