INXS (Live)

At The City Hall, Newcastle, U.K., June 15, 2007

Replacing your lead singer is arguably the most significant change a band can make. Do you go for an identikit singer and attempt to reproduce your classic sound a la Journey or do you go for someone totally different and forge ahead with a new identity and sound as with Van Halen? INXS have tried both.

On the passing of their iconic lead singer Michael Hutchence in 1997, the rest of INXS were faced with this exact conundrum. Not wanting to fold the band they had created together back at the turn of the ’80s the remaining band members recruited former Noiseworks screamer Jon Stevens to fill the void left by the untimely death of Hutchence. Forsaking the more effeminate posturing of Hutchence in favor of a more macho archetypal Aussie, Stevens appeared to be taking the band in a harder direction until he quit after a couple of years citing the lack of progress within the band.

With INXS back to square one, drastic measures were in line. With reality T.V. shows currently all the rage they took on the industry at their own game and held televised auditions with the help of Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. The contest resulted in one J.D. Fortune taking the unenviable task of stepping into the shoes of Hutchence. With their first album in 8 years released in 2005, INXS were ready to hit the shores of the UK for their first tour with Fortune at the helm.

Hitting the stage with “Suicide Blonde” followed by “Where We Belong”, Fortune immediately set out to make an impression. Twisting and bending his slender frame, swooping from one side of the stage to the other continually running his hands through his hair, Fortune looked and sounded very much like Hutchence. In fact his movements were Hutchence to a T, uncannily so, from the way he stood, to the way he moved to his facial expressions. With Stevens, INXS looked to go for a different style, with Fortune it is clear they are looking to reproduce the classic sound.

While most of the focus was on Fortune, don’t forget that behind the front man is a damn fine band. The rhythm section of Gary Beers (bass) and Jon Farris (drums) was as hard hitting as any you’d find and as tight as a ducks backside. The incisive, sharp riffs of John and Tim Farris who, along with Kirk Pengilly give INXS their trademark snappy sound. Live, they are a much tougher proposition with a more cutting edge shorn of the studio gloss that most will be aware.

“Mystify”, with its sassy sax break from Pengilly and “You’re So Fine” followed in quick succession before Fortune introduced the first new song of the night “from the album that sold 4 copies!!” before launching into an insipid “Afterglow” where Fortune sounded more Bowie than Hutchence.

“Sweet Temptation” saw things nicely back on track with its funky, bubbling bass line, hard driving beat, and rasping sax along with the trademark sparkling guitar riffs. “Never Let You Go” also from their last album Switch, continued the Rocking momentum as Fortune drew on one of numerous cigarettes he smoked over the course of the evening, getting through as many as possible before the nationwide smoking ban was enforced a couple of weeks later.

“New Sensation” is INXS at their very best and on this form there are few who can match them for their brand of high energy, edgy Pop-Rock and certainly live; they come across with a much harder edge than their studio performances would suggest. The converse of this is their spine tingling ballad “Never Tear Us Apart,” which is their piece de resistance featuring Pengilly’s show stopping saxophone break.

As the fist pumping “Don’t Change A Thing For Me” drew the night to a close, two things became clear. The musicianship in the band is top notch with some great performances throughout. Secondly, the jury is still out on Fortune. Sure he can sing the material note for note, but at times his near cloning of Hutchence is un-nerving and he really should find his own persona and then the band might be able to emerge from the giant shadow of Hutchence. Despite this criticism, this was an enjoyable show and the majority of the crowd returned home more than satisfied.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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