Well, it’s been and gone and I’ve recovered from the overwhelming noise and "experience" that was INXS.
Quick Summary (for those who want to know and move on)
INXS was fantastic, the band who fronted them was crap*.
* This may not have been completely their fault.
Details (for those who enjoy the extra bits)
I left the office in Sydney a little early to get home. With the added benefit of leaving before peak hour really hit its stride, that meant walking in the door around 5.30pm. That gave me enough time to do my "coming home" ritual of checking email, file downloads, getting changed (although this time into something appropriate for being seen in public) and having a drink, before Glenda walked in the door around 6.
With a quick double-check to make sure we knew where we were headed and that we had the tickets to actually get into the concert, we were off – another 90+ kilometre trek up to the Newcastle Entertainment Centre. Having never been there (well, in my case I guess it’s possible that I could have been there when I was young but just don’t remember) we joked about how it would probably be a big shed compared to Sydney Entertainment Centre. When we actually got there, it turned out that we weren’t joking – the Newcastle Entertainment Centre IS a big shed, albeit more massive than I had in my mind when I threw out the jests.
We even got $5 parking on the grass, ala a school fair or rural show. When we found our seats though we were slightly mollified – I doubt that we could get as good seats in the Sydney equivalent for the same price and the same casual booking process (rather than being on the phone at 9.01am first day of sales, the Newcastle show meant the few days we spent in deciding whether or not to go didn’t adversely impact us). Of course, the seats were the most uncomfortable ones we’d ever been in, and the stand felt like it would collapse under the sheer weight of all of us, but we figured it wouldn’t be long before we got to see the main attraction.
We were wrong.
After 30 minutes or so of waiting around and trying to decide whether we should chance a run to the hotdog stand, the cover band came up and started playing. I think I have this right – the lead guy goes by the stage name of Andy Clockwise and the album name is Classic FM but he kept introducing them as Classic FM as if that was the band name. Regardless of what the true state of affairs is with this band, they appeared to be very disorganised and the way they arrived on stage and performed might have worked well as a pub gig but not in a "concert hall".
I suspect one of their issues is that they have a huge variety of song styles so you might like one, but the next two put you off. The female vocalist was so grating that Glenda ended up putting her fingers in her ears to avoid the high pitched whine. Actually, speaking of noise, one of their biggest problems was that they just weren’t mixed well for that kind of space, resulting in half of their performance being just an amorphous mess of sound that we couldn’t decipher.
This was unfortunate because I think there were a few songs I quite liked.
Their other problem appeared to be that the bass player was a ring-in. For the first half of each song, he wouldn’t play anything, just bop up and down, and then meld in with their music when he figured out what the song was like. There were a couple that he obviously knew but mostly he wasn’t sure.
At one point the lead singer said "ok, that was it, we’re off now" and everyone cheered. He then said "sorry, just kidding" and there were actual boos going on (along with the much less flattering comments we could make out from the people around us).
Eventually they DID get off and after a small interval the main attraction appeared.
Let me just say this: INXS were great.
They played for about 90 minutes (including encore) and mixed the old and the new. Now that I’ve seen JD Fortune (the new lead singer) perform live with INXS for a full concert I can see why they picked him. His style evokes a sense that he is playing tribute to Michael Hutchence, without trying to copy him. As a result, the older songs that were performed by the old INXS were instantly recognisable and enjoyable but you could see JD putting his own spin on each.
He shone in some of the newer stuff, with the crowd really going wild on Pretty Vegas (I actually like most of the other tracks on Switch better than Pretty Vegas, so I could take or leave that one but I can understand why others were enjoying it).
None of the band members ever slacked off for the entire duration – particularly Kirk Pengilly (the best saxophonist in the world, IMHO) and JD himself, but the Farriss brothers and Gary Beers were also constantly moving around the stage and making sure all parts of the stadium could see them.
As the (admittedly very blurry) photos below show, at times they were bright and scattered, while at others they grouped together in little clumps. The middle photo was at a more mellow point were the entire band basically sat or stood around the drum kit instantly making it more intimate without having to rearrange a thing.
I guess one thing I would say is that JD looked a little out of it at times and didn’t seem to hit his stride until halfway through the concert in terms of comfortability (his vocals never suffered regardless of what he did, it was just some of his on stage antics). He came on to the stage wearing a coat, some red boots (Doc Martens maybe?) and some other stuff, and over the course of the first half dozen songs he managed to get changed into T-shirt and sneakers. Once he had the sneakers on, he went off – it was obvious that he was much more comfortable in them (but impressive that he sounded so good vocally while he sat on a speaker, doing up his laces, even falling over at one point – still singing).
He went into the crowd multiple times but his ultimate journey occurred in the encore when he went right up the back (not just on the floor, but up into the stalls), meeting the masses of fans who suddenly realised they were going to get a much closer look than they imagined rushing him with the same energy he had been showing the rest of the show with. He didn’t stop in any place too long – just kept singing and moving, right throughout the auditorium – awesome bloke.
So what kind of songs? Older stuff like Kick, New Sensation, What You Need and Never Tear Us Apart. Stuff from Switch included Devil’s Party, Afterglow, Perfect Strangers and Hot Girls. Oh, and a great version of Never Let You Go.
However, my favourite performer of the night would have to be Kirk. He was constantly switching between his sax and guitars, and he managed to play multiple acoustic and electric models as well as the instrument of choice. He was incredible on the strings, but whenever he got that sax in his hands, I was mesmerised. He plays it with every part of his soul and you can see him just feel the music.
*sigh* I could rave and rave about it (the concert AND Kirk’s performance) but this has already gone on way too long. Enjoy the muddy pics.
This week has been pretty good – Father’s Day with my kids, followed by seeing INXS, getting a new SmartPhone and to top it off my birthday is tomorrow! Very cool!