Sunday, January 29, 2006

INXS in the arena

Remember back when Michael Hutchence died? A lot of people wondered how this star--an incredibly charismatic and talented lead singer of a great band--could end his life. It's true that times were thin for INXS when he committed suicide, but didn't he know how many people still adored him?

There were a lot of questions for me, and many of them came to the forefront when INXS concocted a televised international audition for a new lead. Would their sound ever be the same without Michael? How could they possibly hope to replace a singer with such an emotionally gritty yet smooth voice? How could they replicate (or avoid copying) his presence? The band ended up choosing a guy named J.D., whose voice vaguely recalls Hutchence's, and off they went to create a new album as well as to tour.

I went to their performance last night at Mandalay Bay and came out with really mixed feelings. It was awesome to see the band back together: their new songs retain the power of the old without covering ground that's already been well traveled. And their backlist? It's absolutely amazing how many hits this band had and how distinctive their sound still is. "What You Need," "Original Sin," "Never Tear Us Apart"--a lot of them, but not all, were accounted for. I just wish they'd played "I Send a Message." I love that song in a way that transcends scary.

J.D.'s voice was thrashed, so I can't give you much of an opinion about the quality of it, except to say that much of his musical phrasing echoed Michael H's. Stage presence? A lot of women appreciated it. I, myself, was more into the band as a whole, so I can't say I'm swept into the J.D. thing. To tell you the truth, Marty, who opened the show with his band Lovehammers, was more impressive, but he has a totally different style.

All in all...worth the ticket price. My ears are still ringing and my chest cavity is still vibrating with the bass, but what also remains is a huge appreciation for a band that has a lot of good years left in them. Best of luck, INXS--keep at it.

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