How can I begin to do this event justice? It’s a daunting task. But I guess I can begin by stating that this will be a FULL report on the INXS Private Concert at the Sunset Strip House of Blues on Sunday, January 15. In other words: If you don’t want things “spoiled”, then you’ve come to the wrong place. 'Cause I’m gonna tell it like it is (or, at least, like it was for me). So, with that disclaimer outta the way, let's get this party started.
I’d spent most of the day Sunday in a state of cautious optimism coupled with low-key anxiety about attending the show. I was trusting that everything would go OK, but still a little worried that something somewhere would go awry. It was in that frame of mind that I arrived at the House of Blues with my cohort/partner-in-crime: the incandescent Jellyfish. We were going to have dinner at the HOB restaurant, The Porch, in order to take advantage of their “Pass the Line” system (i.e. you can jump ahead of the regular line by eating there.) Anyway, as we sat at our table – with a window view down into the HOB concert area – we were unexpectedly treated to the sight of Our Band doing a sound check on stage. They ran through about a half dozen songs - Suicide Blonde, Afterglow, etc. And, even though the sound was muffled where we sat, the reality of the situation finally hit home. Pinch me! This was actually happening.
Because of our “Pass the Line” privileges, we were amongst the first dozen or so people let into the concert area and promptly made our way to an elevated section on the right-hand side. (Yeah, we coulda been right in front of the stage. But I personally thought the stage was too high and that I’d be spending most of the show looking up JD’s nose.) Within minutes of getting in, we were treated to a 40-minute set by Porcelain, a 5-member Aussie band fronted by a female singer named Lo. (You can check out their homepage at http://www.myspace.com/ozporcelain.) Not expecting much from an opening act, they turned out to be surprisingly good. A nice little appetizer before the main course.
At 9:25PM, the curtains parted to reveal Our Band:INXS posed on the stage, with JD standing tall front & center. He was a vision in black: sunglasses, shirt, laced-up pants - and a jacket with enough buckles hanging from it to do an asylum inmate proud. The first chords of Suicide Blonde rang out – and the show was on!
Now, there had been reports from a private show last Friday that JD had cut the set short by a couple songs because his voice was feeling a bit ragged. I had been a little concerned about this – until I heard him tear into Suicide Blonde. There was no evidence of raspiness or strain at all. He sang the whole song positioned at the mic stand, rockin’ it back & forth. And, though he started with the sunglasses on, he ended up pitching them over his shoulder about 3/4ths of the way through the song.
The mic came off its stand for New Sensation, and JD was in prime form – pacing, and pogo-ing, and prowling about the stage. (The dude’s also come up with some new moves and mic gyrations.) Man, do I love hearing him sing this song! You can tell how much it resonates with him: “Are you ready for a new sensation?” Without any self-consciousness, he just embraces it and sings it with such joy.
While JD celebrated being a New Sensation, I focused in on the other members of INXS and noticed that they had somehow managed to reverse the aging process. They all exuded so much energy -- but there was more to it than that. Jon looked a good 10 years younger. Even more amazingly, Garry Gary was now about JD’s age. I kid you not! The infusion of fresh blood in the form of Mr. Fortune has obviously done wonders for Our Band.
Anyway, once NS was done, JD's buckle jacket came off (revealing a long-sleeve black T). It was now time for a little banter from the man. “How are you guys doin’ tonight?” The crowd roars. “Excellent! I’m so happy to see you all here. Excellent, excellent, excellent. You know, I heard there were a few... I sense... Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!” The crowd yells back, “Oye, Oye, Oye!” “Okay, it’s true,” laughs JD.
Up next was the first song off Switch, Devil’s Party. As INXS charged into the song, it was immediately apparent that the album version was a pussycat compared to this raging beast. Wow, was it HOT! Best. Damn. Vocal. Yet. “Dreams of yours, dreams of mine” just filled the room and soared through the frickin’ roof! Any concerns I had had going in about the state of JD's voice were now officially put to rest.
We're only 3 songs in and I'm already thinking: Could this show possibly get any better???
More banter from JD, again directed at the Aussies. He talked about how it was 100,000 degrees in Sydney a couple weeks ago, and then asked if anyone had been there at New Year’s. “Wasn’t it great to be fuckin’ hung-over that day? 110 degrees in the shade.” He then introduces the next song by saying that some of us may have heard it, and to sing along if we do. Turns out it’s Mystify, with JD at his finger-snappin’ best.
This segued into Disappear, which sounded completely wonderful in concert. It was also, frankly, the song that had the strongest echoes of MH to me – especially on the choruses. That’s not intended as a criticism; merely an observation. I love the song, and loved this performance, and (comparisons be damned!) am really glad they included it in the set.
With the strange introduction that “this next song is notorious for breast flashing” (huh?), we were presented with By My Side. Now, BMS was one of my favorite JD performances on Rockstar, and this version didn’t quite measure up, imo. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with it (aside from the missing falsetto at the end). It just seemed a bit lackluster, especially compared with everything that had gone before. (Looking back on it now, I still think it was the weakest performance of the evening.)
Any qualms I may have had were put to rest with the next song. "The second release off Switch" per JD: Afterglow. As was the case with Devil's Party earlier, the song sounds immeasureably better LIVE. It just seemed to have more weight & depth than it does on the album, and it built to a truly goosebump-inducing crescendo. Mesmerizing stuff!
After Afterglow, JD peeled off his long-sleeve shirt, claiming that it’s 9,000 degrees on the stage. “But,” he says, “I didn’t want to be ‘That Guy’. You know, the guy who takes off his shirt right in the middle of a song.” (Gee, I wonder who he could be referring to???)
Having stripped down to a black short-sleeved T, it was time to bring on the S-E-X with T-T-Taste It. Yes, Ladies (& Gents): We got crotch grabs and bare belly rubs and pelvic thrusts at the mic stand, along with some good ol’ JD falsetto. Kirk also got into the spirit of things by lying on his back during his sax solo. It’s no wonder JD took off the long-sleeve shirt before launching into this song. If it was 9,000 degrees up there before, it was probably 19,000 degrees after. I’m surprised half the audience didn’t faint dead away. INXS might want to consider swapping Taste It with Afterglow in the setlist – 'cause there seemed to be a whole lot of “glowing” going on after this song was finished.
As if Taste It wasn’t hot enough, they went right into what was, for me, one of the highlights of the show: Original Sin. And, though I may not have said a great deal about Our Band so far, I really must shout out to them here. They were absolutely COOKIN’ on this number. “Hot” isn’t a strong enough word. “Blazing”, “galvanic” and “incendiary” are far better. The crowd responded appropriately by spontaneously combusting once it was over. All kidding aside: the audience reaction was HUGE - probably the loudest of the night so far. (Though it would be topped only a few songs later.)
I'm beginning to think that Garry Gary is looking younger now than he did at the start of the show....
Two more songs from Switch followed: Hungry and Never Let You Go. I know I’m repeating myself by pointing out (yet again) how much better the Switch tracks sound LIVE. I mention it because this is more than just the usual degree of "LIVE Better-ness”. They sound exponentially “Better”. Never Let You Go, in particular, had more chunka-chunka punch than on the album, and JD was able to indulge in a little mic-pointing audience participation. (He also caused Kirk to crack up a couple times before his sax solo, by getting right up into his face.)
A guy standing next to me turns and asks, “Who is this guy?” I tell him, “His name is JD Fortune” and he responds, “You’re kidding.” “No,” I say, “that really is his name.” “Well,” my neighbor says, “he’s really good.” Ah, another convert....
Next up was the Need duo: What You Need and Need You Tonight. During WYN, JD – sitting on the edge of the stage – reached out, grabbed a shot from a passing cocktail waitress and downed it. I guess it was what he needed. The song was obviously what the crowd needed, as it received the Biggest. Ovation Yet. It was during NYT that I picked up on the intensity of Tim’s performance. He was really into it, seeming to lose himself in the music while having a grand time bopping out at the edge of the stage.
Well, folks, it’s time to head off to Pretty Vegas. Now, I know they’ve performed this about a thousand times in the past couple months and can undoubtedly do it in their sleep. But they showed no signs of being burnt out. Instead, the guitars were blazing and the drums were pounding and JD was singing with all the passion he could muster. PV is a marvelous LIVE song – it practically compels the audience to join in - and Our Boys know how to take full advantage of it. After playfully goosing Kirk, JD (flanked by security) even made a quick foray down into the audience (during the "The party's over and the road is long" part). There was no megaphone, but I really didn't miss it. (I bet JD didn't, either.)
Not letting up, Our Band went from the next song, Kick, right into Devil Inside. Re-read my comments about Original Sin above -- and then amplify them! Awesome, AWESOME performance. They just blew the roof off the HOB, and JD sang it with a ferocity appropriate to one of his favorite INXS songs. Halfway through, I knew instinctively that DI was the “last” song. After all, what else can you do after such a performance except an encore? And so, at 10:40PM, it was 'over'.
“Australia! Los Angeles! Thank you! We hope you had a fuckin’ great time,” shouts JD. And the crowd screams back its affirmation.
It only took a couple minutes for Our Band to return for an encore. (I love bands that don’t milk the applause by taking forever to return.) As they walked back out, someone in the crowd threw a yellow cap with the logo AFL (for the Australian Football League) up on the stage. JD picked it up and put it on for a moment – sideways, of course.
The Encore began with The Stairs. Beautiful. Simply beautiful. Hearing the power and the range and the conviction in JD’s voice only proved once again – as if we needed any more evidence – just how roit he is for Our Band.
And then, almost as if to give shape to my thoughts, a very special moment occurred (for us long-term JD fans, at least.) Addressing the primarily Aussie crowd, he said: “I don’t know how many of you know the situation of how this [indicating himself & the Band] all happened. For those of you who do... Dreams come true. Thank You.” I got choked up when I heard that. What a simple & beautiful acknowledgement of Rockstar, his fans, and everything that had led to this point.
“This next one I like to call the Rite of Passage. I hope you enjoy it.” And with that, Our Band launched into Never Tear Us Apart. THUD! I don’t think you could ask for a better vocal performance than the one JD did here. Ranging from his lower register up into falsetto, he delivered all the passion that the song demands. And the audience was totally into it. Even my neighbor (the guy who didn’t know who JD was) was singing along at the top of his lungs. It was yet another high point in a night full of them.
INXS wrapped things up with a typically energetic performance of Don’t Change (of course). JD did a cute little bit of business as he sang “Message received loud & clear” -- but who am I to spoil it for you?
And then it really was over. Cheers and clapping and Our Band standing on stage, acknowledging the crowd and absolutely beaming with happiness.
19 songs. 90 minutes.
This is the party? This is the show?
Hell yeah, baby!