It’s hard to understate the impact INXS had on my life. They were the first band I ever saw in concert by myself. They were the first band for whom I would call myself a fan. They were the best live band in Australia, and arguably the world. At the Australian Made concert in 1987 they came on as the headline act, after what is still the strongest concert line-up Australia has ever seen (Mental as Anything, Divinyls, Crowded House, The Triffids, the Saints, the Models, Jimmy Barnes, and more) and blew everything off stage.
For the better part of 9 years– from Shabooh Shoobah in 1982 to X in 1990, they were the band by which I measured all other bands.
By 1997, the bubble had long burst. A reliance on a musical style that refused to evolve, as well as the increasingly erratic and soap-opera-like life of lead singer Michael Hutchence resulted in diminishing returns. Other bands rose, and other musical styles, and overtook them. My own interest in the band waned as other horizons beckoned. They were still hugely important to me, but in an historical sense rather than an immediate one.
Then, 20 years ago today, it all came crashing down with the news that Hutchence– one of the most electric and charismatic performer in Australian music history– had been found dead in his hotel room in Sydney at the age of 37. Even though their high point was behind them, the impact was seismic. Hutchence was an icon. And the suddenness, as well as the manner, of his death left the country stunned.
There has never been a band in Australia like INXS. No band has combined the uniqueness of sound, the impact, the stage presence, and the international profile and power. They’ve limped on after Hutchence’s death, slowly becoming more and more irrelevant and laughable– an ‘X-Factor’ style TV show to find themselves a new lead singer was the absolute nadir. But for those 8 brilliant, explosive, pyrotechnic years, they will always occupy a special place in my memory.
20 years ago today.