Monday, February 27, 2006

Sometimes You Kick, Sometimes You Get Kicked

INXS' music has served as the soundtrack of my life. Long before I was able to discern what was cool and what wasn't, they were a part of my collection because I liked the music for what it was. It didn't matter to me that a hottie sang their tunes. It didn't matter that critics and cheerleaders alike lauded their music, that they were a great equalizer of a band, much like the way U2 is today. It didn't matter that they oozed cool. I just liked the music.

"What You Need" was on my first mix tape, carefully crafted when I was 10. "Need You Tonight" was the only song that could get my painfully shy, 12-year-old self out on the floor. "Mediate" taught me who Bob Dylan was. "Never Tear Us Apart" was my first slow dance with a boy at age 13. Kick was the first album I copped from my older sister. "Live Baby Live" was the first concert album given to me at age 16, and was also the tape that I listened to when I drove to my first (brief) stint as an events intern at WBAL TV in Baltimore. In 1993, during the summer between high school and college, I caught the boys from Down Under at the HFStival at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. When their Greatest Hits CD came out in 1994, I picked it up and played it at college parties 'til I almost wore a hole through it.

Then, in 1997, the year I graduated college, INXS' frontman, Michael Hutchence, died. Since then, I've been spinning the albums with regularity and not a little nostalgia, but I haven't really dwelled on the loss. Chapters of my life were closing all over the place, and his death, and what I thought was the death of INXS, dovetailed with that.

Cut to two weeks ago: I went to an INXS concert at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. If you're looking for a local comparison, the venue was akin to the Uptown Theater, except retro-fitted to host live musical acts. Not a stadium, sure, but not just a club show either.

See, my older brother called me up and said that he had two tickets to spare, so he invited me and the Hubby to come along. Problem is, we'd have to outsource the Boy to friends or family for an overnighter if we were going to zip on up to the outskirts of Philly for a concert. And since the Hubby is lukewarm about late eighties/early nineties pop music...well, we decided that I'd go it alone. The last concert I'd caught was the Erasure show at the 9:30 Club in June, so I was itching to see some live music.

As much as I was looking forward to mixing with the general pop fan population, though, I was a little apprehensive. For me, Michael Hutchence was INXS. His mug enjoyed the most screen time in their videos, his hair inspired many a young lad to grow luscious wavy locks, his voice was the telltale sign that the music piping through your car radio was part of the INXS discography. I don't mean to play down the fact that the band, musically, really belongs to Kirk Pengilly, the Farris Brothers (Andrew, Tim, and Jon), and Garry Beers. But all of my teen and tween friends plunked down their babysitting earnings for INXS tapes 'cause of Michael Hutchence.

So why, then, did I nearly cry during the opening salvo of "Suicide Blonde," their first ditty of the evening? Why didn't I cheer at the rebirth of this band that had surreptitiously, inextricably entwined itself with my wonder years?

I can only offer an analogy to explain. For me, it was like seeing a widower whom I love dearly remarried to a very nice woman after a really respectable amount of time had passed since the death of his first wife, whom I also loved dearly. I'd be deliriously happy that he gets to partake of the sweetness of love and partnership once again, but I'd mourn the first wife all over again.

I looked around at the crowd to see if I could glimpse anyone else going through the same Tilt-A-Whirl of emotions. But in a darkened concert hall, you can't exactly read feelings easily, so I let it go and sat back to try to enjoy the concert without overthinking it.

INXS 2.0 is now fronted by Canadian singer J.D. Fortune. For what it's worth, he was adopted into the band via Rock Star: INXS, a reality TV show that aired last summer on CBS and VH1. It doesn't matter how he came to be a part of INXS, though. He's good, and clearly deserves to be there. I didn't watch the TV show, so I didn't know what to expect of him. Older Brother, who was addicted to the show, shared that J.D. has always been a superfan of the group. That's an interesting factoid 'cause alot of times it seems like J.D. channeled Michael Hutchence. I can't tell if J.D. performs like that because he thinks that's what the fans want, or if it's because he idolized Michael Hutchence so much that he can't help but sing and prance like him. Despite that niggling thought, I really enjoyed his performance. Dunno if that's 'cause I want to be aurally fooled or what, but I liked it.

I know I'll listen to their new tunes on the radio. I may even pick up a CD. But will I let this new incarnation into my life again? Eh, probably.

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