An Excess Of Hype For INXS: Aussie Band Packs ’em In On Tour of Small Clubs

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
May 9, 1993

Forget about Lollapalooza. The hottest ticket in town is for INXS’ sold-out show Wednesday at Metro.

The Metro? The club with a capacity of 1,000 that the Australian supergroup outgrew almost 10 years ago? That’s right. INXS is on a highly publicized club tour that is creating the desired effect: pandemonium. Even VIPs such as actor Joe Pesci, several Cubs players and the crew of the film “Blink” couldn’t get complimentary tickets for the show.  Most of INXS’ fans also were shut out of the group’s 10-city club tour – dubbed “Get Out of the House.” They will have to wait until the group returns to stadium shows later this summer.

“In a sense, we do take mischievous pleasure doing what we’re doing,” said vocalist Michael Hutchence. “But we’re not trying to tease our fans, really, because this (club tour) is part of an ongoing world tour. We’ll be back. Why we chose to play in clubs for our first trek of our U.S. tour is really quite simple. It was time for us to get back to the basics, which meant getting back into the clubs we started our careers in.

“I don’t think our music would have been any weaker if we had chosen to play larger venues, but playing these clubs makes us remember a time when everything was raw and immediate. It’s not like we ever had any choreographed moves or anything like that, but when you play bigger halls, things are more complicated. There are a lot of technical things. We still have to worry about that, but it’s more like strap on a guitar and play. It’s really fun.”

It’s especially enjoyable for the group because INXS doesn’t need to play clubs. Touring in support of its current LP, “Welcome to Wherever You Are,” the band steadily has risen in popularity since 1983, when “Shabooh Shoobah” and its breakthrough single, “The One Thing,”  introduced the group to American record buyers.

INXS’ sound is distinctive: The chunky guitars and Hutchence’s strong vocals are  constants. But INXS has reinvented itself over the years, offering stripped-down rock complete with soul, hypnotic dance songs and ethereal ballads.

If the members regard fame warily, it’s because INXS  had been playing without fanfare since 1977, when it was born in Sydney, Australia. The band, briefly known as the Farriss Brothers, after brothers Andrew (keyboards/guitars), Tim (guitars) and Jon (drums), also includes saxophonist-guitarist Kirk Pengilly and bassist Garry Gary Beers.

“We’ve had the same lineup since we formed and we’ve been together for an eternity,” Hutchence said, laughing. “Before we ever had a hit or whatever, we were together for more years than a lot of groups last, so it’s not like we were looking for a quick hit or a fast buck. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick out of people liking us and wanting to interview us and things like that. But in my mind, I believe we still would be together even if we never had a hit. INXS encompasses a lot of our lives.”

With his sinewy moves and growling voice, Hutchence is a powerfully charismatic performer. His  brown, wavy hair and tight leather pants emphasize his resemblance to Jim Morrison from afar.

In fact, rumor had it that he would play Jim Morrison in Oliver Stone’s film about the Doors. Hutchence, who has acted in independent films, said he never took the rumors seriously.

“I think Val Kilmer was the perfect choice to play Morrison,” he said. “How could I even pretend I could have been as good? Film is something I’m interested in, but I’m not as comfortable being in front of the camera as I am before an audience of live fans. Having said that, though, I am fascinated by the whole filming and editing  process.”

In a roundabout way, that process is how he met his Danish girlfriend, supermodel Helena Christensen. Hutchence’s friend, photographer-director Herb Ritts, Hutchence was in the editing room when Ritts was putting the final touches on Chris Isaak’s steamy video for “Wicked Game.” Christensen was the female lead in the video.

“Herb is a little matchmaker, and he saw I was interested, so he hooked us up,” he said. “We `dated’ by talking on the phone for two months. We had this head thing going. We both have a horror of the (rock star-model) cliche we find ourselves in, but in the end we really don’t care. She’s very bright and special.”

She won’t be appearing in any INXS video anytime soon.

“She says we can’t afford her,” Hutchence said, laughing. “I don’t think she really feels the desire to do any more videos. She can make a lot more money on a Paris runway.”

While the group  has included its share of attractive young women in its videos, the band’s most talked-about visual accompaniment features “regular” women. INXS has won kudos for “Beautiful Girl,” which deals with society’s superficial notions of beauty, although a couple of fashion magazines have panned it as pretentious and boring.   Hutchence more often than not is the sexual focal point of INXS videos, which sometimes feature writhing women (see “Suicide Blonde”).

“We’ve always tried to not use women as adornment just for the sake of it,” Hutchence said.  “They obviously are a hell of a lot better to look at than any of us, but we’ve never succumbed to the rock girl-woman in a rock video just for the sake of it. We try to have a sense of humor about the things we do.”

The singer said he would like to pursue projects outside of INXS, both on record and in films, but only when the group is on hiatus.

“This group is the most important thing for all of us,” he said. “What we do outside of the band really does revolve around what we do inside the group.”

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