LIVE from Your Speakers: INXS, LIVE AT BARKER HANGAR
Those fortunate enough to see INXS at their commercial peak – we’re talking late ‘80s, early ‘90s – were blessed to see a band whose creative vision perfectly aligned to what audiences wanted, what they absolutely craved, if not demanded. The band’s sound was danceable and artsy, but it also thumped you where you needed to be thumped – a kick drum and snare shot to the chest, a distorted guitar riff that made your ears ring, a sax solo that sounded just shy of coming loose. Of course, the whole thing was held together by Michael Hutchence, one of the great frontmen of the era, who could coo you into a romance with the timbre of his voice, or get a stadium full of sweaty people bouncing to his every other word. They were bold and they were big – for a time the biggest band on the planet that wasn’t named U2, and believe us, they knew it.
By 1993, though, they had ratcheted things back a few notches. WELCOME TO WHEREVER YOU ARE (1992) was at once raw and risky, but its follow-up, 1993’s FULL MOON, DIRTY HEARTS found the band at a commercial ebb, though not a creative one (it’s an energetic, underrated record). About six months before FULL MOON’s release, INXS played a show in a Santa Monica airport hangar, ostensibly for a radio broadcast. The live album that emerged from that date took 22 years to see the light commercially, and it shows the band fully capable of energizing a crowd with its force and fire.
Listen to “Days of Rust,” the second song on LIVE AT BARKER HANGAR, to relive how tight INXS was on the stage – the wall of guitars, the undercurrent of keyboards, Jon Farris’ triphammer drumming (so hard and yet so precise – was there a better rock drummer at the time?). The whole thing is corralled by Hutchence, who harnesses the power of the band and sends it out into the crowd. The bluesy plod of “The Loved One” slows the pace, but takes nothing from the group’s potency, while “Taste It” is tempestuous and sexy, led by Garry Gary Beers’ bass, spiked with Kirk Pengilly’s sax.
Hutchence’s intros border on the flippant (he introduces “New Sensation with, “What’s next? Oh, that old chestnut?”), but once the songs begin, he bears down. You hear it on the hits – “What You Need,” “Suicide Blonde” and “The Devil Inside,” to name a few – but even more so on the lesser-known material, like “Time” and “Please (You Got That),” which Hutchence sells to the crowd like they were the biggest songs INXS ever recorded. Maybe they should have been.
LIVE AT BARKER HANGAR is a terrific concert document that does what all live albums should do – presents us with a great band on a really good night. Find it online and crank it up.
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