from left - Jon Farriss (drums/keyboards), Garry Gary Beers (bass), Tim Farriss (guitar), Michael Hutchence (vocals), Andrew Farriss (keyboards, guitar, harmonica), Kirk Pengilly (guitar, saxophone, vocals)
X had a lot to live up to and opened well, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 5 in the US charts, racking up plenty of sales along the way - Platinum in Australia (x2), the US (x2) and the UK, hitting Gold in Germany and France. Combined with the X Tour, it managed to spend an aggregate of eight months on the UK chart, returning to the Top 40 in July 1991.
In 1988, Michael Hutchence met soap-opera star and singer Kylie Minogue and when they ran away together in 1989, it brought the band to a whole new audience and level of publicity. In 1991, INXS received a Grammy nomination for 'Best Rock Performance by a Group', whilst USA Today reported they were tied for second place as 'musical artists with the most videos played on MTV' (at the time, they had 37 different clips). At the 1991 Brit Awards in March, INXS won 'Best International Group' (having previously been nominated in 1989) and Hutchence won 'Best International Male'. They were also recognised as 'Best International Band' at the first Australian Music Awards.
The X Tour kicked off in October 1991 at the Mackay Entertainment Centre in North Queensland. It hit the UK on November 25th with two nights at London Docklands Arena, a four night run at Wembley Arena, four nights at Birmingham NEC (where Alison & I would see them in 1997 as part of the Elegantly Wasted Tour), one night each at SECC in Glasgow (should have been two but the first was cancelled by weather), Manchester GMEX, Brigton (The Brighton Centre) and Bournemouth (Bournemouth International Centre) before two nights at The Point Theatre in Dublin. The UK dates ended in January and, in all, the tour played to 1.2m fans through 80 cities over four continents.
After a successful ‘homecoming’ leg in Australia during April and May, INXS returned to Europe for a series of headlining festival shows from 28th June through to 16th July, the highpoint of which (according to most band members) was the 13th July sold-out show at Wembley Stadium.
So the stage was set, with Summer XS taking place six years to the day after Live Aid had been staged at Wembley Stadium, as INXS continued to enjoy rock giant status both in the UK and around the world. And I was there.
|My now slightly sun-bleached ticket - look at that price!|
|Me & Liz, 1991 - I wore that t-shirt a lot!|
We parked in the multi-storey next to the stadium, crossed the bridge, found our gate and settled down as we waited to be let in. The girls were chatty, Liz & I talked and watched the world go by, we went on memorabilia buying sprees and ate our lunch. Finally the gates opened and we legged it - it was the first time I’d ever been to Wembley so of course I took the opportunity to run onto the (covered over pitch) and pretend I was representing England. As did so many other blokes my age it became silly.
The four of us made our way towards the front and found some seats to the left of the stage, close enough that we could see people up there (if not clearly), though the huge video monitors would also come in handy as the day wore on. The festival feel was maintained by having a whole host of bands on the programme which started in the early afternoon (INXS came onstage at about 8.45). Another of my main reasons to go was the fact that Debbie Harry was playing and I’d been a Blondie fan since the late 70s, though I'd been too young to get to any of their concerts.
The Summer XS line-up was:
Jellyfish - don’t remember anything of their set at all, though they were apparently “a melodic San Francisco rock band” (and got in trouble for plastering their posters everywhere)
Roachford - who were excellent, I went onto the pitch for a dance when they played
Jesus Jones - didn’t like them before I went, didn’t like them any better when I left
Deborah Harry - who I adored. I left the girls in the seats and pushed my way as far to the front as I could possibly get and then rocked out with the best of them. She played 11 songs and ended her set with the superb “Atomic”. Fantastic.
Hothouse Flowers - who were better live, I thought, than when I’d heard them on the radio
The INXS show was being recorded as part of the Live Baby Live project, under the supervision of Mark Optiz and the band’s manager, Chris Murphy decided it should be filmed as well. In an interview at the time, he said that although he thought X was good “the band had grown lazy, the new songs were too slick and too much like Kick. I was worried. I knew I had to do something to bring it back to the basics, back to the strengths of the band. Doing the film and releasing the live record accomplished that. It was a way to remind the public of how powerful INXS was live, in case they’d written them off as a band who only released pop songs.”
INXS spent £250,000 filming the concert whilst Murphy convinced Polygram, their European record label, to stump up the rest. On the night, the fact the band was barely breaking even on the show weighed heavily on Andrew Farriss, though he has since revised his opinion. “I am so glad we did it,” he said in interview with Anthony Bozza. “Thank God we did, that same band is not here any more. Michael is not here any more.” Andrew was so overcome with expectation of the event, he famously escaped to a bathroom where he spent ten minutes alone, enjoying a beer and smoking a cigarette. In documentary footage, Michael Hutchence comments that the gig is making £1m and he was only getting £5k of that.
Murphy hired David Mallet to film the concert and he used sixteen 35mm cameras, including two on roving helicopters, to capture everything. At the time, Mallet was an up-and-coming talent who’d cut his teeth on promo videos for Queen (Bicyle Race in 1978 and I Want To Break Free in 1984, which Brian May credits with the band losing US fans), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone in 1978), a host of Bowie videos (including the iconic Ashes To Ashes in 1980) and many more. His work on Bowie’s Glass Spider tour in 1988 and Madonna’s Blond Ambition in 1990 convinced Murphy he was their man. Mallet also shot the video for Shining Star in 1991 and has since gone on to a strong career in concert films.
Original Sin that locked it for me, vibrant and alive with the all-out jam session at the end. I do remember loving the rest of the gig, I remember being invigorated by the whole thing though I must confess that most of my memory of the show itself now comes from the DVD. But no matter - as Mark Opitz said in interview, the band were incredible on the night and they were. In fact, watching the film again (as I did when I wrote this post), they were clearly on fire and for a first gig by a band relatively new to me, I couldn’t have asked for anything better!
The Loved One, which remains one of my all-time favourite songs and it was launched with an introduction from Hutchence. “This is a big gig. Really happy to be here, la-di-da-di-dah - this is the biggest pub we’ve ever played. Is this what they call a fucking rave or what?”
“We had already headlined at plenty of stadiums and festivals, but this was different. Wembley is the most prestigious stadium in Europe - if not the world - and it was going to be magical. There were 16 cameras, 72,000 extremely psyched people and some great opening bands and we were ready to turn Wembley Stadium into the biggest pub on the planet.”
- Kirk Pengilly
“For us as Australians, Wembley was always thought of as one of those places you knew you that you wanted to play - if you were lucky. To even have the opportunity to perform there was a dream. There were something like 200 people backstage which was a bigger crowd than some of the pubs we'd played in! It was nuts and I couldn't really take it all in.”
- Andrew Farriss
“This gig was a prize; it meant that all those years of touring, playing gigs the world over paid off this one night. We had played many concerts that were bigger but selling out Wembley Stadium was a prestigious hallmark for us, especially considering England’s affection towards INXS took years to develop.”
- Jon Farriss
- Garry Gary Beers
“It was INXS Day on BBC Radio, MTV, you name it, we were everywhere you looked or listened, it was kind of surreal, which is always a good thing. The whole gig was kind of like a big pressure cooker of 'let's see just how nervous we can make the band', but the tension had the opposite effect on me. I had to struggle to keep the smile off my face.”
- Tim Farriss
Selling out Wembley Stadium was a big deal - AC/DC are the only other Australian band to do the same. INXS had played the venue before, supporting Queen during the “Kind Of Magic” tour in July 1986 (which I didn't see, though had the opportunity to - really wish I had done now).
According to Billboard magazine, the concert grossed £1,426,617 and the audience was a sell-out capacity of 73,791.
The day after arguably one of their biggest gigs ever, the band and Mark Opitz recorded Shining Star (which Andrew Farriss had written on the road) at London’s Metropolis Studios.
* * * * *
Live Baby Live, the live CD and concert film video, were both released on 11th November 1991 (when I bought my copies). The film, which looks glorious but isn't in widescreen (presumably since TV's weren't set up for that then) is well-edited and perfectly captures the scale of the event (shots of the crowd and stadium) without missing any of the intimate bits - such as the little nods between Kirk Pengilly and Tim Farriss (plus the fabulous ear signals during What You Need as Hutchence sings “Hey you, don’t you listen” and Kirk gestures to Tim, who had screwed up his riff). It also captures the sheer energy of the show, the tightness of the musicianship and the real sense of camaraderie amongst the band. For me, watching it on VHS back in the day was a revelation - I thought I’d picked up a lot from the video monitors (and I thought Kirk was the coolest thing ever in his red suit and black shades) - but I clearly hadn't. I'm happy to say that even now I still find new bits every time I watch it.
"Guns in the Sky"
"I Send a Message"
"Know the Difference"
"By My Side"
"Hear That Sound"
"The Loved One"
"What You Need"
"Need You Tonight"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"Who Pays the Price"
On the re-issue, there’s an excellent 40 minute behind-the-scenes documentary which shows the band in preparation for the gig with a real sense of nervous excitement about them all, which is refreshing to see.
The Live Baby Live album reached number 8 in the UK, number 3 in Australia and number 72 in the US (though it sold over 1m copies there). Shining Star, the single recorded directly after the concert and the only new material on the album (it’s heard over the closing credits of the DVD), was released on 2nd November. It reached number 31 in the UK, number 21 in Australia and 14 in the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The CD single was backed with live versions of Send A Message (from Summer XS), Faith In Each Other (Sydney 1990) and Bitter Tears (Paris 1991).
The album - produced by INXS and Mark Opitz - featured several songs recorded at Wembley, as well as highlights from gigs in Paris, Dublin, Glasgow, Rio de Janeiro (“Hey, hey Rio?” before launching into Suicide Blonde), Montreal, Spain, Switzerland, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Las Vegas.
"Guns in the Sky"
"By My Side"
"Need You Tonight"
“One X One”
“Burn For You”
“The One Thing”
"Hear That Sound"
"Never Tear Us Apart"
"What You Need"
|Summer XS memorabilia - taken from the DVD insert|
The Radio One broadcast is available on YouTube as are most of the songs, many of them through the official INXS channel.
An excellent gig and an excellent memory, a great band at the top of their game and I'm chuffed to have been there.
band interviews from the Live Baby Live DVD re-issue liner notes, no credit (released by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment)
INXS: The Official Inside Story Of A Band On The Road, text by Ed St. John
Gig information from Billboard Magazine
Story To Story: The Official INXS Autobiography, by INXS and Anthony Bozza