Welcome to what will be a weekly feature for the remainder of 2017…Classic Albums Live!! Each and every Thursday through the holidays The Maestro will be sharing his memories of a different live album from back in the day. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it was actually my good friend and radio host Jim Chinnici who goaded me into this by being Devil on my shoulder after our last piece on AC/DC and the death of Malcolm Young. So, without further ado, for this week’s kickoff edition of Classic Albums Live we will take a look at fellow Australians INXS and their 1991 concert record Live Baby Live, captured all over the world during their X Tour!
This one is very bittersweet as yesterday marked 20 years ago that the world lost one of the great rock and roll frontmen in singer Michael Hutchence. So today we will try to keep the tears to a minimum as we celebrate the great music.given to us by an electrifying band. It was 1992 and I had just graduated from Basic Training and with precious little time to spare before my flight back to NY I hauled ass to the PX where I purchased not only a Walkman for the plane ride home, but there, sitting on the shelf was the cassette version of this album. I had to have it, especially since I saw the first U.S. leg of this tour. The setlist had changed somewhat, but the energy was still there right from jump.
As soon as I boarded the plane I strapped in and hit PLAY. Opener “New Sensation” hit me right between the eyes, Hutchence’s voice washing over me as Kirk Pengilly, the Farriss Brothers Jon, Tim, and Andrew, and Garry Gary Beers started us on a journey over 15 live tunes (and one studio number, “Shining Star). A pair of Kick songs was next for me with “Guns In the Sky” and “Mystify.” If you’ve never seen or heard this band do ‘Mystify” lived you truly missed out. I remember looking out the window while on the plane and just smiling ear to ear at not only how magnificent everything sounded, but also the song selection. I was also happy that “By My Side”, a perfectly understated ballad was featured here as well.
“Need You Tonight” is raw sexual energy in this setting, you can hear the ladies going wild, and “Mediate” is actually better than its studio counterpart (No, I still can’t recite it all in order, all these years later!). After a funny little interlude about not having any pants on, the record REALLY gets cooking with blistering renditions of “One x One” and “Burn For You” from Listen Like Thieves and The Swing, respectively. You wanna talk about incredible live versions? These burn hotter than an egg dropped on the Vegas sidewalk in July and remain staples of any live mix playlist I make to this day (and I make a LOT). I was rendered speechless by how tight these songs were, especially in a big stadium where echo can be a band’s worst enemy.
Side two of my cassette opens with “The One Thing”, and there I was back in my living room in 1982 seeing and hearing INXS on MTV, and loving every minute of it, especially Pengilly’s sax solo. “This Time” is fantastic; I love the vocal harmonies on the chorus, and it flat out rocks. Of course from here we come to my favorite track with “The Stairs.” I’ve stated often how much this one moves me, and live it is especially emotional and haunting and goosebump-inducing. All too often though, the tears come as it plays, especially on the anniversary. Oh, and can we talk about “Suicide Blonde’ for a second? This was the opener when I was at Nassau Coliseum on February 18, 1991 and I was instantly taken right back there. Still one of the best they’ve ever done.
“Hear That Sound’ is one that I can never get enough of, studio or live. And here it’s just perfect. Of course, no INXS show would be complete without “Never Tear Us Apart.’ The crowd goes wild, and rightfully so; it’s beautifully done, and once again Pengilly kills it on the sax. Closing out this live set is “What You Need” and Hutchence has a great time doing a call and response with the audience, who sound like they’d stay for another ten songs. I love it so much that I ripped it off and used it whenever my old band Red Down Below did THE DOORS’ “Roadhouse Blues”!
With this album there is so much emotion that runs through me that I can’t help myself, and I am often overcome by it. I have made so many great memories with this tape in the background. From serenading my old girlfriend on our many local car rides to driving up to visit friends in college, good times all. And of course I have cried many, many times with this album in the background, most notably on the morning of November 22, 1997. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry while writing this, but that’s not happening. Here come the tears…
There’s not a day goes by I don’t think of Michael Hutchence in some way, from singing a hook, to wondering what could have been had he lived. The last time I saw them was in 1993 at The Armory in Philadelphia, a concert I attended alone because I didn’t know anyone in the city yet. But I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by a roomful of friends all there to bask in the glory of a great rock show. INXS has always been one of my favorite bands of all-time, and Live Baby Live is a testament to what a powerhouse they were in concert. I can think of no better way to start this new segment, Classic Albums Live. R.I.P. Michael. You are missed, now and forever…
As always, this one’s for Paula. ~dc
In Loving Memory of Michael Kelland John Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997)