INXS – Wembley Stadium July 13, 1991
It was 20 yrs. ago today that one of the greatest front men of all time took the stage in front of 74,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Michael Hutchence, Kirk Pengilly, Garry Gary Beers and the Farriss brothers-Tim, John and Andrew-were on the last leg of an eight month tour called the “X-Factor” tour. This was in support of their 1990 album X. This album was the second to chart in the top ten of Billboard’s Top 200, their previous album Kick had charted at #3 and X at #5. There were four singles released off X with Disappear giving the band their seventh top ten hit on the Billboard charts.
The concert itself was filmed for later release on VHS and DVD. It’s a great piece of musical history and the peak of INXS’s career. Directed by David Mallet and produced by Mark Opitz, Live, Baby, Live used 35mm cameras to capture the event and even mounted one on a helicopter that buzzed around Wembley until it got too dark to fly safely. These factors give the DVD a very immediate and intimate view of the concert itself. Judging by the crowd scenes, it must have been a pretty amazing sight to stand on that stage and look out over that sea of human beings. And in some shots, those taken behind John Farriss (drums) mostly, you do get the idea of what it must have been like.
The sixteen songs they played that day were mostly from Kick and X with Guns in the Sky, a song against Ronald Reagans Strategic Defence Initiative, as the opener and by the last song, Devil Inside, INXS had covered much of their decade long career. Some of the songs sound dated but many of them still sound surprisingly fresh. The subject of some of these songs, sadly, still resonate today. Songs such as Original Sin (race relations), The Stairs (isolation), Who Pays the Price, Devil Inside and Mediate show just how talented Hutchence and Andrew Farriss were as songwriters.
In this film you can see (and feel) just how charismatic Hutchence was and why people still mourn his loss as one of the greatest front men of his time. His voice was often described as the voice of an angel but I think it much too dark and sensual for that comparison. No doubt it is still one of the best voices of all time. The other members of the band also show why INXS was considered to be one of the biggest bands in the world, right up there with U2 and R.E.M. Kirk Pengilly, lead guitars and sax, was/is one of the most underrated guitarists as he proves on such songs as The Stairs and The Loved One and the rhythm section consisting of John Farriss (drums) and Garry Gary Beers (bass) one of the tightest and most dynamic. Brothers, Tim and Andrew Farriss (rhythm/lead guitar and keyboards/harmonica/backing vocals/rhythm guitar respectively), round out the sound and provide additional support to the songs melodies. Incidentally, Andrew Farriss is an amazing rhythm guitarist, certainly one of the best.
There is no doubt that INXS deserved the accolades and success they enjoyed before the controversial death of Hutchence and the subsequent sordid rumours and innuendo coloured people’s perceptions of the band. And then there was the intense debate over INXS deciding to find a new lead singer via reality television. Rockstar:INXS and their continued contentious relationship with winner JD Fortune has reduced the once great band to a joke in many peoples eyes. But in 1991 at Wembley, INXS was at the top of their game and Live, Baby, Live exists to prove that point.
You can buy the DVD on Amazon and if you are a fan of the band or just curious I suggest you consider getting it because it won’t disappoint. You could probably find it at a good used record store if you don’t want to invest a lot into it. You can also see it on YouTube but it is best viewed on a large screen TV with good audio to capture the quality of Hutchences voice, the nuances of Pengillys guitar playing and the excitement of the crowd.