Saturday night, Chicago welcomed two products of a reality show to the stage of the Chicago Theater.
First up Marty Casey & Lovehammers, or as they are more commonly known here in their hometown, just 'Lovehammers. Marty Casey was the first runner-up (beauty pageant speak for 'loser) on Rockstar: INXS and scored the opening slot on the tour as a consolation prize. If you ask me, Marty got the best deal. His band gets national exposure and he gets to bring his talents to the stage, without compromising his style, leaving his bandmates in the dust, or trying to fill the shoes of the dearly departed.
Chicago showed the love for the hometown boys by filling over 90% of the seats before the curtain came up. Many opening bands are sadly overlooked because, well, most people dont care enough to get there before the headliner. Not the case this time and I think INXS owes them a 'thank you for helping them sell out the venue well in advance.
Lovehammers ripped thru several songs in their generous one-hour set including "Hold On", "Casualty", "Rain on the Brain", "Call of Distress" Marty jumped into the crowded during the set and was mobbed by the ladies. They brought the house down with the single "Trees" and closed with their own version of "Ring of Fire". If they keep it up, it wont be long before they are headlining the Chicago Theatre.
I almost felt sorry for INXS, having to follow Lovehammers act. Does anyone even know that they have a new album out? Everyone knows at least one INXS song, and maybe even two. As soon as the lights went down, the crowd starting cheering when the first harmonica notes introduced "Suicide Blonde". INXS hit many of the highlights their career during the nearly two-hour set. I have to admit, I was singing along with everyone else to "New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart", "Devil Inside", "Taste It", "By My Side", "Original Sin", and my personal favorite "Mystify."
The songs from the new album Switch, while appealing, didnt mesh well with the other songs that the crowd knew well enough to sing along to. You know how it goes
you are at a show, singing along to the two or three songs you know by band X and bopping to the beat, just enjoying the rest you may or may not be so familiar with.
INXS was so popular in the late 80s and early 90s, many of their songs were hit singles and everyone knew them. When you go and hear a dozen rockin nostalgic songs, its strange when they try to slip in three or four brand new songs. The transition was less than smooth and the middle of the show dragged as a result. "Never Let You Go has an interesting almost reggae percussion track. The new ballad "Afterglow" brought the tempo down a little, but INXS managed to pull the audience back with "Pretty Vegas", the song penned by JD during his stay at the 'rockstar mansion during his audition and the first single from the new album. Then they segued back to the hits we all know and love, while JD pulled a small boy from the audience to join him onstage and was sent home with his own set of maracas.
So they arent the old INXS, but not exactly a new INXS either. After going to the trouble of staging a reality show to choose their new lead singer, INXS chose the one guy that sounded the most like Michael Hutchence. It may have been a good move on their part, helping them keep their expansive catalog of hits alive. Keeping a band together with the same name, but not the same personnel is always a controversial decision.