"We love Canada!" declares Kirk Pengilly, the sexy saxophone and guitar player of the internationally celebrated pop rock band, INXS. It's been eight years since INXS has toured Canada and they are fervent to see this country again.
INXS was formed in 1977, originally as the The Farriss Brothers in Sydney, Australia. The group consisted of Andrew Farriss (guitar and keyboards), Jon Farriss (drums), Tim Farriss (lead guitar), Michael Hutchence (lead vocals), Kirk Pengilly (saxophone and guitar) and Garry Gary Beers (bass). The entire band moved from Sydney to Perth, writing, rehearsing, and playing local hotels and pubs in the mining towns of Western Australia.
In 1980, the band's self titled debut album, INXS, was released in Australia and featured one of their best songs, Just Keep Walking. Over the next two years, INXS released their second and third albums, Underneath The Colours which is described as "lyrical, thoughtful; and sometimes fiery," and Shabooh, Shoobah, which produces two big hits "The One Thing" and "Don't Change". All three albums eventually go gold down under. As one critic comments: "INXS have a definite style, an instantly recognizable sound that cannot be confused with any other band in the country." It wasn't until their fifth album, Listen Like Thieves, which was loved by the critics and produced the band's first US breakout top 5 hit, "What You Need", that INXS would finally come to Canada with their Listen Like Thieves World Tour.
On February 10, 1986 at Toronto's Massey Hall, INXS played to a Canadian audience for the first time. It wasn't a sold out show but the group was besieged by the energy of their Canadian fans and they would return to that venue many times over the '80's and '90's. That tour took INXS to Vancouver that same month where they were also very well received.
INXS' worldwide peak of popularity came with 1987's Kick, a true punchy pop-rock album that yielded the band four top-ten US singles and many more international hits ("New Sensation", "Never Tear Us Apart", "Devil Inside", etc.) including the #1 "Need You Tonight". With the success of Kick, they toured heavily throughout 1987 and 1988. This brought INXS to Toronto's Massey Hall, London's Alumni Hall, as well as dates in Ottawa and Quebec in November of '88. The band would also tour westward starting at Winnipeg out to Vancouver in May of that year. They would return to Toronto in August and continue over to Montreal and Ottawa, where they played their first sold out Canadian venue. During all of these Canadian tour dates, the band extended a connection with Canadians that would span over the next 10 years.
1997 brought INXS to Canada with their Elegantly Wasted tour. The band played two sold out shows at The Warehouse on September 25 and 26. This would be the last time Canada would see INXS with Michael Hutchence. On November 22, 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney hotel room, an apparent victim of suicide. This tragic event would deeply change the band forever as they took a long break before deciding what the next step would be.
Since Hutchence death, INXS has continued with Terence Trent D'Arby, Suze DeMarchi, and Jimmy Barnes as temporary lead singers. New Zealander, Jon Stevens began singing with INXS in 2000 and was officially named a member of the band in 2002. When Stevens left the band in 2003 to pursue a solo career, INXS found themselves on the search for a lead singer once again. The idea of a reality television show was actually that of Kirk Pengilly, who had thought of it some time ago and had to sell it to his band mates.
Rock Star INXS debuted on July 11, 2005 on the CBS network (and on VH1 in the UK and on Fox 8 in Australia). The show would feature 15 contestants from around the world vying for the position of lead singer. On September 20, Jason Dean Fortune of Oakville Ontario, Canada won the eleven week competition and has been touring with the band ever since.
During Rock Star INXS, the contestants were challenged to write the lyrics and melody to a piece of music written by Andrew Farriss. Originally the group was divided up into two teams. When Fortune had difficulty working with his team, he decided to work on his own lyrics, a move that some thought doomed his chances of winning. As it turned out, his creation, "Pretty Vegas", became a favourite of both fans and INXS and would play a major role in Fortune winning the competition. Garry Gary Beers says "it was at that moment during the song writing competition that we though mmmmÖthis might be our guy." The single "Pretty Vegas" was released on October 4, 2005 and debuted at #37 on the Billboard charts, the highest debut for any INXS song. The single also went to #1 in Canada.
JD Fortune had a very rocky start on Rock Star and was on the bottom three the very first night. Garry Gary Beers remembers "having concerns about JD's cockiness but as the competition went on, JD really stood out and grew as an artist and a person, we could all see that. We had a chance to really get to know the real JD and realize what a really good guy he is, really humble, caring and compassionate."
After the reality show was over, it was back to reality for the new INXS. They had less than six weeks to record their first album in 8 years and with a brand new lead singer. Switch was released on November 29 2005 and the new energized INXS began the first leg of their Switch On tour. The tour started with a bang at a sold out performance at Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Theatre. It continued throughout the US, selling out in most cities. All three Canadian dates, one in Vancouver and two in Toronto, sold out in minutes. It was not a huge surprise when the band announced a Canadian Tour would commence in the spring.
The realty show, Rock Star INXS, boosted INXS popularity in pop culture and recruited a new generation of fans for the band, something Andrew Farriss finds very interesting. "It's great to have a younger fan base but it's also interesting because we have an older fan base as well. Then we have this whole other fan base of people who had seen the television show and are just curious to see what it's all about. When they come to the concert, they see JD and hear the new album, Switch, and hear our other music, which has been around for quite some time and they go 'ohÖI get it now.'"
The announcement of the new Canadian tour comes in response to Switch going to #1 in Canada and "Pretty Vegas" going platinum in Canada. "Canadians have always been so warm and receptive to us, "says Andrew "we are really looking forward to this tour."
Kirk Pengilly is thrilled to be touring Canada and having a chance to visit more cities in this country, especially JD's home in Nova Scotia, where the band has never been before. "I'd love to see more of Canada and maybe JD will be my tour guide. I have spent some time in Calgary and Vancouver, both are beautiful cities. I love the outdoors." Vancouver is also a favourite spot for Garry Gary Beers; "I love Vancouver. We recorded our last album, Elegantly Wasted, out there. It's just a beautiful city, great Japanese food, the mountains, the ocean. I've also spent time with friends in Calgary, fishing and skiing. I've skied in Vancouver as well and been out to the islands. I love Canada in general. This next Canadian tour takes us right across Canada and it's going to be great."
The Canadian Tour kicks off in Moncton, New Brunswick on May 7, 2006 and stretches all across Canada with dates in Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The concert has already sold out in Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver.
Not bad for a band that's was seen as a has been just one year ago. Time will tell if INXS's resurgence of popularity in Canada has more to do with their sultry new Cannuck lead singer or their new-fangled music.
For more concert dates visit www.inxs.com.
Writer: Lisa Kerr