Tuesday, April 26, 2011

INXS: October 17, 1987

This is one of those shows I feel really lucky to have seen. INXS had been kicking around for years by this point. Although they were stars in their native Australia, in America their career momentum built steadily but slowly. By this time they had a number of minor hits under their belts -- among them "Don't Change, " "Original Sin," and "What You Need." Tracks from their last album, Listen Like Thieves, got lots of airplay, but it wasn't until Kick was released -- in the very month of this show -- that they had a true blockbuster.

I don't think Kick had dropped yet (and I'm pretty sure I bought it the week of its release), but if so it was brand new and this was the first taste the audience got of the new material -- songs that were to become ubiquitous over the next year: "Need You Tonight," "Devil Inside," "Never Tear Us Apart," "New Sensation." The next time the band played in Michigan, it was at an arena in Detroit. This was the last taste of intimacy before they hit the big time.

They interspersed the new songs with those older singles, which this crowd knew by heart. They were always so solid live, and Michael Hutchence was really underrated as a frontman. He had it all: charisma, a powerful voice, and a sexy strut. One funny memory of him stands out: A bunch of kids sort of mobbed the tour bus after the show. The crowd didn't disperse even after the band boarded the bus, so the driver finally started to pull out slowly. Hutchence was visible in the window and he had such a frightened look on his face, as if he thought the kids might be run over. Of course, we all quickly got out of the way! For him, maybe it was a taste of American stardom to come.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Duran Duran: July 6, 1987

I'm sad to say that, although I'm sure I was excited about it at the time, I don't recall a lot of particulars about this show. This was the first of four times (so far) I've seen Duran Duran. It was during the tour for Notorious, their first album as a trio after the departure of Roger (drums) and Andy (guitar) Taylor. I was saddened at the departure of those key members, but still liked Notorious a lot and really wanted to see the band. I see that the concert was less than a week before my birthday, so I'm sure that was a very good week in the teenage life, indeed.

Oddly, the thing I recall most clearly about this show is the merchandise. I bought an absolutely huge poster (really the most ridiculously oversize poster I've seen) and a program. I also had a gigantic T-shirt with "Abstract Idealist Romantic" printed on the back, although I can't recall if that's from this tour or the one supporting Big Thing. After that show I gave up on Duran for awhile, but you never really get out of that particular cult. More to come, Duranwise!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Belinda Carlisle: July 20, 1988

This was another freebie concert, courtesy of a friend who had an extra ticket. I loved the Go-Go's and liked Belinda Carlisle's first solo album, but I recall my reaction to Heaven on Earth (her new release at the time of this show) being immediate and negative. I was bummed that I had missed Carlisle opening for Robert Palmer when her earlier album came out.

I don't recall a lot about this show. I know Carlisle performed a few Go-Go's songs in addition to selections from her two solo albums. Paul Carrack, of Squeeze and Mike + the Mechanics, opened and did a couple songs from both those bands, including "Tempted." Mostly I remember the novelty of being in the pavilion of Pine Knob, an outdoor venue for summer shows, whereas I normally sat on the big hill that comprised the lawn.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

R.E.M.: April 5, 1989

My one and only R.E.M. concert. I'd passed up an opportunity to see them at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor when Document came out. Stupid, stupid, stupid! This was the tour for Green, the band's first major-label album and the last one I could tolerate. (It seems like, just as with Bowie, each new R.E.M. album is heralded by some as a return to form... but it never is.) The opener was the Indigo Girls, also supporting their first major-label release.

I remember a few older songs in the set, like "So. Central Rain," and of course lots from Document and Green. This might have been the first time R.E.M. played arenas of such a large size, and there was really no connection with the crowd at all -- to be sure, it's a challenge in a huge venue, but it can be done. There was a screen behind the band with projections, and while I can't recall exactly what they said, I remember there was something toward the end of the show along the lines of, "You've been a lovely audience. Now it's time for you to go home." I'm sure it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it just came off as assholish. I mean, R.E.M. is not Mark E. Smith on the best (or is it worst?) of days. I grumbled about it for what seemed like an eternity, first to my parents, who seemed amused. My dad seemed to particularly relish the couple of times I came home furious at a band (the other time being the Sugarcubes, which you will read about here at some point).

Although I haven't enjoyed any of R.E.M.'s post-Green music, I still love their '80s output. I realized all was pretty much forgiven when I saw Mike Mills at SXSW one year and he gave my stomach butterflies.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yes: November 21, 1987

I'll just come right out and admit that I own Big Generator, the album Yes was supporting on this tour. That would be the one after "Owner of a Lonely Heart," which is a pretty cool song and video -- and you cannot convince me it is not. Of course, this '80s version of Yes sounded very little like the earlier prog rock version, but it's up to you to decide whether that's good or bad.

I was not a huge Yes fan by any means, but I liked some of their songs well enough that when a high school friend offered a free extra ticket I was game. What I remember most about this show is the stench of pot in the air of a sports arena and stoner guys standing on folding chairs. The band was kind of boring, and some members of the somewhat restless crowd actually booed a little. Not being a fan of pot, sports arenas, stoner guys, folding chairs, or booing, I side completely with Yes on this one, boring or not.