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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Buggles: MTV's first video on 8/1/81

In case you hadn't heard: MTV is celebrating its 30th anniversary this weekend with a marathon of old clips from various shows and specials (Yo! MTV Raps, the VMAs, Unplugged, Live Aid, The Real World, Remote Control, Cribs, Spring Break, Beavis & Butthead, etc.) in random order on VH1 Classic.

The first-ever MTV hour will be rebroadcast at midnight Aug. 1.

With that in mind, I thought I'd share this brief excerpt from my interview with former Buggles keyboardist Geoff Downes in 2006. He was touring with a reunited Asia and I asked his thoughts on "Video Killed the Radio Star" - the first clip aired on MTV.

Q: How does it feel to be part of music history with The Buggles and MTV?
It is an honor. I’m certainly proud of that achievement, because it comes up a lot in [trivia questions]: ‘What was the first video on MTV?’ I’m very proud of the fact that was used. Ironically, it was not a hit in America at the time, since it was released two years earlier in Europe and was only a minor hit in America [reaching #40 on the Billboard Top 100 on Dec. 15, 1979]. I think it’s something to be remembered and it’s a nice piece of history to be associated with.

Q: So when this upstart cable television channel wanted to use your video, you probably thought, ‘sure, no problem.’
We didn’t have any clue how MTV was going to be received, long-term. I think in many ways, it helped Asia in the early period because we were synonymous with MTV the following year and after, our videos were very high profile on MTV. Asia grew with the station as well. It seems to have more significance now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sting career box set coming soon

Cherrytree/A&M Records/Universal Music Group has announced Sting: 25 Years, the definitive box set collection slated for release on Sept. 27. 

Featuring three CDs comprised of 45 remastered tracks personally curated by Sting, a previously unreleased live concert DVD and a comprehensive hardcover book, this retrospective captures for the first time both the highlights and rarities of Sting’s enduring solo career.
 
This consummate collection contains selections spanning his entire solo catalog, from his 1985 debut album, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, to his latest release, Live in Berlin.

Highlights include all of Sting’s top 40 hits as well as Grammy winners “Brand New Day,” “The Soul Cages,” “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” and “Whenever I Say Your Name” featuring Mary J. Blige (full track listing included below).
 
Sting: 25 Years was produced by Rob Mathes and Executive Produced by Sting’s longtime manager, Kathryn Schenker. The box set also contains nine songs remixed by Robert Orton and Steve Fitzmaurice exclusively for this collection.
 
Rough, Raw & Unreleased: Live At Irving Plaza, the previously unreleased live concert DVD, features 10 tracks culled from newly unearthed raw performance footage filmed in New York City on the final night of Sting’s U.S. “Broken Music” tour in 2005.
 
The discs are housed in a beautiful, lavish hardcover book containing intimate and rare photos from world renowned photographers, complete lyrics, personal commentary and a newly written introduction by Sting.
 
Richly diverse in musical content and visually captivating, Sting: 25 Years is a compelling tribute to the restless spirit of an artist who continues to evolve and explore new musical territory.

Disc One:
1.If You Love Somebody Set Them Free
2.Love Is The Seventh Wave
3.Consider Me Gone
4.Moon Over Bourbon Street
5.Fortress Around Your Heart
6.Bring On The Night (Live)
7.Driven To Tears (Live)
8.I Burn For You (Live)
9.Be Still My Beating Heart
10.They Dance Alone
11.Englishman In New York
12.Fragile
13.We’ll Be Together
14.Sister Moon
15.Secret Marriage
 
Disc Two:
1.All This Time
2.Mad About You
3.Why Should I Cry For You?
4.The Soul Cages
5.When The Angels Fall
6.If I Ever Lose My Faith In You
7.Fields Of Gold
8.Seven Days
9.It’s Probably Me
10.Shape Of My Heart
11.When We Dance
12.I Hung My Head
13.I Was Brought To My Senses
14.You Still Touch Me
15.I’m So Happy I Can’t Stop Crying
 
Disc Three:
1.A Thousand Years
2.Desert Rose
3.Ghost Story
4.Brand New Day
5.Send Your Love
6.Whenever I Say Your Name
7.Stolen Car (Take Me Dancing)
8.Soul Cake
9.The Hounds Of Winter
10.Next To You
11.We Work The Black Seam
12.The Pirate’s Bride
13.Never Coming Home
14.Russians (Live)
15.The End Of The Game (Live)
 
Disc Four: Rough, Raw & Unreleased: Live at Irving Plaza
1.Message In A Bottle
2.Demolition Man
3.Synchronicity II
4.Driven To Tears
5.Heavy Cloud, No Rain
6.A Day In The Life
7.Voices Inside My Head/When The World Is Running Down
8.Roxanne
9.Next To You
10.Lithium Sunset

MuteMath back on the road; to preview new disc

New Orleans' rock innovators MUTEMATH have announced that they will launch the Odd Soul Introduction Tour this fall.

The tour finds the band, which is Paul Meany (vocals/keyboards), Roy Mitchell-Cardenas (bass/guitar), and Darren King (drums), unveiling songs from their upcoming new album, Odd Soul, which will be released on Oct. 4 by Teleprompt/Warner Bros. Records. 

MUTEMATH will perform on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on the night of release.

The Odd Soul Introduction Tour kicks off on Sept. 7 and concludes with a homecoming show in New Orleans on Oct. 21. The tour revisits intimate venues to provide fans with a unique opportunity to see MUTEMATH up close in many of the clubs they first performed at when starting out nearly seven years ago.

A pre-sale for a VIP Package (which includes tickets, a physical and digital copy of Odd Soul, and a digital download of the track "Blood Pressure") has already begun. Regular tickets go on sale to the public on Aug. 5. Prior to Sept. 7, MUTEMATH will perform a few select special dates in August. Visit www.mutemath.com for more details. All upcoming tour dates are listed below.

In other MUTEMATH news, the track "Odd Soul" is currently available to fans in a unique video mixer platform. The mixer, which premiered on digital and social media technology site Mashable.com, features a different video for each part of the song: drums, guitars, bass, vocals, synth, and background vocals.

Listeners can solo, mute, and mix "Odd Soul" in real-time creating their own audio and visual mix. Due to varying connection speeds and hardware there are two versions available, a 4-track version meant for users on slower connections and a 6-track version for fans using up-to-date browsers on faster broadband connections. Versions can be chosen by visiting www.mutemath.com/oddsoul.

Odd Soul, which was produced by the band, is the follow-up to 2009's Armistice, which debuted at No. 3 on Billboard's Digital Albums and Alternative Albums chart, No. 4 on the Rock chart, and No. 18 on the Top 200 album chart, and was called a "must-have album" by the New York Post.

08/16            Los Angeles, CA                Troubadour (sold-out)
08/20            Mobile, AL                           Saenger Theatre
08/25            New York, NY                      Mercury Lounge (sold-out)
09/07            Charleston, SC                    The Pour House
09/08            Greenville, SC                     The Handlebar
09/09            Columbia, SC                      New Brookland Tavern
09/10            Athens, GA                           40 Watt
09/12            Raleigh, NC                         The Pour House
09/13            Wilmington, NC                   The Soapbox
09/15            Richmond, VA                      Canal Club
09/16            Charlottesville, VA               The Southern
09/17            Poughkeepsie, NY               The Loft
09/18            Hartford, CT                          Webster Underground
09/20            Providence, RI                      The Met
09/22            Buffalo, NY                             Mohawk Place
09/23            Burlington, VT                       Higher Ground
09/24            Albany, NY                             Pearl Palooza (WEQX)
09/25            Cleveland, OH                      The Grog Shop
09/27            Ann Arbor, MI                        The Blind Pig
09/29            Lansing, MI                           The Loft
09/30            Milwaukee, WI                      The Rave Bar
10/01            Des Moines, IA                     Vaudeville, Mews
10/02            Lawrence, KS                      Bottleneck
10/07            Oklahoma, City, OK             The Conservatory
10/08            Waco, TX                              Common Ground
10/09            San Antonio, TX                   Endless Music
10/11            Little Rock, AK                     Revolution Music Room
10/12            Memphis, TN                        Hi-Tone
10/14            Baton Rough, LA                  Chelsea's
10/16            Pensacola, FL                      Deluna Fest
10/17            Jacksonville, FL                   Jack Rabbit's
10/19            Knoxville, TN                         The Square Room
10/20            Birmingham, AL                   Workplay Theatre
10/21             New Orleans, LA                One Eyed Jacks
           
For info, videos and photos of MUTEMATH, please visit www.mutemath.com.

Joe Henry returns with fresh material in fall

The last time I caught Henry live was a couple years ago at Largo (one of his regular LA haunts) and he was captivating. I'm sure this record will be as well...

Revered musician and producer Joe Henry is set to release a captivating new album entitled Reverie, Oct. 11 via Anti- Records. Henry is an acclaimed solo artist with 12 critically heralded albums to his credit, including 2009’s masterful Blood From Stars

He is also a multi-Grammy winning producer with credits that include Solomon Burke's 2002 album Don't Give Up On Me, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album as well as works by esteemed artists such as Bettye LaVette, Mose Allison, Aimee Mann and Ani DiFranco, and an additional Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album with the 2010 album by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Reverie is an all-acoustic production, though also a raw and raucous affair. As Henry explains, “I knew it should be stripped and lean but not demur, sonically speaking; in black and white, but not without red blood in its veins.”

The record came to fruition when Henry and his fellow musicians convened in his basement studio for three days of exploration. Next the great guitarist Marc Ribot joined with “his particular and wiry racquet” for a few songs. There was some additional lost-world underscoring from singer Jean McClain and a brief soliloquy given air and a smear of lipstick by Patrick Warren's  pump organ. The final touch occured when the song “Piano Furnace” was sent to Dublin so singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan, for whom Henry had just produced an album, could illuminate a few words with her indelible spirit.

The result is an album more lifelike –fuming and nervously ticking— than any Henry has managed. It is also a work that addresses, albeit subtly, some profound themes. “This album speaks about time,” Henry elaborates, “The great river that reminds us we are buoyant after all, as its moving current lifts us by the chin and just off of the balls of our feet, while we strain to dig our toes into the sandy ground. I am not convinced that any song exists without some knowing nod in its direction. And so with Reverie, I am nodding, then –to time, but also to all the love, hope, despair, and revelation that stands naked inside its weather.”

You can listen to the first featured track off Reverie, entitled “Odetta,” on National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2011/07/26/138705766/song-premiere-joe-henrys-odetta.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Drums' tour+new release in September

They were one of my faves at Coachella '11...

The Drums announce the release of their second album, Portamento, out Sept. 13 through Frenchkiss Records. In support of their U.S. release, The Drums have also announced fall tour dates including a summer performance at this year's sold out Lollapalooza music festival.

Their shows kick off on Sept. 28 in Hoboken, NJ at Maxwell’s and continue through Nov. 6 in Washington D.C. at The Black Cat. Complete list below. Exclusive fan pre-sale starts Wednesday, July 27 followed by a public on-sale this weekend. To purchase tickets: http://thedrums.com/shows
 
To accommodate the record’s sonic expansiveness, the band has expanded to a quintet live, adding two auxiliary members including Myles Matheny on guitar and bass. The additional touring musicians lend their live performances a more visceral, spontaneous feel, in line with the aesthetic of the new album, discontinuing the need for backing tracks.
 
The Drums also released their music video for single “Money” on Nowness this week. The video can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/IqYgNiZdfh4
 
The twelve-song album reveals a band tugging lightly at the boundaries of their sound while still retaining their recognizable sonic signatures—sweet rushes of melody, winsome lyrics, and brittle synthesizer sheens colliding with wiry Spector-esque guitar and bass lines.
 
Singer Jonny Pierce says, “The new album, it’s like every song is a scene from real life. I think from beginning to end it’s sort of autobiographical for me. I was able to be alone for a lot of this, and really write about myself. This new album touches on everything from my extreme religious roots to transgenderism to violence, and of course there’s plenty of heartbreak stuff, which I couldn’t get away from even if I tried.”

Emerging from Brooklyn via Florida in 2010, The Drums caught the ear of the indie world with their ‘Summertime!’ EP - an escapist collection of sunny pop fantasies – which preceded their self-titled debut album, released in June 2010. The Drums has gone on to sell 200,000 albums world-wide, reflecting the universal appeal of a band that toured the globe. 

Single “Money”: http://soundcloud.com/workit/the-drums-money
www.thedrums.com<http://www.thedrums.com>

Tour dates:
August 6            Chicago, IL                        Lollapalooza
Sept. 28            Hoboken, NJ                      Maxwell’s
Sept. 29            Boston, MA                        Brighton Music Hall
Sept. 30            Montreal, QC                     Evenko
Oct. 1               Toronto, ON                         The Mod Club
Oct. 3              Cleveland Heights, OH       Grog Shop
Oct. 4              Chicago, IL                           Subterranean
Oct. 5              Minneapolis, MN                  7th Street Entry
Oct. 6              Des Moines, IA                     Vaudville Mews
Oct. 10            Portland, OR                         Doug Fir Lounge
Oct. 11            Vancouver, BC                      Venue
Oct. 12            Seattle, WA                           Crocodile CafĂ©
Oct. 14            San Francisco, CA              The Independent
Oct. 15            San Diego, CA                     The Casbah
Oct. 18            Los Angeles, CA                  Echoplex
Oct. 20            Tempe, AZ                            Sail Inn
Oct. 22            Dallas, TX                             The Loft
Oct. 23            Austin, TX                             The Parish
Oct. 24            Houston, TX                         Fitzgerald’s
Oct. 26            Tallahassee, FL                   Club Downunder
Oct. 27            Orlando, FL                         The Social
Oct. 28            Miami, FL                            Grand Central
Oct. 31            Atlanta, GA                          The Drunken Unicorn
Nov. 3              Brooklyn, NY                       Music Hall of Williamsburg
Nov. 5              Philadelphia, PA                 Making Time at Voyeur Night Club
Nov. 6              Washington, DC                 The Black Cat

Portamento
track listing:
1.    Book Of Revelation
2.    Days
3.    What You Were
4.    Money
5.    Hard To Love
6.    I Don’t Know How To Love
7.    Searching For Heaven
8.    Please Don’t Leave
9.    If He Likes It Let Him Do It
10.  I Need A Doctor
11.  In The Cold
12.  How It Ended

The Drums are:
Jonny Pierce - vocals
Jacob Graham - synthesizer
Connor Hanwick – guitar

Need to Breathe album news

I can't wait to hear the new album. Their last was in my top 10 of the year. My interview can be found elsewhere on the blog.

Charleston, SC rock band NEEDTOBREATHE are gearing up for the release of their new album The Reckoning, out Sept. 20 on Atlantic Records.

The follow up to the band's acclaimed album The Outsiders, which debuted in the Top 20 of the Billboard Top 200, The Reckoning is a confident and fresh-sounding collection from a band coming into its own as a world class rock 'n' roll outfit.

After two years of non-stop touring, NEEDTOBREATHE went straight into the studio to create The Reckoning - an album centered on the songwriting talents of Bear and Bo Rinehart. Inspired by the dynamics they had developed on the road, the band was determined to capture their on-stage energy and exhilarating live performances, along with their experimental recording ideas, on record.

"We wanted to make a record where we pretty much tried everything" says Bear. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create something that would define us."

With the arena-ready "Drive All Night," the swagger of "White Fences" and its epic title track, The Reckoning fulfills on the promise of the band's first three albums, offering a powerful and memorable sound that defines the band's ambitions clearly and makes NEEDTOBREATHE one of the most exciting bands to watch.

NEEDTOBREATHE is streaming "Drive All Night" here: http://www.needtobreathe.net/music/83c000-drive-all-night
 
The band is on tour with Taylor Swift through Oct. 8, with headlining tour dates expected soon. For more info, go to: www.needtobreathe.net

Journey/Foreigner/Night Ranger concert review

photo by Alex Solca
My review originally appeared at ocregister.com/sections/entertainment/music

Classic rock fans definitely got a bang for their buck when Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger teamed up to do an energetic show at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Saturday night.


Even with a top tier price at $135, the concert still sold out. Demand was so high that many people sought tickets. I witnessed one desperate guy who inadvertently bought counterfeits off Craigslist and couldn’t even snag lawn seats from the box office.   


Over the past few years, veteran Bay Area band Journey (pictured, above) has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, due in large part to the continued staying power of 1981 top 10 single “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Prominently featured in the season finale of TV’s “The Sopranos,” “Glee,” the hit Broadway sensation “Rock of Ages” and elsewhere, it is the top selling catalog track in iTunes history, having moved over 4 million downloads.


2008’s Revelation, their first studio effort with Arnel Pineda – the Filipino singer discovered by guitarist Neal Schon on YouTube – was certified platinum and spawned a pair of top 20 Adult Contemporary radio singles. Eclipse, released in May, is a loosely-based concept album about belief and enlightenment, with more aggressive guitar sounds and expansive solos. Schon has compared its sonic scope to Frontiers.


In Irvine, Journey – anchored by drummer and Westminister native Deen Castronovo - launched their fantastic 100-minute headlining set with a fierce “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart).” Several dozen square panels behind the stage projected album covers, filmed clips and dazzling images throughout. Paired with lasers, the visuals were quite a sight.


Pineda was agile and a total ball of energy onstage - jumping, pogoing and doing flying leaps at every opportunity. He boasts an amazingly elastic vocal range that not only matches best known Journey singer Steve Perry, but often surpasses it. The front man also appears more poised and confident than in early tours with the group.


Schon is among hard rock’s most influential axemen and watching his fast-fingered fretwork live, it’s easy to see why. New tunes like the swelling “City of Hope” - inspired by a band trip to Pineda’s former home in Manila - and the ominous “Edge of the Moment,” featuring a squealing dual guitar effect, plus that indelible melodic end solo on “Who’s Crying Now?,” were prime examples of Schon’s continued instrumental prowess. 


The plaintive “Lights” found fans swaying, singing along loudly and holding their cell phones aloft; “Wheel in the Sky” featured a bluesy harmonica coda by Jonathan Cain and supple group backing vocals. Whether it was tasteful grand piano flourishes (the classical-style intro to “Open Arms,” “Send Her My Love,” “Faithfully”), florid keyboards or synths, principal co-songwriter Cain is frequently the glue that holds the songs together.   



Following the uplifting, rich vocals of “Be Good to Yourself” and a buoyant “Believin’”, confetti shot over the crowd and Journey quickly rocked hard on closer “Anyway You Want It.” Earlier, on insanely catchy riff rocker “Stone in Love,” Pineda sang “those summer nights are calling.” Great weather, sound and a mostly well-behaved crowd (Pineda acknowledged the always pervasive pot smoke at Verizon rock shows) all converged to make this a perfect evening.


Those who immediately dismiss Foreigner in 2011 because guitarist/songwriter Mick Jones is only original member left  should see the sextet live. The current lineup that solidified in '05 does an exceptional job at replicating the band’s late 1970s and ‘80s pop/album oriented rock radio hits.


Jones definitely made the right decision in recruiting lanky lead vocalist Kelly Hansen, whose timbre has just enough grit to resemble original singer Lou Gramm, but also brings to mind a young Steven Tyler.


2009’s highly satisfying Can’t Slow Down, their first studio album together, was co-produced by Jones, Aerosmith collaborator Marti Frederiksen and Mick Ronson. Like Journey’s Revelation, it was initially available exclusively at WalMart in one of those bargain-conscious three-disc packages.    


Although two of the newer tracks were top 20 at AC radio, none made it into 65-minute O.C. performance. Instead, it was crowd pleasers all the way, which worked to the band’s advantage. Everything went down a storm.


Opening with “Double Vision,” Jones and Thom Gimbel’s guitars blazed a sharp trail and Hansen came racing out to the stage, twirling the mike stand. He vamped at the end “Head Games” and Jones played an extended solo.


Enthusiastic drummer Marc Schulman did his part to keep the crowd revved up during the dramatic “Cold as Ice,” as the singer made the first of several forays deep into the orchestra section.


“I’m from Hermosa Beach, so I know a lot of what goes down here [in O.C.] has to do with nubile young women,” teased Hansen, before hard charging rocker “Dirty White Boy.” Images of James Dean, Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley simultaneously flashed on the backdrop screens.


A haunting “Waiting for a Girl Like You,” prefaced by a stripped-down intro and featuring tandem icy synths and keyboards from Jones and Michael Bluestein, was among the set standouts.

Others included Hansen’s soulful vocals on a spirited, extended “Urgent,” where Gimbel wildly blared the sax, the needling guitars on “Hot Blooded” and “Juke Box Hero,” where the group pulled out all the stops and Hansen worked up a sweat darting around while cool videogame-type animation was projected behind them.


Due to box office problems, I missed most of Night Ranger’s set. But the hard rock band, which has a new album (Somewhere in California) in stores, was just as spirited as when I saw them last September at the venue.


All three electric guitarists took turns standing on the amps. Meanwhile, leader Jack Blades was grinning ear to ear as they plowed through “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me,” the anthemic “(You Can Still) Rock in America” and power ballad “Sister Christian,” sung by drummer Kelly Keagy.

  

The package tour returns to SoCal, at the Hollywood Bowl, on Oct. 11. Tickets are $25-$175.


Setlist: Journey, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine, July 23, 2011

Main set: Separate Ways/Ask the Lonely/City of Hope/Only the Young/Send Her My Love/Who’s Crying Now/Stone in Love/Edge of the Moment/Lights/Wheel in the Sky/Chain of Love/Open Arms/Escape/Faithfully/Be Good to Yourself/Don’t Stop Believing

Encore: Anyway You Want It


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Concrete Blonde exclusive live webcast

See my June 2010 concert review elsewhere on this blog.

Concrete Blonde will take the stage on July 31 in the California high desert town of Joshua Tree for a one-of-a-kind live event that will be streamed online for ticket buying fans through Stageit.com.

Live at Rancho De La Luna, the band’s first ever live-streaming "experiment," will offer both international and domestic fans the chance to see Concrete Blonde play just for them.

"Tickets" can be purchased on the website at:
www.stageit.com/concreteblondes2011/cb_live_at_rancho_de_la_luna_joshua_tree/3513

The site's currency is called 'notes' (10 notes = $1) and after a fan purchases notes with a credit card or through PayPal, they are then able to buy tickets on the website for the show.

Fresh from their first trip to China, the band was honored to play the 2011 West Lake Music Festival in Taiziwan Park in the city of Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province. A two day festival of international music, Concrete Blonde was one of only two American bands asked to perform.

After countless shows all over the world during their successful and storied career, singer Johnette Napolitano expresses “this was one of the most important shows we've ever played, after 30 years. We were humbled and amazed.” 

Currently working on material for a new album, 2010 marked the 20th Anniversary of Concrete Blonde’s award-winning and best-selling album, Bloodletting. After several years on indefinite hiatus, the band reunited for an anniversary Vampire Tour, playing a month-long celebration of their third release for their fans in the United States and Australia.

With songs such as “Joey,” “Caroline” and “The Sky is a Poisonous Garden,” Concrete Blonde and Bloodletting provided much of the alternative rock soundtrack that marked the '90s with songs that are still fresh and heard regularly in film and TV: "The Sopranos" and "The Shield" are on the long list of soundtrack credits on Concrete Blonde's resume.

The Vampire Tour concluded with Johnette proclaiming that it was time to go back and make an album reflecting where the band is today. "We're in a much better place than we've ever been, I think. I don't know if it's cool to say about your own band but there were times this year when we'd come offstage and just look at each other and say, 'that was amazing!”

For Concrete Blonde tour updates and music, go to http://www.myspace.com/vampiresrisecbofficial.

INXS/Bow Wow Wow concert review

Photo by Lon Cayeway, courtesy inxs.com
My review originally appeared at ocregister.com/sections/entertainment/music

It takes mighty big shoes to fill the role Michael Hutchence served for 20 years with INXS. The singer was one of the most charismatic and sensual performers to emerge from the new wave era before his untimely death in 1997.
 
After winning the television reality series “Rock Star: INXS” in 2005, the brash JD Fortune (pictured, left) assumed that lead position and teamed up with the veteran Aussie band for a solid studio album (Switch) and world tour.
 
I caught them live together in January ‘06 at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, where Fortune was erratic, seemed unhealthy and the concert definitely suffered as a result.
 
Three years later, he left INXS (the reason was a dismissal or completed contractual obligations, depending on who you asked; the vocalist later admitted to having a drug problem).    
 
Without a regular voice for the music, the five original members of INXS started work on Original Sin, named after their 1984 single. The ambitious concept album, released domestically this past spring on Rhino Records, finds the group re-imagining their past hits and deep album cuts with a truly international flair.
 
Contributors hail from America, Canada, England, Australia, France, Cuba and Argentina. Ben Harper, Train’s Pat Monahan, Tricky, Rob Thomas - and yes, even Fortune - are among the more prominent singers (others, such as Brandon Flowers, didn’t make the final cut).
 
The Matchbox 20 leader’s interpretation of the title track was combined with Spanish lyrics by DJ Yalediys. A remix topped Billboard’s Dance Club Play tally – the highest INXS chart placing here since 1990.   
 
Now older and wiser, Fortune, 37, is back on tour with INXS. What a difference five years makes. Looking trim, fit, focused and oozing raw sexuality at The Wiltern (a woman standing in front of me concurred in a text), he definitely came off as a worthy successor to Hutchence.
 
“Drum Opera” opened the 95-minute set. A percussive instrumental by the band’s three Farriss brothers, it was the first of seven Original Sin tracks played. Seamlessly transitioning into “Suicide Blonde,” Andrew Farriss elevated the stomping blues/rock sound with feisty harmonica work.
 
Clad in sunglasses, a captain’s hat and tight, skinny jeans, Fortune slowly slinked onstage and immediately saluted everyone. The rest of the band looked sharp in matching suits.
 
Although a poor sound mix tended to bury Fortune’s voice and the group’s funky rock grooves, “Devil Inside” was still appropriately fiery. Many people in the large Los Angeles crowd – both young and older ones around the founding members’ fiftysomething age range - danced up a storm.
 
Two female backing vocalists appeared during “The Stairs.” Fortune was soulful, Kirk Pengilly did some tasty slide guitar licks and Andrew Farriss added swelling orchestral keyboards. Full-bodied vocals and taut rhythms really made “Listen Like Thieves” swing.
 
The elder musicians basically stuck to their stage spots, but the younger singer made a point of connecting with each guy, whether it was straightening their ties or placing an arm around them. Fortune spent a bit too much time facing away from the audience, but really seemed immersed in the songs. He brought to mind Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan while punctuating lyrics with yelps.
 
Despite INXS being in L.A., none of the Original Sin collaborators turned up at the Wiltern (Monahan was down in Chula Vista with Train and Maroon 5). Yet an awkward surprise did find Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Renner onstage to sing a verse of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” play keyboards and shake maracas during a forceful “Pretty Vegas.” The few minutes getting him set up seemed to last an eternity. 
 
A newly acoustic, ethereal “Don’t Change” worked well with Andrew and Pengilly on rare dual lead vocals and guitar/clarinet, respectively. On the other hand, a slow, folksy “New Sensation,” with one of the female backing singers front and center, did not.
 
Lyrics to “Mediate” (oddly slotted before its recorded Kick antecedent “Need You Tonight”) were flashed on the bright LED backdrop as Tricky’s recitation played. Then, injecting some humor into the night, some members of INXS reappeared in different hats and outfits (Andrew looked like a Spanish monk; guitarist Tim, a motorcyclist) to finish the song.
 
Later, “What You Need” was a high intensity workout and Pengilly’s exuberant sax solo made it soar. Later, Fortune’s emotional deliveries on “Never Tear Us Apart” and “By My Side” were highlights of the evening. The familiar arrangement of “Don’t Change” – a regular concert closer since the early INXS days, capped the show off on an exhilarating note. (Bassist Garry Gary Beers was flying even higher: his wife went into labor with twins during the show and left for Cedar-Sinai Medical Center after they left the stage.)

English new wave act Bow Wow Wow was a strange choice to open for INXS. A late ‘90s reunion found them touring sporadically over the next decade - frequently with No Doubt’s Adrian Young on drums - before going quiet again and promises of new material left unfulfilled.
 
At the Wiltern, founding singer Annabella Lwin and bassist Leigh Gorman, plus two other musicians, turned in a satisfactory 35-minute set.
 
Wearing a red-fringed dress, black boots and feathers in her pulled back hair, Burma native Lwin remained an eternal cheerleader on the silly, but infectious tunes she initially recorded as a teenager in the early ‘80s (“W.O.R.K.,” “See Jungle!,” “Go Wild in the Country”). Playful and fun, she traded chants with Gorman as their drummer played Burundi-influenced beats. Despite a lack of much needed backing harmony assistance and clipped lyrics, the best known tunes (“I Want Candy,” “Do You Wanna Hold Me?”) still came across well.
 
Setlist: INXS, Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, July 22, 2011
Main set: Drum Opera/Suicide Blonde/Devil Inside/The Stairs-Original Sin version/Listen Like Thieves/Kiss the Dirt/Pretty Vegas/Bitter Tears/Mystify/Don’t Change-Original Sin version/New Sensation-Original Sin version/Beautiful Girl-Original Sin version/Mediate-Original Sin version/Need You Tonight/Not Enough Time/Disappear/Taste It/Original Sin-Original Sin version/What You Need/Never Tear Us Apart
Encore: By My Side/New Sensation/Don’t Change