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Rock Star: INXS


July 12-13: Should he stay or should he go?


Tuesday: This week, the contestants were given fourteen songs to choose from, and they had to decide between themselves who was going to sing which song.  They performed them all on Tuesday night.  After Satan - I mean, Dave Navarro - gave his blessing to the audience, he and a couple of INXS members critiqued each performance (and by "critique," I mean mostly useless proclamations of, "Wow, that was fantastic," along with the occasional "I need to feel that more" and "Are you a lesbian?").


In the end, it all came down to who picked the best songs for their voices and what they did with those songs.  Which, come to think of it, is what's supposed to happen on American Idol, but these singers are at least ten steps above your average A.I. contestant.  I mean, see their bios at CBS's official site and you'll know you're not in A.I. land.  The problem here is that with so many strong rockers on stage, you really need to be unique to stand out.  In this case, being unique does not mean either standing still or going manic or doing the same shtick that every other rocker-wannabe does.


The two people who most impressed us were Deanna, who sang a kick-ass version of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go," and Ty, who was surprisingly good with Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker."  Shock!  Paul Abdul was actually right!  Sing a song originally performed by someone of the opposite sex, and it can be powerful stuff.


That advice didn't always work, though.  Jessica looked like she desperately wanted to get off on herself on "I Want You To Want Me."  Ugh.  And Tara failed to realize that yes, she should have changed the lyrics on the Eagles' "Take It Easy" so that she's singing about guys, not other girls.  That really seemed to flummox INXS, especially when she said she'd like to keep her sexuality ambiguous.  Um...no.  I don't think they're looking for Sophie B. Hawkins here.


Other bad song selections: Suzie singing a strained version of "Call Me" that had none of Deborah Harry's sexiness.  Wil falling absolutely short on "Right Here Right Now" because his voice just wasn't suited for it.


J.D. is the Scott Savol of this competition.  If you close your eyes, he sounds great, and that arrangement he did of "California Dreamin'" was terrific.  But if you watch him, he's very scary.  I would not want to be in the front row of any concert he headlines, because I'd be afraid he'd explode in my face.  Neal was kind of creepy, too, but only because he sang without a shirt on and he was so emaciated it looked like his jeans were about to fall off.  Actually, that's not scary - that's just gross.


The rest...well, they all sort of melded together after a while in my head.  But I enjoyed the show.  It's nice to see people let go and actually work the stage and the audience for once.  Oh, and note to contestants: If INXS talks among themselves during your performance, it's a Bad Sign.  On the other hand, if they start singing along and playing air drums, you're doing well.


Wednesday: I like this format.  The voting audience has chosen the bottom three.  We're told who they are in no particular order.  These contestants then perform INXS songs, and INXS decides who to boot.  This is good because not only do the contestants get a second chance, we get to hear what they'd be like singing songs they'd probably sing if they were with the band.  That can give the two who remain a slight edge in the next round if they do a decent job - or it could turn viewers further away from them if they flub up.


INXS asks J.D. to come forward, and it's quite a way to mess with his head because he thinks that he's in the bottom three.  But no, they want to showcase him because he was the most improved scary person of the previous night.  He's not as frightening this time around, but he is definitely channeling Michael Hutchence in his moves, which is creepy in its own way.  I guess they're going to do this each results night, which, again, I like.  We see who INXS thinks is the best.


The bottom three contestants are no surprise: Tara, Wil, and Suzie.  Tara enjoys "New Sensation" much more than the Eagles.  Wil sings "Need You Tonight" as if he knows it will be his last song and he's just given up.  Suzie puts genuine emotion into "Never Tear Us Apart."  The one who goes home is, obviously, Wil.  Lots of hugs, pats on the back, encouragement to keep going, etc., etc.  Suzie is crying.  Oh, please.  And I don't believe for a minute that INXS just "chose" those songs for the contestants on the spot.  Both the contestants and the backing band had to know ahead of time what songs they might be given, because that version of "New Sensation" was in a seriously different key from the original.


Favorite moment of the night?  Dave Navarro's slam of A.I..  While I seriously doubt that INXS will ever again perform live in front of 100,000 people (did they ever have a concert of their own where they pulled in that big of an audience, anyway?), Dave's comment that performing in front of that many people was "the difference between a pop singer and a rock star" elicited two full minutes of giggles from us.  Hee.  I really like this show now.


Review 2005 by Patricia Lowhorn.  For comments, e-mail tricia@lowhorn.org.


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