Of course, one of the pleasures of traveling is finding a small, dark bar with a local band, singing songs you’ve never heard before, preferably in a language you don’t understand. This is the sort of ambiance that incites an evening of intrigue, whether it’s a wine bar in Lyon or a dive in Dresden. However, another sort of adventure can be had in seeing one of your favorite foreign bands in a different country.
Australian rockers INXS have had a complicated history since the death of their frontman, Michael Hutchence, in November, 1997. However, they are currently touring the United States after some dates at the beginning of the year in their native country. The experience of seeing the band in Australia, particularly at this point in their career, is entirely different than seeing them in the United States.
In the United States, the current fan base is principally drawn from viewers of the reality show, Rock Star: INXS, wherein the band chose a singer, J.D. Fortune, to record an album and tour with the band. In Australia, the fan base covers a wide age range, from original fans of the band in the early 80s to their adult children, whereas the U.S. fans, due to the popularity of the television show, tend to be a more narrow age range of women who were teenagers in the 80s. The unmistakeable warmth of the Australian audience, for whom the band are hometown boys, combined with the obvious pleasure of the band at sharing their music with their loved ones, resulted in a cozy, joyous feeling, even among a larger audience.
While the songs may generally be the same, the audience reaction in a different country can be quite different. Much as Spanish ballet fans would only shout “Bravo!” and would never simply cheer as American fans do, concert audiences in different countries have their own quirks. And if you can tolerate a little cigarette smoke, there is something undeniably pleasurable about hearing English lyrics sung by a massive crowd in a French accent.
Also, there are certain concert venues in foreign countries that provide an experience that simply cannot be replicated in the U.S., such as seeing Leonard Cohen outside of a magnificent cathedral in Ghent. Similarly, the band Placebo, whose original members are European, are much more popular in Europe than they are in the United States. Accordingly, American fans traveling in Europe have the opportunity to see the band headlining much bigger venues than they would in the United States.
Despite the bad reputation of fan behavior at European soccer matches, American fans may be surprised to find themselves at a stadium rock concert in Europe that is general admission. Milan’s PalaSharp, for example, seats over 8,000 people and concerts may be general admission. One can hardly imagine showing up for a general admission concert of that size in New York without a full set of combat gear, but the crowd in Milan enjoy the rush of scrambling for a prime seat without the need to draw blood.
However, while experiencing the collective inability of a London crowd to clap in unison, one realizes that some concert effects are universal. On the whole, the experience of seeing one’s favorite band on foreign soil is a poignant reminder of the global impact of music, and that, for all our surface differences, we share a common need to communicate.
INXS comes to Atlanta’s Chastain Park on August 14, tickets available through Ticketmaster.