ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 4, 1997
I was really expecting something special from the latest entry in Molson Breweries’ series of exclusive promotional concerts, in which contest winners get to see a big-name rock band play a club, unaware of which group they’ll see until the show starts.
Vancouver’s first Blind Date, at the Town Pump last year, was a major disappointment, as Seattle grunge vets Soundgarden played a show so crappy they had to break up afterwards. Then a second Blind Date here, which was to feature Stone Temple Pilots, was cancelled due to last December’s blizzard. Considering those local disappointments—and the fact that Blind Dates in Toronto last year netted gigs by the likes of Metallica, the Sex Pistols, and Rush—Vancouver seemed due for a real treat this time around.
I had no clue who I was about to see as I joined the 1,000 or so contest winners and fellow media sluts guzzling free cups of Molson Canadian in the dimly lit Rage last Sunday (August 31). I had noticed a large box of earplugs at the media desk on the way in, and now I glimpsed a Marshall stack between the black curtains enclosing the stage, so my first guess was a hard-rock/metal band. Since Metallica had already done a Blind Date, I thought about Megadeth, an excellent band that would be cool to see here. Probably too far from the mainstream for Molson, though.
Realizing that all kinds of bands use Marshall amps, I skipped the metal train of thought and started fantasizing about…the Rolling Stones! My wild imagination had me half convinced that Mick Jagger would soon be gyrating nearby, although that naive ray of hope was also shadowed by the dreaded possibility that some rap artist could take the stage.
Then all the earplugs in the world couldn’t have saved my sorry ass.
Half an hour after the scheduled 9 p.m. show time, the curtains finally parted, and five musicians I didn’t recognize took their spots onstage. They started to concoct a throbbing pop-funk sound that I couldn’t quite place, either. Then the lead singer pranced elegantly onstage in a three-piece suit, but still I was drawing a blank. A few seconds later, it hit home: INXS. I couldn’t believe it. The fact that these Aussie has-beens were playing the PNE the next night didn’t qualify them for this kind of big-ticket event! They’re not worthy! Their new album is terrible!
How could Molson, which I’ve helped turn a tidy profit all these years, do this to me?
Not surprisingly, there was no great uproar as the crowd—including some 120 “lucky winners” who flew all the way from Toronto, and who would turn around and fly right back—discovered who they were seeing. Suitably soused on the free suds, however, the audience seemed determined to make the best of the situation and came back to life when greeted by the familiar strains of the 1987 hit “New Sensation”. INXS itself performed well and thrived in the energy department, but it couldn’t overcome the fact that its new material bites and sucks.
After a few more painful cuts from Elegantly Wasted, I decided to go home, though once outside the door, I was accosted by a would-be concertgoer with an eye for my laminated Blind Date pass. He asked if he could have it and flashed some cash in my face, but I did him a favour and hung onto it.
I believe in random acts of kindness.
POSTSCRIPT: I felt kinda crappy about slagging INXS when, less than three months later, Hutchence was discovered dead in his Sydney hotel room.