Revisiting Michael Hutchence’s Final Concert
When INXS' world tour in support of their album Elegantly Wasted wound to a close on Sept. 27, 1997, no one could have known the life of singer Michael Hutchence was also drawing to a close.
Eight weeks later, his lifeless body was found in an Australian hotel room. His death was later ruled to be suicide.
His last-ever performance took place at the Star Lake Amphitheater in Pittsburgh and featured a 20-song set. After powering through “Elegantly Wasted,” “New Sensation,” “Taste It,” “Time” and “I’m Just a Man,” Hutchence introduced himself to the crowd. “We’re called INXS and we’re from Sydney, Australia,” he told them. “We’re here to entertain you this evening. Would you like to be entertained? We’re finishing our tour of the world … what better place? You sound fucking great.”
You can listen to the concert below.
He later halted “Never Tear Us Apart” in its stride, telling guitarist Tim Farriss, “Hold it a second,” then asking the audience, “You want some more? Okay, I believe you.” The set ended with an encore of “Don’t Lose Your Head,” “Don’t Change” and “Suicide Blonde,” after which Hutchence said his final words onstage: “Take care, be safe, be good to each other.”
At the time, Hutchence was involved in a bitter and public custody battle over his daughter Tiger with mother Paula Yates. She later said that he was “frightened” of the prospect of spending Christmas apart, and told her, “I don’t know how I’ll live without seeing Tiger.”
On Nov. 22, he was found hanging by his belt from his hotel room door. Nearby was a note that read:
“Wouldn’t be right to take it
Wouldn’t be right laying down
Sick of the dogs outside my window
That’s right take a look
New plan with a hook
Stuck into me
All the bitterness
Has started showing
Five years no one hears.”
“I’m surprised I’ve survived and so are a lot of my friends,” he’d said in a 1995 interview. “I’m sure some of them are pissed off, because one thing about me is that I always manage to have my cake and eat it too, whereas people love to see fuck-ups. That’s the industry.”
INXS played two more shows during the ‘90s, both in Australia. They were fronted by Jimmy Barnes for the Mushroom Records 25th anniversary party in November 1998 and then returned to mark the opening of the Sydney Stadium in Australia in June 1999, when Terence Trend D’Arby took the mic. In 2005, J.D. Fortune won a TV talent show series to land the role of replacing Hutchence full time. His troublesome tenure ended in 2011, and the band recruited Ciaran Gribbin before confirming their split in 2012.
“When [Hutchence] started singing with us, he wasn’t really a singer, he was more of a poet," Tim Farriss told Mix.com in 2007. "We watched him grow and turn into this fantastic performer. His voice improved incredibly right in front of us.” Keyboardist Andrew Farriss argued that there was more to focus on than the singer’s tragic end, saying, “Much of his life is very positive and proactive.”
In a 2018 interview, Hutchence’s sister said that he’d undergone a personality change after suffering a “traumatic brain injury” five years before his death, and insisted that the final tour should never have taken place. (The singer got into a drunken altercation with a taxi driver, who shoved him backward to the ground, where Hutchence hit his head and fractured his skull.)
“While he lost his sense of smell and taste, I don’t believe he was told much else about what could happen,” Tina Hutchence told the Guardian. “He was put on Prozac and told he’d get through the headaches. But there has been so much written about T.B.I.s in the U.S. over the last five years, looking at football players and boxers. It made sense to me the more I read, because Michael’s personality changed dramatically.”
She said the management attitude had been “‘Let’s push on.' … Doesn’t matter if he’s forgetting his own lyrics." “The fact that the manager wrote Michael a letter saying she was very worried about him, and what can they do?" she recalled. "Well, obviously the thing to do is call off the tour that he didn’t want to be on, but they didn’t – it was on with the show.”