Taped on June 21st, 1997, the newly released DVD Mystify captures INXS live onstage only five months before the untimely passing of frontman Michael Hutchence. The concert was recorded for the venerable German music television program Rockpalast. The band performed an eighteen song set that included many of their biggest hits. Six songs from Elegantly Wasted, their final album with Hutchence (though brand new at the time), were performed as well.
Unlike 1991’s Live Baby Live, filmed at the band’s peak in front of 72,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, Mystify presents an aging band looking for a comeback. Unfortunately, Elegantly Wasted wasn’t a particularly strong album and contained no hit singles. With a third of the set dedicated to it, the pacing of the show is poor. The band sometimes doesn’t seem quite in sync with each other, leading to somewhat sloppy performances. Hutchence completely botches the beginning of “New Sensation,” initially coming in too soon, then with the wrong verse when he does find his cue.
Poor technical presentation doesn’t help the situation. The audio mix is simply torturous. I doubt this has anything to do with the DVD producers; the source material was most likely the culprit. The sound is extremely tinny, with little definition between the instruments. Garry Gary Beers’ bass and the drums of Jon Farriss are a muddled mess, sounding thin and lacking punch. The two female backing vocalists are overly prominent in the mix, sometimes louder than Hutchence. At one point, Kirk Pengilly’s saxophone is inaudible though he is clearly blowing away. The 4:3 video is completely understandable, as this was standard definition television videography shot in 1997. But it’s a shame more care wasn’t put into recording the music.
That said, INXS was a great rock band and this still manages to be an enjoyable show. Hutchence is in good voice, particularly nailing some of the band’s signature hits such as “Devil Inside” and “Suicide Blonde.” Some of his stage patter is amusing, like his cross-promotion of the soon-to-be-released film Face/Off prior to “Don’t Lose Your Head” (which was part of the film’s soundtrack). The irresistibly sexy backup singers, Jane Dobbins and Shelley Preston, provide plenty of eye candy. Actually the concert would’ve been much improved had they been more prominently featured.
Greatly enhancing the value of Mystify is the inclusion of an INXS set taped for Rockpalast in 1984. The six song set, which includes their breakthrough single “The One Thing,” makes for an effective bookend with the ’97 show. In 1984 the band was at the beginning of their peak period. The vintage piece actually has a somewhat better audio mix, though at times the lead vocals are buried. Clocking in at approximately twenty-five minutes, the extra show is a treat to watch and one that will make INXS fans very happy.