Jon Stevens by any definition is a survivor. A rock and roll survivor no less. While bands came and went with alarmingly regularity throughout the 1980s Noiseworks were one of the success stories, charting with big hits like Take Me Back and No Lies and forming creative partnerships and touring with the cream of Aussie rockers. When the band went on hiatus he joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar as Judas, and continued to make solo albums and tour the country. In 2000 Stevens joined INXS, stepping into the golden shoes of Michael Hutchence for the next three years. In just a few weeks’ time Stevens will again take centre stage in Geelong on a unique tour playing hits from both INXS and Noiseworks, and naturally the expectations from fans and Stevens alike are high.
Born in New Zealand but a long-time Australian citizen Stevens was great mates with Hutchence and the band and both joining them, and starting this tour has re-invigorated his deep love for those great INXS songs.
“They’d asked me to join (INXS) a couple of times but I was never available. I was living in America and I came back to Australia in 1999. When I came back I was doing a big arena show and Andrew Farriss (INXS’ keyboardist) and I were hanging out a lot. And the year 2000 was an exciting one because of the Olympics.”
As easily as a shared love for those songs and a strong friendship the deal was struck.
“(When Hutchence died) people said give it up. But I said come on boys let’s have some fun.”
Stevens recently saw the new INXS film Mystify and was impressed. “It was beautiful. Made with a lot of love. It’s great to have a sense of the man.
“He was always happy go lucky. Was a sweetheart. We’d always meet up somewhere.”
Hutchence suffered a head injury after an assault in Europe in 1992 and Stevens could see the change even if he didn’t know the full extent of his injuries. “I didn’t know the brain damage was so severe. The mood swings.”
After parting ways with INXS in 2003 Stevens continued his solo career but another jam session and catch up with Farriss at one of Stevens’ gigs again set him on a path back towards the music of INXS, and the basis of this up-coming tour.
“He basically said I needed to play ore INXS songs.” What defining advice. Returning to some of the Aussie rockers best songs has been both a blessing and reminder for Stevens of the band and their talent together. And has had a crystallising effect on Stevens own outlook to music in general.
“Michael just wanted a home. And just wanted to be loved. The music is the glue in all of that. It’s a joy to perform. Now I make records for me and if other people like them great. I’m very grateful. It’s been over 40 years as a professional musician,” he says.
“Don’t expect anything otherwise you will always be disappointed. There have been lots of ups and downs. But music if the healing force in everything.”
When & Where: Gateway Hotel, Corio – August 3.
Written by Chris Michaels