The soundtrack to the projected countdown preceding INXS's Wang Center performance was AC/DC's ''T.N.T.," and it served, unintentionally or not, as more than simply a nod to a fellow Australian band. Both groups lost lead singers, with AC/DC replacing Bon Scott practically without a beat and continuing on to greater glory. INXS was more circumspect, taking eight years and one reality show to fill the vacancy left by Michael Hutchence's 1997 death, but J.D. Fortune proved himself a worthy heir to the throne last night.
With a relaxed confidence unexpected for a man thrown into the position of leading a band he loves, Fortune has come a long way from the manic performer introduced on ''Rock Star: INXS" last July 11. He did justice to ''Mystify" and ''New Sensation" without simply aping Hutchence's vocals or mannerisms, and he shined brightest on the lovely slow build of the new ''Afterglow."
His biggest resemblance to his predecessor was not his singing but his charisma, injecting some personality into what might otherwise be an anonymous, if enjoyable, band.
Unfortunately, the acoustics of the Wang swallowed up the ballad ''By My Side" and made the sultry verses of ''Disappear" indistinguishable from the driving chorus. Faring better were the ticking-clock-like ''Need You Tonight," the reggae-tinted ''Never Let You Go" and ''What You Need," which Fortune sang largely on the floor before jumping into the crowd.
It was a canny move, but it was hardly necessary, as the sold-out audience accepted him with open arms. More important was the comfort shown by the rest of INXS, a well-tuned unit with over a quarter of a century's experience, with the man that they chose to be the new face of the band as it returns to action.
Fortune's fellow ''Rock Star" contestant, Marty Casey, opened with his longtime group the Lovehammers. The band he was prepared to leave had he won the show played a generous 45-minute set of hard rock, with Casey proving himself a strong, if overly earnest, frontman.