INXS To Tour Down Under

Eighties chart mainstays INXS will be playing dates in Australia and New Zealand fronted by singer Jon Stevens, who is on board as a special guest vocalist.

The emphasis is on "special guest," as Stevens is not a replacement for the group's late frontman, Michael Hutchence. "The future of INXS remains under review," the group's publicist told MTV News.

Best known as the frontman for the Aussie band Noiseworks, who recorded three albums for Columbia in the late '80s and early '90s, Jon Stevens also lived in Los Angeles for several years and had a brief musical fling with former Guns N' Roses guitar slinger Slash early in 1998. The pair recorded material together for a few months and explored the idea of having Stevens sing in Slash's Snakepit. Stevens, however, returned to Australia to tend to his solo career.

Stevens first performed with INXS at a small club show in its native Sydney in early May, which prompted a second performance later that month

at a club in Melbourne. The group has now scheduled a short tour of New Zealand, Stevens' native land, from August 20 to 25 which will be preceded by two warm-up dates at an Australia ski resort. A more extensive Australian jaunt is also likely.

INXS had previously made a short appearance at the launch of Sydney's new Stadium Australia with Terence Trent D'Arby guesting on vocals (see "INXS Regroups With Terence Trent D'Arby For Stadium Show").

An online chat with bassist Garry Gary Beers on the band's official Web site late last week makes future involvement with Stevens a good bet, however. He referred to the recent Sydney appearance with the singer as "one of the most emotional and rewarding shows ever" and said that the band would love to get into the studio but was taking "baby steps."

The chat also revealed that the show recreated the set list the group was to have performed on the Australian tour cancelled

by Hutchence's death, albeit without most songs from the band's last album, "Elegantly Wasted," because they featured "Michael's most personal lyrics."

Beers cautioned that Stevens should not be considered to be INXS's new vocalist, saying, "There hasn't been a formal discussion over anyone being in INXS, period.... Even us."

When asked when INXS might put out a b-sides compilation, he replied, "when we have a label."

The group's publicist told MTV News that negotiations currently continue with Universal Music regarding the status of INXS's deal. "This is not due to uncertainties with Michael's estate," the publicist said, "although, of course, Michael's death has impacted the deal because of the uncertainty of future recordings. Universal retains all rights to the back catalogue, regardless of what happens in the future."

Hutchence hanged himself in a Sydney hotel room in 1997 on the eve of an Australian tour (see "NEWS

FLASH: INXS Frontman Michael Hutchence Found Dead").