By Johnny Firecloud at 2:27 PM Tuesday, February 17th 2009
The original lineup of Jane’s Addiction descended on the tiny Echoplex club in Los Angeles last night with a high-octane dose of the kind of hedonistic gypsy love rock that only this band can deliver. If they’re working on a new album (as has been speculated) in addition to their recently announced co-headlining slot on Nine Inch Nails’ “final” tour, they sure weren’t letting on, tearing through a blistering 11-song set exclusively designed for fans of the band’s original-lineup material- not a new song or track off Strays to be found.
Fans were alerted a few days ahead of time on JanesAddiction.com to join a mailing list in order to gain access to the show, and for about 500 of those lucky early responders (and a few late stragglers, like myself) who hopped on the RSVP trail, dropped a Hamilton and got a wristband, the anticipation on the scene was palpable. The news of an upcoming tour with a soon-to-be-dormant Nine Inch Nails, which Trent Reznor announced on his blog earlier in the day, made the night even more poignantly celebratory.
And celebrate they did. After a stunning set by Josh Klinghoffer-fronted dubbish wonders Dot Hacker, Jane’s triumphantly took the stage to a thunderous reception. Before the band even hit the chorus to their first song, Up The Beach, crowd surfers were up, joints were blazing and the scene was ignited with pure, victorious party adrenaline. I’m told that the place was crawling with high-profile Angelenos from Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher to Sasha Grey and Flight Of The Conchords’ Bret McKenzie, but I saw none of that action. My focus was on the living legends tearing shit up onstage.
Whatever they’ve been doing with Trent Reznor lately has paid off, because Jane’s Addiction has never sounded more finely-tuned or on top of their game than they did last night. Frontman Perry Farrell arrived with typical peacock flare in a black and white striped suit, but kept his love-fest rantings to a minimum, opting to alternately slither and flamenco around the stage while nailing notes I’d seen him skirt around for years.
Guitarist Dave Navarro’s solos were far evolved from what I remember seeing over the band’s lengthy history- they were tightly-wound, intricate flare-ups where every note seemed to matter and grandstanding wasn’t on the menu (despite the shirtless/tatted/pieced/gleaming look of course, a Navarro standard). Tight, concise and simply en fuego, his performance was much more focused and powerful than in previous years and incarnations of the band. It may have something to do with all the time he’s been spending with King Doom (Reznor) lately, but his delivery and overall sound have suddenly deepened, with more than a few chunky, chugging breakdowns scattered throughout. He left the crowd stroking to Farrell, instead playing with his head mostly tilted downward, hiding his trance-like focus under a black Kangol hat. Make no mistake, though- Navarro was very much in the moment. Every so often he’d snap out of whatever zone he goes into that allows him to peel out the parallels to Farrell’s wail and get into the groove, leaning into the audience and mouthing the words.
Bassist Eric Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins, meanwhile, breathed new, pulsing life into the foundations of classic fan favorites Whores, 1% and a fiercely blistering singalong Ain’t No Right in quick succession. Avery, previously the only OG holdout in the band’s many reunion tours over the years, seemed fully on board this ship, playing off both Perkins and Farrell throughout the night despite a no-nonsense, all-business demeanor. Watching the crowd go apeshit as he tore out the bouncing opening riff to Aint No Right, however, he looked downward for just a moment, and anyone more than eight feet away likely missed it- but Mr. Serious broke into a shit-eating grin.
Avery’s low-end rumble at the onset of Mountain Song elicited a roar of approval from the sweat-soaked crowd, who were entirely unfazed by the fact that none of the material on hand had been written more recently than fifteen years ago. The pit was intense, at last as far as the Sunset Elite goes, but everyone took care of one another, and joy was thick in the air (as well as a hearty dose of pot smoke).
Farrell then introduced a funktified Been Caught Stealing with a short strut down memory lane: “When we were all kind of broke and saw something we wanted, we just stole it, didn’t we?” he bragged. “Well guess what time it is? Time to steal more shit!” The crowd roared like a hoard of kleptomaniacs, singing along with every word.
The slow-boiling Ted, Just Admit It… followed before the band closed out the set with an explosively charged rendition of Stop. After a five-minute breather, they returned for a celebratory Had A Dad before rounding out the night with a raucous, searing rendition of Ocean Size, a song bigger and more celebratory than anything riding the FM frequency these days. A sense of accomplishment beamed from each of the four as they set down their instruments, waved goodbye and headed into the night.
On the way out I heard someone complaining that the set wasn’t long enough, but that’s just unreasonable. Sure, their set only lasted 48 minutes, which is certainly a questionable set length under ordinary circumstances- but man, you just saw Jane’s fucking Addiction for ten bucks. Quit your bitching. Besides, the magic can’t always be a marathon. Sometimes the short, focused bursts are the most powerful- and last night was a classic example of that.
What made this show different from the rest, besides the fact that it took place in a thimble-sized club was the fact that it was a gathering of seasoned musicians, players who’ve been as far as the rock circus has taken anybody and are audacious enough to want more. The four seem to finally be able to share a stage without trying to one-up one another- the kind of atmosphere that makes for a hell of a show, but ends up a vicious cycle that’s torn apart the best bands this side of Sunset. Sure, Perry’s a grandstanding circus ringleader and after all these years I’ve still yet to see Dave Navarro with a shirt on, but it was a very even-keeled production in terms of ego and flamboyance. Maybe Avery’s participation has given them a new sense of humility and determination. Whatever the case, the formula is perfect, and the timing is right.
When I got home after the show, I sat in the car listening to the majority of their mostly-live Kettle Whistle album, not wanting to go inside just yet, to risk losing the little spark that had been reignited. For just a few minutes, I felt like the giddy little music junkie I was as a kid, totally freaking out over being three feet away from my heroes, one of the most pivotal bands of not only my life, but of the evolution of rock n’ roll. That’s the magic that Jane’s Addiction brings, and that’s why this band will always matter.