NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Jane’s Addiction is set to take the stage at Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Park Friday night. The band, in their late ’80s/early ’90s heyday, combined traditional rock with a nostalgia-free forward-thinking approach, heavy metal with art-rock, electric with acoustic, light with shade, masculinity with femininity, to create something unique.
In doing so, they set the course for alternative music in the ’90s.
It was an exciting mix of Led Zeppelin with The Velvet Underground, The Doors with The Germs. They were powerful, loud and dangerous, and appealed to skate-punks, goths and metal fans: the combination of audiences who would ultimately make up most of the Lollapalooza fanbase. Indeed, Lollapalooza, which in the ’90s was a extremely successful and influential traveling festival, was spawned from the mind of Jane’s frontman Perry Farrell.
So, twenty years later, what’s changed? The band doesn’t seem quite as dangerous — Farrell has made Lollapalooza into an industry, and he’s happily married with two kids. Guitarist Dave Navarro has appeared in a number of reality shows (the latest is Ink Master, a tattoo competition, he’s also hosted Rock Star: INXS and, infamously, ‘Til Death Do Us Part on MTV, documenting his relationship with now-ex-wife Carmen Electra), and is at least as well known for being on TV as for his musicianship.
Happily, the band haven’t lost any of their power, and remarkably, Farrell, Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins look better today than they did when Jane’s first broke up in ’91. They probably are a better musical unit as well. With bassist Chris Chaney (replacing Eric Avery, who rejoined in 2008 but left in 2010), they play the classics as if they still have something to prove, and the new songs (from last year’s reunion album, The Great Escape Artist) as if they have been playing them for decades.
Opening the show with “Underground” from the latest album, it seemed as if most of the audience knew it, which speaks to the loyalty they get from their fans. But as Jane’s albums are few and far between (the album comes eight years after their last one, Strays), their fans appreciate them. However, when they roared through “Mountain Song” from their classic 1988 album Nothing’s Shocking, the crowd erupted.
Most of the show stuck with the band’s “classic” era – Nothing’s Shocking and 1990′s Ritual de lo Habitual – they also played handful of songs from the years since, none of which led to a mass exodus to the bathrooms. As anyone who has seen a band with decades under their belt knows, this isn’t always the way it works. But Jane’s fans are a dedicated bunch.
This tour is taking them through theaters, and their show is certainly theatrical: their lights are what Pink Floyd might use if they were still together and playing smaller stages. Monitor screens showed strange imagery throughout the show, and two women prowled the stage all night, sometimes gagged, sometimes with staffs, sometimes both (combining the themes of dominance and submission). During one of the final songs of the night, the new “Splash A Little Water On It,” an actor transformed himself into a faceless character that recalled scenes from Pink Floyd’s The Wall (the band came out to “Welcome To The Machine,” so clearly Floyd have been on their minds).
Ultimately, though, it was all about the music, and the band delivered. Farrell, the most nontraditional of rock frontmen, drew from wine bottles and flasks throughout the night, but always seemed in control and sounded great. Navarro’s guitar was flawless, and Perkins, one of the most underrated drummers in rock, was as powerful as John Bonham or Keith Moon. Chaney, meanwhile, held things together with his solid playing.
So, no, the old sense of danger wasn’t there. They never seemed as if they would implode, as was the case in their early days, but they’re different guys now, with responsibilities; the same is probably true for most of the audience. But Jane’s did a great job of reminding everyone in the room of wilder days.
– Brian Ives, CBS Local