Jane’s Addiction is a quartet that changed the face of rock n roll in the 80’s. As their debut live album was stuck in my car’s tape player the junior year of high school, it became clear to me they offered something new and exciting to hard rock in those days that were dominated by cheesy hair metal and overly narcissistic heavy metal bands. Our generation finally had its own ground-breaking Led Zeppelin, with Perry Farrell’s commandingly sexual falsettos and deeply rich baritones, Dave Navarro’s guitar was nothing less than earthshattering in funk mode or pulling out power rock leads, Stephen Perkins from the beginning looked to become one of the best rock drummers of all-time, and Eric Avery mesmerized with his deep bass lines. Now they came back to NYC to prove their continuing dominance and have a great time doing it.
In those pop-heavy late 80’s, they brought a whole new emerging LA rock scene to the forefront, with a sound that mixed everything from metal, punk, funk, progressive rock, and even folk into a darkly debaucherous and deeply personal look into the underbelly of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Mainstream exposure came soon after with their major label debut Nothing’s Shocking in 1988 with a sound that provided an excessively hard and arty glory hole of breaking into mainstream success. The follow-up Ritual de lo habitual had some catchier and funky tracks, but was all done with such a decadent edge that it only furthered their appeal. Still, after prosperous tours and even exposing a whole new generation to a game-changing music festival known as Lollapalooza, their drug-filled wild lifestyles finally caught up with them, and they officially called it quits in 1991, splintering off into Farrell and Perkins’ more pop than punk effort called Pornos for Pyros and Navarro and Eric Avery’s artsier project called Deconstruction. In 1997, a tour ensued with Red Hot Chili bassist Flea replacing Avery, but it appeared that drug problems still distracted from a full-on reunion effort. That didn’t happen until 2001, with Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin providing the lusciously deep soundscapes and Chris Chaney on bass on a brave new effort called Strays. It may have been to, well, Floydian, for some punk-loving fans, but it was a powerful slice of excellence. The rest of the band got impatient waiting for Farrell to come in for the follow-up and went off to form their own group, and Perry formed his own super-group Satellite Party. It was 2008 when the original line-up finally came back for a bombastic NIN/JA tour with the stunning NIN opening, but when they went into the studio afterwards Avery was once again gone now being replaced by G&R bass man Duff McKagen and a return to raw punk power in mind. In another bass debacle, he left and was replaced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, and 2011’s The Great Escape Artist was released, falling short of punk, pop, or prog and kind of resting on an odd middle ground instead.
I’ve seen Jane’s play three times so far on this supporting tour, and there has been a definite evolution to the theme of the festivities. At Terminal 5 a year ago there was an S&M feel with a pair of gorgeous women springing from bungee cords attached to their skin over the band, in Denver a few months ago that had become a good vs. bad gangster theme, but now the girls start dressed in flowing white dresses sitting atop regal swings suspended high in the sky that are later replaced by the corrupted dark versions clad in sexy leather. They opened the show with the first track off their new opus called “Underground,” followed by “Just Because” off their last, but most of the rest of the show was all about classics like “Been Caught Stealing,” “Ted, Just Admit It,” “Ain’t No Right,” “STOP!” and their early rocker “Whores,” which really got the mosh pit swirling with primitive energy. “Three Days” was a particularly gorgeous recreation, with a lengthy drum drive solo and the S&M girls coming down to make out with Perry and Dave on the stage while giving the audience a virtual lap dance of their own. Farrell made plenty of time to adore his audience with hi-fives, call outs, and hugs and kisses, even bringing out some of the firefighters who assisted in the Hurricane Sandy rescue that he knew in High School (as he, in fact, grew up in Queens). The encore brought the house back to the Jane’s beginnings with an acoustic set of “Jane Says” and everyone joining in on the drums with “Trip Away.” It is totally amazing that these guys still have their chops after all these years, especially Farrell, singing with such veracity, but I think everyone felt the fruition of evolution walking away from the show.