Friday, September 30, 2011

Show review: Jane's Addiction at Metro, 9/24

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Jane's Addiction blows the roof off of Metro
The sold out crowd at Metro last Saturday night swayed and drank and listened to Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," waiting for Jane's Addiction to take the stage. All I could do was marvel at the size of Stephen Perkins' drum kit.

The lights dimmed and the crowd erupted, only to be greeted by the next track off Wish You Were Here, "Welcome to the Machine." Perry Farrell sure does know how to make an entrance. The show was the first of two that weekend at Metro, and one in a group of small club gigs booked to create some buzz for Jane's new record, The Great Escape Artist. I'd be interested to know if Perry picked the tune as some kind of wry commentary on the hype.

With the ending ka-chunk of the song, Jane's Addiction finally took the stage. They kicked off the show with "Whores," a track from their self-titled 1987 debut. It seemed a bit meandering and unfocused, four minutes that felt like six, but the space-disco light-show and scantily-clad burlesque dancers writhing on-stage helped create a grandiose vibe. Jane's hit their stride with their second number, a brisk, tearing romp through "Just Because" (the only song played from 2003's Strays). Perry seemed to work up a thirst during the jam, producing a bottle of wine at its conclusion to keep the vocal chords lubed. The only thing all night that sounded more fresh than Farrell's voice was Dave Navarro's guitar. That man is every bit the quintessential rock star, from the flowing I'm-always-in-a-wind-tunnel hair and devilish good looks to his soaring, epic guitar solos."Ted, Just Admit It..." may have been the only song where it didn't sound like he was trying to steal the show; Navarro subtly crunched in the background as Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney led the tune's sinister opening stroll.

Seeing "Ted" live is always a reminder of what a dynamic rhythm section Perkins and former Jane's bassist Eric Avery were, though Chaney did a mostly admirable job filling the latter's shoes. The first truly great moment of the night came when Perkins kicked into the song's polyrhythmic mountain-crumbling rumble and the audience responded by wildly dancing and screaming along to Farrell's "sex is violent" mantra. Few big rock bands are as sexually in-your-face as Jane's Addiction, which can be a little unsettling. I'm no prude, but something about Farrell reminds me of Pee Wee Herman. At one point he admonished the crowd to "keep it down" because there was an "old lady upstairs" and she was "trying to sleep." After receiving the appropriate chuckle, he continued the shtick, pleading "Guys... I'm serious." I half expected him to then welcome Cowboy Curtis on-stage.

Perry tries to focus on singing and not on the girls behind him
Instead he pulled out another bottle of wine and his band began "Been Caught Stealing." Despite having played it a billion times before, Jane's powered through it with the energy of a first performance, sans any mistakes. At this point these guys are seasoned rock vets and they don't miss their mark. "End to the Lies," the first single from the new record, fit right in on a set list of classics. The song is Jane's at their most kinetic- Navarro's guitar looping like a tipsy fighter jet, Farrell's harlequin snarl snapping over thundery drums. The bass line seems a bit limp for a Jane's song, though I can't blame that on Chaney. TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek is playing bass on Escape Artist, so it could just be a matter of him acclimating himself to new bandmates (assuming he's the one writing his parts).

A raucous rendition of "Ocean Size" kicked off a serious of ferocious jams and temporarily made Metro feel like The Tokyo Dome. It comes in handy to have those kind of reality-warping powers in your back pocket when playing a song so aptly named, as I'm not sure at regular-size Metro could've contained the song. "Three Days" gave Navarro the spotlight moment that he so thrives in, allowing him to blast out a tantric solo that probably fathered a few hundred illegitimate children. Perkins didn't hold back on the song either, shaking the old building at Clark and Racine to its core with a one-man drum circle that left my hands aching.  

"Mountain Song" (which was preceded by the appearance of another bottle in Perry's hand) stole the show. The band was at their biggest and nastiest, charging through the song with the grace of a steamroller while blanketed in a cloud of confetti. Chiropractors across the city should be sending Jane's Addiction kickbacks for all the business they got nursing necks ravaged by Mountain-Song-induced headbanging. "Stop" saw another swarm of confetti descend on Metro, this time so thick and persistent that it was impossible to see the band for much of the number. Watching Perry crowd-surf and lead the audience through the song's sing along bridge was like seeing a man splash in the Fountain of Youth. Jane's Addiction is the kid in high school whose parents were loaded and always leaving town, daring them to constantly throw amazing parties. What's stunning about Jane's is that they've consistently delivered for 20 years. Well, when they're together that is.

"Jane Says"
As I predicted last week, Jane's performed "Jane Says" as their encore. And, as I predicted, it was a magic little moment that felt more like a campfire sing along that a giant rock show by a giant rock band. Navarro pulled out a chair and an acoustic guitar, as well as a cigarette, Farrell popped open another bottle of wine, took a swig and passed it around the audience. Perkins nestled in front of bongos and steel drums while Chaney stood unassumingly at the side of the stage, ever the wallflower. "Jane Says" reminds me of everything that was good about the '90s in a way that only Michael Jordan highlights can compete with. Farell seemed to recognize that the tune was more about the fans than the band, stepping back and dancing while the audience took the bulk of the vocal duties. After a bow and some blown kisses, Jane's Addiction was off, but the fans stuck around.

Even after the lights kicked on, no one left. It's the longest I've seen a crowd stick around after it was clear the band wasn't coming back. Applause rang out while the Metro crew worked to sweep up mountains of confetti, and when the house music kicked on, "Wish You Were Here" melted out of the speakers. That's when I knew Perry picked the music. One last sing along rose up from the crowd, and when the song  ended Jane's Addiction had gotten the send off they deserved.


Check out more show reviews:
Peter Hook & the Light at Metro
Swans at Bottom Lounge
Freelance Whales at Empty Bottle
Mayor Daley, Bad Drugs at Empty Bottle
Braids at the Empty Bottle

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