Midway through a thoroughly gripping, third-tune “Mountain Song,” it occurred to me very clearly: In a more just musical world, Jane’s Addiction would be U2. Or vice versa.
In a sold-out, Friday night concert at the Palace Theatre, Jane’s was an utter behemoth, coaxing heavy, gooving stadium rock from the band’s four musical voices. Together they were epic and authoritative, 100 percent in control at all times—a tattooed, horny, vaguely dangerous air crew locked comfortably in cruising altitude. There may as well have been an S&M laser show.
And so it all was prefaced, with house lights down, by the original studio versions of Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” and “Have a Cigar,” a wink at the inevitable (yet misplaced) cynicism that might interpret this current tour as merely a Lollapalooza-era nostalgia act cashing in on the hits. After all, in 2012, “Jane Says” is now as old as (holy shit) Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” was on the day their studio debut Nothing’s Shocking was released.
But the setlist was split almost evenly among the band’s two early, reputation-defining albums and its 2011 comeback The Great Escape Artist. (One song was thrown in from tepidly received 2003 effort Strays, plus a couple that first surfaced on the band’s eponymous live debut.) Greatest hit “Been Caught Stealing” was slipped in, inconspicuously, as the fourth number, and the mighty “Jane Says” was just part of the flow and not a lighter-waving showstopper.
The band honored their legacy but felt entirely relevant, sounding fully committed to both old material and new, while rocking harder than has been fashionable for quite a while.
Perry Farrell spent much of the night wearing a white undershirt, fingerless leather gloves and olive-colored pants as he cavorted about the stage, spinning, reaching for the sky, offering a bottle of wine to the front row and, later, receiving a joint in kind. “I Would for You” was pretty but never sappy, while favorites like “Ted, Just Admit It . . .” and set-closer “Stop!” were propelled by Farrell’s suitably emphatic delivery and joyous charisma. Dave Navarro was in full, shirtless, leather-panted glory as he ambled to the stage lip to assume his unsmiling, legs-spread-pelvis-thrusted rock-god stance for a series of metal-tinged solos. In “Three Days,” his lines, elsewhere all magic-marker squiggles, sounded seared and frayed before turning guttural.
Drummer Stephen Perkins, as expected, was a total powerhouse, providing a muscular backbeat that was unsubtle but never bombastic—as comfortable luxuriating in the slinky grooves of “Ted . . .” as in its jackhammer bridge. Chris Chaney, currently occupying the only revolving chair in the band’s lineup, atoned for his seven years backing Alanis Morissette with syrupy basslines that echoed the recorded work of original member Eric Avery and maintained great presence in the mix.
This wasn’t spontaneous or raw—it was show biz, it was rock and roll, it was glorious. We won’t see Jane’s Addiction playing the Super Bowl halftime show anytime soon. But that’s our loss.