Jane's Addiction Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas 5/9-10, 2014
Usually when you hear that there's going to be a concert at a bowling alley, the tendency is to either feel sorry for the band or understand that you are a member of a cult following. However, when that band is Jane's Addiction, and when that bowling alley is the new Las Vegas venue Brooklyn Bowl, it's different. In fact, if you had gone to The Linq, stood in line under the marquee, ascended the lobby escalator, and proceeded along the pathway to the 600-person capacity performance area, the fact that half of the building is a bowling alley would have escaped notice.
The earliest new and old fans grabbed up all of the choice sideline positions on each of the three nights of shows in honor of the 25th anniversary Nothing's Shocking, the band's landmark debut. The rest of the healthy crowd had to struggle with obstructed view sideline positions or join the massive group of bodies on the main floor; judging from the smiles in that crowd, no one seemed to be too concerned about the sardine-can-effect. This was probably because everyone knew that this was a special occasion--a legendary band's rare performance of a historic album in an intimate space. Add to that the general party attitude that people assume when they're in Las Vegas, and you have the atmosphere of the experience. Fortunately, we were in the crowd for the second two shows.
Dave Navarro could probably have been sleepwalking through the songs that he's been playing for over 25 years, and he still would have killed all of his solos; however, the nuanced jams that he performed during many of their standards showed that his playing is as impressive as ever. Stephen Perkins laid down the familiar beats with his charming flourishes, and emerged from behind his drum kit for both "Jane Says" and the encore, "Chip Away." Chris Chaney, who has essentially been the band's bassist since 2002, handled all of original bassist Eric Avery's parts with ease and seemed to be having a great time rocking the Brooklyn Bowl. Balancing out the affable vibes of the rhythm section and the stoic rock star demeanor of Navarro was singer / ringleader Perry Farrell.
Farrell comes from the P.T. Barnum school of entertainment. Typically, his shows (with Jane's or with any of his numerous projects) possess a carnivalesque vibe. Throughout each of the evenings, he fed his adoring fans with nonstop banter, nicely choreographed use of the stage, a frenetic light show, sexy girls (some of which were suspended by hooks through their flesh...yes, that's right), and, of course, his vocals. Even though his gestures and stances while singing are very picturesque, he probably could have mimed many of his songs as the audience sang most of the material with him. Regardless, his energized performances were fueled by the positivity that he radiated through his commentary on life and through the good time that he was very clearly having onstage with his amazing band mates.
Both evenings featured Nothing's Shocking as the first set. After that, the band returned to the stage with a cross section of songs from Ritual de lo Habitual (including: "Three Days," "Been Caught Stealing," and "Stop!"). On Friday, the set also included "Just Because" from Strays, and, on Saturday, "Whores" from their eponymous first album.
Both shows were terrific, but there was something about the Saturday evening show that made it extra special. Perhaps it was the Saturday night crowd, perhaps it was the fact that there was a sold out house, perhaps it was the fact that, early in the show, Farrell and Navarro established a great mood by sharing a joint onstage (supplied by a member of the audience), or perhaps it was because the band was simply having a wonderful time while dialed into the final celebration of a moment of history. Technically, it won't be final, as two dates of the Nothing's Shocking show will be performed in England this August.
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Both shows were marked by powerful performances of great vintage material infused with fresh energy. And, in between shaking hands with virtually everybody directly in front of the stage, Farrell's animated personality helped create an atmosphere that could more accurately be described as a happening rather than a concert.