Jane's Addiction (Jack's 11th Show)
It’s been 25 years since Jane’s Addiction headlined lead singer Perry Farrell’s Lollapallooza festival at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. On Friday night, Farrell brought his band, and four others, to the venue as part of his Ritual de lo Habitual album’s anniversary tour. Given that this is the final season of the venue, the show was a bittersweet homecoming. Perhaps it was also fitting that this reporter was able to commemorate the occasion by experiencing the performances from a different perspective than usual.
Entertainment journalists typically receive primo seats, but due to a clerical error, this writer did not experience the musical sets from said primo seats; moreover, I got to see how the other half lives. On this evening, an enormous crowd had come to experience Violent Femmes, House of Pain, Garbage, The Cult, and Jane’s, so by the time I arrived at the top of the hill, where ushers are no longer interested in verifying ticket possession, the best seat available was a 2×2 patch of dirt just above where the grass no longer grew. From here, the crowd could not identify any human shapes on the stage; they could, however, watch the video monitors (providing no tall individuals were standing in front of them). The good news was that the sound was still great from this altitude; plus, despite the terrific view of the parking lot and horizon line, no one held up their cellphone to photograph them.
Since all of the bands in the line-up have very distinct sounds, the degree of crowd appreciation varied, but on the whole, all of the performances were solid. That being said, by the time Garbage came on, discerning music fans of the lawn area were loose enough to voice their opinions loudly: “These guys suck!” Actually, they didn’t suck; perhaps they weren’t as innovative as some of the other artists on the bill, but they put on a good show. Perhaps pink-haired punk rock girls, who crawl on the stage for several songs and sing on their backs, are simply not everybody’s cup of tea, but their 45 minute set of songs about revolt and frustration, including “Subhuman” and “Empty,” were enjoyable to experience. They also performed faves “Only Happy When it Rains” and “I Think I’m Paranoid.”
As the sun finally went down, the panache of the lawn area increased. New arrivals were greeted by an inebriate who bade them: “Welcome to The Lawn!” Jabberjaw gossip hounds prattled endlessly about personal frustrations — punctuating their pronouncements with “…but that’s private, and I’m not going to talk about that.” When The Cult performed their set, it was fairly easy to tune out some of the local color. The 30-something-year-old band was great. Lead singer Ian Astbury kept things light and fun with his banter in between a solid 10-song set. At one point, a fan flashed a middle finger at the singer, which led Astbury to inquire: “Is that ‘Fuck you!’? Or is that to show me that you’re having a good time? I don’t know.” At another point, guitarist Billy Duffy said that the promoters had given him “the wrong setlist,” and he announced that they would play a special set just for this crowd. The audience was thrilled, especially when the set included great performances of their hits, “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Fire Woman,” “Love Removal Machine,” “Wild Flower,” “Rain,” and “The Phoenix.”
Finally, the time was near for Jane’s Addiction to say farewell to Irvine Meadows with the 25th anniversary performance (give or take a year) of the second and final studio album of their original incarnation. Songs by Lollapalooza veterans Ice Cube and Sonic Youth played over the soundsystem as Jane’s Addiction fans got antsy. A couple not too far away shared a joint; as per drug culture mores, the couple offered to pass the joint but was greeted from one direction by cold indifference and from the other direction by an older gentleman who looked interested but did not want to upset his stone-faced wife. Yep, there was extreme diversity even amongst the folks up in the stratosphere. Once again, the flavor of The Lawn was eclipsed as the band began to play.
As anyone who has passed Jane’s Addiction 101 can tell you, the Ritual show began with “Stop!” Perry looked slick in his dark suit, and although he didn’t jump around and scream as outrageously as he did decades ago, he is still a great showman. His singing was measured so that he could hit most of the characteristic marks in all of the familiar tunes, but despite the great energy and performance of the legendary material, the lawn herd began to thin by “Obvious.” At this point, several tipsy individuals began an entertaining trend: they demonstrated the difficulty of negotiating the steep slope of the lawn and the narrow paths between various people by sliding and tumbling (to varying degrees) down the hill. As it turned out, the rolling bass line of “Been Caught Stealing” was a great soundtrack to this phenomenon.
After the first five, shorter, songs of the album, Perry made a plea: “Do they really have to shut this place down?” Jane’s then performed their epic masterpiece “Three Days.” The song began with a haunting vocal performance and featured a great drum solo, wherein drummer Stephen Perkins was accompanied with additional drumming by Taylor Hawkins of The Foo Fighters. The song also featured an incredible guitar solo by Dave Navarro. Navarro was in great form throughout the evening, and were it not for the rigid confines of the Jane’s compositions, it is easy to imagine that he could have gone on with some mind-blowing solos for quite some time.
Following this, several boisterous, numbnuts drunks loudly slurred about the first time they had heard Jane’s Addiction records. Sacrilegious as this was, the sober intensity of Perry’s face, as it appeared on the monitors, commanded the crowd’s attention as the band rendered a beautiful performance of “Then She Did…” As done-in as many of The Lawn people were, even the totally passed out guy stretched out on the lawn raised his fist and yelped his approval when the band finally rounded out the album with “Classic Girl.”
Perry briefly joked about something that he always has to tell his band when they perform at Irvine Meadows: “You guys can’t keep lighting fires up here.” They then performed a great “Mountain Song,” which resonated well with us folks up the hill. Next was the only post-original Jane’s song, “Just Because,” which rocked. Then Perry joked with the audience about the best source for important information. After dissing both the left-leaning CNN and ridiculous-right FOX, he concluded that ESPN was still a reliable source of good information. The segue led into “Ted, Just Admit It…” and then the band brought the evening to an end with “Jane Says.”
It was an evening of diversity in terms of music, class, and manners. The music, despite coming from successful acts that have been polished to a sheen over the years, still had an edge to it, and the performers still put on great shows. The audience, despite the diversity in their seating placements, was united in its desire to experience quality performances by many bands that had, once upon a time, been underdogs. And the uniquely-colored demonstrations of humanity — that are rarely glimpsed by people who can afford not to witness them — may not have enhanced the proper entertainment, but they sure helped make this homecoming a concert to remember.