JANE'S ADDICTION in New York
New York Hammerstein Ballroom
THE SHOW lasts 75 minutes, the length of a CD. The standing ovation goes on for nearly half that – 3,500 people hanging tight under the flat-yellow glare of the house lights, ignoring the irritated glances of the roadies eager to pack the guitars away. The kids – and they are kids, many of them surely not old enough to have seen Jane’s Addiction in their first lifetime nearly ten years ago – will not leave until they get an encore. Which, eventually, they do. “I was just about to go out the door,” Perry Farrell chirps coyly as Dave Navarro straps on an acoustic guitar. The song itself isn’t much (Navarro strumming a simple, see-saw chord progression) but Farrell knows how to push the collective button of the adoring throng: “I would/For you”, he sings in the chorus, seducing the audience with his grateful-rock-god charm, determined to vaporize any lingering doubts that this reunion is some kind of retirement-fund lark. Jane’s Addiction are here, Farrell seems to be saying, because true believers cannot be denied.
This is a different Jane’s – Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is doing the bass honours in place of Eric Avery – and these are different times. Where Jane’s onstage was once the apex of lean, millennial guitar violence (the ’91 Lollapalooza shows were nothing but white light, big smoke and Zeppelin-to-the-future), tonight Farrell lays on the air of celebration double-thick. The room is done up like prom night at Bali High: huge fake flora and tropical umbrellas; enormous silver and pink drapes; a huge Polynesian mask hung over the stage. A battalion of scantily-wrapped female dancers writhe onstage and in two go-go cages in the middle of the floor.
A second ‘intimate’ microstage at the back of the hall is an obvious cop from the Stones/U2 stadium-gig manual. But the music – all of it from ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’ – remains huge and thrilling, undefiled by cheap imitation. Navarro and drummer Steven Perkins elevate the advanced heavy metallurgy of ‘Ocean Size’, ‘Had A Dad’ and an especially frenzied ‘Stop!’ with the muscle and telepathy of old. ‘Three Days’ is ten minutes of brilliantly scripted indulgence: part slow, dark meditation; part jungle-telegraph rhythm party; part death-ray-guitar torment. Flea, who’s wisely left his superfunk impulses at home, maintains a firm, adroit bass decorum that suits the mutable character of non-linear ballad theatre like ‘Then She Did’ and ‘Summertime Rolls’. For a rhythm section of rather tangled origins, Navarro, Perkins and Flea sound like a real band, hot and focused.
Much like Farrell himself. Decked out in a ludicrous cowboy-denim version of Jimmy Page’s embroidered-dragon suit in The Song Remains The Same, with his hair shooting out in spangled spikes as if he’s wearing a Statue Of Liberty crown, Farrell is Dionysus Unbound, Hugh Hefner at an acid luau. He drapes himself with two gyrating sprites at the end of one song and coos, “Thank you, Jesus”; he sings ‘Summertime Rolls’ from atop one of the go-go cages, swilling champagne and luxuriating in his vision of sensual revolution. But Farrell is very much in control of this free-love pantomime. His bold, shrill voice cuts through Navarro’s black peals of guitar thunder like bolts of lightning and Farrell works the crowd like a TV preacher, blowing kisses to his congregation and touching outstretched hands as if dispensing blessings.
There isn’t much in the way of risk here tonight – Jane’s play neither of the two new tracks on the ‘Kettle Whistle’ compilation – but they treat the old songbook with good heart and impressive conviction. Frankly, Farrell hasn’t been half this compelling with Porno For Pyros and he’s crazy if he doesn’t maintain this reunion for an extended season, taking it into arenas and festivals, putting more meat on the repertoire. “Do you think this is corny?” Farrell asks sweetly at one point. Yeah, it is. Give us more.