Jane’s Addiction : London Brixton Academy : Friday October 31st

Cleaned-up LA legends' Halloween gig is more camp panto than punk perversion

Exactly a year ago to the day, I witnessed [a]Rolling Stones[/a] address a Los Angeles audience: “Halloween,” he growled. “One night for you. Every night for me.” And as his grizzled grin leered down from the giant screens, you could have registered the crowd’s collective shudder on the Richter Scale.

Tonight, in London, LA’s legendary [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a] do everything in their considerable powers to invoke the same reaction. They fail. OK, so Keith’s Keith and that’s that but the plain fact is, for all their ribaldry and devilish razzamatazz, [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a] have gone and lost the spook.

Time was, in the days when they didn’t have a fucking clue what day it was, that [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a]’s would emerge from their twilit lair and bring Halloween to your town at the drop of a lizard skin hat. They were All Hallows Eve incarnate – an unholy brew of smack, blood, spunk and eyeliner. To see them then was like seeing how long you could hold your hand in the flame of a candle – a painful, thrilling rite of passage. Tonight, it’s like watching a fireworks display – occasionally stunning but mostly unengaging. Blame it partly on the place – Brixton Academy is cursed with the worst sound known to man and, not for the first time this year, you’re left guessing what song is actually trying to emerge from the boom. But blame it also on the need to stay alive. [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a]’s have shot up, split up, cleaned up, and reformed and the price you pay for survival is that you trade in your character for caricature. From the opening salvo of lapdancers scantily clad as coppers to the encore ‘Jane Says’ with the leather-corsetted Perry Farrell cavorting Panlike with the same busty babes, this is as predictable and penetrating as pantomime.

If this year’s ‘Strays’ LP was more Rosemary’s Rehab than [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a] – the same kind of album [a]Aerosmith[/a] make now that they’re working from memory – so tonight we witness Pamela’s Perversion, a costume drama rather than an experience. As Frankensteins and [a]Marilyn Manson[/a] – alikes lurch drunkenly through the throng, [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a]’s unload the classics faithfully enough. ‘Three Days’ is high old melodrama, ‘Mountain Song’ a guitar avalanche from Dave Navarro and ‘Been Caught Stealing’ an excuse for a great communal whoop. But, sprightly as they look in their S&M gear, there’s no escaping the fact that these days [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a]’s are in the business of putting on a show rather than fucking with your DNA.

Maybe it’s too much to expect insurrection from [a]Jane’s Addiction[/a]’s – or indeed anyone – anymore. But Perry’s flashmob stunt, singing to the faithful on the steps out front of the venue an hour after curfew suggests he still retains the will, if not the way, to disobey.

Steve Sutherland