Back in 1991, Perry Farrell created the Lollapalooza Festival as a farewell tour for his then six-year-old band, Jane’s Addiction, populating that year’s outing with–besides Jane’s–Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T & Body Count, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, Violent Femmes, and Rage Against the Machine, among others.
Thus, we have Farrell to thank–or to excoriate–for giving rise to the “Alternative Nation” and the musical journey that’s travelled from Rage Against the Machine to Florence + the Machine. While Jane’s did break up following that landmark tour (despite the fact that “Been Caught Stealing” and “Stop!” became hits), in the years since 1997 the group has been an on and off proposition. Interesting side projects notwithstanding, the “strong” creative personalities and addictions were enough to derail the Jane’s train for some years.
Circa now, however, they’re an “on” proposition. REALLY on. The bands’ 2011 show at Irving Plaza saw shirtless and healthy Dave Navarro and Perry Farrell (ages 45 and 53 respectively) looking hard and rocking harder. (Sorry!) They’re both showmen at the top of their crafts (guitar and vocals, respectively) and the well-earned and understandable egos that were once fueled and ruined by drugs now seem to fuel the onstage power and chemistry. With always reliable, earthy, hard-hitting drummer Stephen Perkins anchoring the Mick and Keith of the alternative set, Jane’s are as good as, if not better than, they were in the late ’80s, when they ruled the hipster clubs of their native L.A. along with up and comers like the Chili Peppers (who Navarro would later join) and Guns N’ Roses (who wanted Navarro to join). Though Jane’s have been around 25 years and seen enough drama for 50, they’re no tribute/oldies act. As the band’s own bio accurately but oddly claims, their song “Jane Says” is “modern rock’s ‘Free Bird’ –sad, sweet, and eternal … a steel-drum-driven pop gem that everyone can sing along to.” A live Jane’s show is a tribal, sing-along experience, seemingly as transformative for the audience as the band. They manage to be at once artistes (with that annoying “e” on the end and all it implies) and shaman-esque dirt-bag rockers, making for a powerful musical catharsis.
While only four studio albums exist–the most recent 2011’s epic The Great Escape Artist, newer material like the taut but manic “Words Right Out of My Mouth” meld seamlessly with classics such as the euphoric “Mountain Song.” As Farrell observes of The Great Escape Artist: “it’s a strange mixture of that post-punk Goth darkness that Jane’s had, with what’s going on today with groups like Muse and Radiohead.” As the band moves forward, though, the iconic frontman hasn’t forgotten from whence he came. As Farrell sings in “Underground: ‘How you doing, bro? Is New York holding you up or is it letting you down? I have missed you all heaps / And I’ve re-planted my feet back in the underground.” Don’t take his word for it, let a live Jane’s show prove Farrell right. You never know when Jane’s will break up again.
Jane’s Addiction perform tonight at Terminal 5.