Nostalgic rock fans in New York had a tough choice between concerts last night: Night one of metal heroes Faith No More at Webster Hall? Or alt-rock gods Jane’s Addiction at Brooklyn Bowl? Those who opted for the latter had a chance to see a rare Jane’s performance of their landmark 1988 album Nothing’s Shocking in full at an uncharacteristically small venue — a night that would serve as a welcome throwback, albeit one that lacked a little panache.
Since the band’s early days performing in Los Angeles clubs, Jane’s Addiction have been notorious for their debauched, hedonistic live spectacles. Brooklyn Bowl felt tame by comparison, the only real exploitation coming in the form of a shirtless (and seemingly ageless) guitarist Dave Navarro and the appearance of two scantily clad dancers toward the end. Which was all well and good in regard to focusing on the music, but the band performed almost as if it was missing an element of fun. Frontman Perry Farrell in particular appeared rather unaffected, taking about half the set for it to finally feel like he was letting loose. Maybe they’re older; maybe they don’t care as much; maybe they were stoned. Theatrics (or lack thereof) aside, Jane’s Addiction are still rock stars of the highest caliber, and they’re not about to let you forget it.
Always one for flamboyance, Farrell donned a flamingo jacket as the group — whose ever-evolving lineup has settled on Farrell, Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins, and bassist Chris Chaney — kicked off the show with the lumbering bass of Nothing’s Shocking opener “Up the Beach.” Navarro’s guitar caught fire on the expansive “Ocean Size,” from which Farrell segued into an anecdote about his father being from Bensonhurst before the punk-rock kick of “Had a Dad.”
The shape-shifting “Ted, Just Admit It…” saw Farrell working the crowd up to an epic “Sex Is Violent” chant, while the more somber tone of “Summertime Rolls” (which Farrell introduced with a dig at Williamsburg kickball leagues) was the perfect prep for show highlight “Mountain Song.” Here is where Farrell truly came alive, the full band giving the massive track its due. Perkins’s thundering drums, Navarro’s electric shred — this was peak Jane’s (pardon the pun) and the moment to top.
For fan favorite “Jane Says,” Perkins came out from behind the kit to play the song’s signature steel drums, while album closer “Pigs in Zen” ended the Nothing’s Shocking portion of the proceedings on a quintessential hard-rock note.
To appease later-era Jane’s fans, the rest of the set touched on songs like “Just Because” and the always great “Been Caught Stealing.” Now the dancers were on stage, piquing Farrell’s interest and wielding red swords.
The trip down memory lane was the first of a handful of shows Jane’s Addiction are playing to commemorate Nothing’s Shocking. As the warmup, the Brooklyn Bowl show was a nostalgic treat but left fans wanting just a little more from a band capable of such greatness. With all the breakups, reunions, and sparse touring, will we see a new Jane’s in the near future? Let’s hope so. We’re not done with Sergio.