By Brian Ives
Twenty-five summers ago, Jane’s Addiction criss-crossed America on their “farewell” tour, which promoted their final album, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual. But it wasn’t just any tour; frontman Perry Farrell conceived of a grand farewell, one that would include a number of bands and attractions (who could forget the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow?). Jane’s was joined by Siouxie and the Banshees, Living Colour, Nine Inch Nails, Ice-T (and his metal band, Body Count), the Butthole Surfers and the Rollins Band. The tour, of course, was Lollapalooza.
It was a celebration of things that the mainstream music industry mostly ignored, and it provided validation for Farrell and his followers: Lollapalooza was a game-changer. Pretty soon, the mixture of punk, metal and goth that was dubbed “alternative rock” became a dominant force in popular culture. It also pointed out that rock fans did, in fact, enjoy hip-hop, leading to many more tours that incorporated both genres. Package tours, from the jam-band based H.O.R.D.E. to the female-centric Lilith Fair, started popping up in subsequent summers. “-alooza” became a bona fide suffix attached to terms from “Harpolooza” (an event celebrating, you guessed it, the harp) to “Sharepointalooza” (which “offers technical workshops and sessions on everything SharePoint and Office 365 related”). Farrell’s very outsider point of view, quickly took over the mainstream.
A quarter of a century later, Ice-T likely gets most of his income from his role on television’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (although he’s currently working on a new Body Count album and headlining an old-school hip-hop tour this summer), Henry Rollins’ shows these days are mostly spoken word and don’t feature a band, and Nine Inch Nails is still headlining arenas (Lollapalooza can take some credit for “breaking” them as a headliner), but these days, Trent Reznor also has an Oscar on his shelf. The original Lollapalooza artists have grown up, if not mellowed, and the same seems to be true of their fans, judging by last night’s jam packed Jane’s Addiction concert celebrating 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual (and also the anniversary of Lollapalooza) at Asbury Park, New Jersey’s rain-drenched Summerstage. Whether or not the show was going to go on was in question throughout the day; a thunderstorm rocked the beach, right across the street from the stage, with lifeguards ordering everyone to go indoors. But in true Lollapalooza fashion, JA’s show eventually went on (opening act, Minus the Bear’s performance was cancelled because the door time was pushed back; Lollapalooza ’93 veterans Dinosaur Jr. played as scheduled).
Twenty-five years after “breaking up” (they’ve done two albums and a number of tours in the subsequent years), the band may not be as chaotic as they were, but there’s still a sense of danger to them, and they’ve lost none of their power. You never know quite what Perry Farrell is going to say or do; his charisma is as important as his unique singing voice. Dave Navarro remains one of the most underrated guitarists around (perhaps his playing is overshadowed by his TV-star persona) and Stephen Perkins is the unique drummer who combines the best aspects of Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead. Chris Chaney has the tough job of replacing founding bassist Eric Avery, but does a solid job of it (and he has done so, on and off, since 2003).
As for Ritual? Playing that album in its entirety is probably a tougher sell than playing Nothing’s Shocking (which Jane’s did last year). But 25 years after “Been Caught Stealing” exploded onto the pop charts, the fair-weather fans are long gone from JA’s following… which is good, given that it started raining again during the show; but to paraphrase the song, no one was leaving.
The audience loved setlist mainstays like “Stop!” “Ain’t No Right,” “Been Caught Stealing” and the epic “Three Days.” The latter of which, as always, featured Jane’s’ exotic on-stage dancers, adding an extra element of sexiness and danger.
But the fans were equally glad to hear the rarely played gems from the album: for “Obvious,” they were joined by a keyboard player, who added the Velvet Underground-like piano dirge to the song. “Then She Did…,” clocking in a eight minutes plus, was also great to hear, and was also well-augmented by their keyboardist, filling in for the song’s orchestral arrangements. “Of Course” is the only song on the album that doesn’t really work, live.
The Ritual segment, like the album, ended with “Classic Girl,” and that would have been a perfect way to end the show. On the other hand, fans were glad to get an encore, which kicked off with a cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” a song which surely made a big impact on both Farrell and Navarro in their teenage years.
Other than the “One! Two! Three! Four!” that opens tons of Ramones songs, there’s few count-offs in rock that are exciting as Farrell screaming, “Two! Three! Four” going into “Mountain Song”; given that it was still raining, and traffic getting out of Asbury can be a bitch, it would have been understandable if people started filing out, but no one did.
Then they played their one nod to the post-Ritual era, “Just Because,” from their 2003 reunion album, Strays (which featured Chaney on bass). Any legacy act like Jane’s will always have a hard time introducing new songs, but thirteen years on, “Just Because” stands firmly along the rest of the band’s classics.
After that: “Ted, Just Admit It,” with the still-fearsome lyric “Sex! Is! Violent!” During this song, disturbingly, two women had metal hooks inserted into their backs, and they were raised above the stage where they swung back and forth during the song. (Navarro himself has partaken in this practice: you can read more about it in KROQ’s interview with him). Contrary to the album title, this is something that is still shocking, even in the seen-it-all era of 2016.
They closed with their acoustic classic “Jane Says,” as the audience sang along. But probably the most “Jane’s Addiction” moment of the night was during the rarely-played “No One’s Leaving.” In it, Farrell sings, “I’m a white dread, I’m a white dread, so? I got a ring and I hang it through my nose,” a reminder of how much he, and Jane’s, have influenced fashion over the decades (for better or worse). Later, he sings, “I wish I knew everyone’s nickname/All their slang and all their sayings/Every way would show affection/How to dress to fit the occasion!” With Jane’s Addiction, and Lollapalooza, he brought together a bunch of subcultures: punk rockers, metal heads, goths, and some less distcint folks with a taste for wild and adventurous music. The scene he curated had the aggression of punk and metal, but not the misogyny; even the female dancers seemed equal to (or superior to) the band itself. Jane’s and Lollapalooza was as welcoming to everyone as any subculture could be.
In 2016, we may no longer be living in Farrell’s “Alternative Nation” anymore. But he, and Jane’s Addiction, still have no problem drawing huge crowds of diverse subcultures and getting them to mix and have a good time. And that counts for a lot, even without sideshow attractions.