Jane's Addiction - Massey Hall, Toronto - February 27th, 2012
Photos and Review by Mike Bax
"I've been coming to Canada for, oh, about 25 years now. And I always lose my voice when I come here. And get my dick sucked. What do you say to that, Dave? What do you say about losing ones voice and getting their dick sucked?"
I don't believe I've ever seen a Jane's Addiction show where frontman Perry Farrell HASN'T dropped insights like this upon a Toronto crowd. What's REALLY crazy, is everyone in the audience laughing uncomfortably wondering if this was just a statement from Perry trying to get a rise out of us all. And then, I reflect on a Concert Hall show back in the day where I watched Farrell sing centre stage as some young woman in the crowd caressed his crotch for the majority of the song, and wondered if perhaps he was just stating a fact.
From the very beginning, Jane's Addiction was something new and exciting in the throes of mid eighties mediocre alternative rock. They brought flamboyant stage fashion drenched in androgyny intertwined with metallic riffs to a generation filled to the brim with old hat R.E.M. and Smiths’ songs. As most fans will attest to, Jane's Addiction was cut way too short when the band fell apart after two albums and a successful first run of the Lollapalooza road show back in the early nineties. There have been a few respectable reunion tours, a mediocre album (Strays) and a much better album (The Great Escape Artist) since the band broke up, but the length of time between their implosion and now leaves them some interesting challenges as a touring band.
Primarily, the band will always wrestle with topping two albums that were so different and popular over two decades ago when it was way easier to 'shock' an audience with new expressionism and sounds. Now, nothing REALLY IS shocking, right? Just look at us analytically as a culture compared to twenty years ago. We have an internet rampant with hardcore porn that anyone can just dial up at any age. Television is an epidemic of reality dildos making terrible obnoxious fools out of themselves on a nightly basis and we all just tune in like lemmings and go along for the ride. We are a distracted generation, unable to walk down a street without arguing with our loved ones in public on our 'smart' phones or take video footage of violent acts we encounter only to put them online for everyone to see on YouTube. If Jane's Addiction came out right now and tried to market themselves they way they were marketed 25 years ago, we wouldn't even take notice.
At 9:10pm, with the house lights still on, some gelled red lighting started pulsing off the stage as the entire Pink Floyd song 'Welcome To The Machine' blasted over the PA. Two girls were walked onstage and adorned in lengthy white skirts and placed onto risers while the song played. They were then raised up on swings over the stage as the house lights dimmed and Jane's Addiction took the Massey Hall stage with 'Underground'.
Watching the band, comprised of three original members (Farrell, Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins along with Chris Chaney filling in for Eric Avery on bass) performing on a stage littered with taxidermy, sculptures of naked women and actual live women gyrating around in skimpy clothing suggestively throughout the evening felt like an oversell. It was certainly all fun to look at, to be sure. Watching two girls rubbing up against each other on a pedestal behind Chaney while video footage of fifties era softcore porn flickered on multiple monitors behind the band certainly made 'Ted, Just Admit It' rife with eye candy. Farrell even took the time to spank one of the girls midway through the song. But the song and its message really don't need the extra goo. No fifties footage of a woman writhing about in granny panties is going to enhance the message behind that song in any way.
The song itself has always been the magic.
And this evening that fact rang true at the mid point of the set, when a small-truncated stage was wheeled out in front of Jane's main touring stage for an acoustic set of material. Perkins sat sideways on a smaller drum kit that included a steel drum aimed towards the crowd, and Navarro and Chaney sat on stools as they performed 'Classic Girl', ‘Jane Says' and 'I Would For You' in a stripped down fashion that allowed the songs to simply BE AWESOME. No accoutrements. No snazzy props. Just four guys banging out killer music together. And the material still worked wonderfully. 'I Would For You' saw the song starting with just Farrell and Chaney delivering it as simple bass notes and harmonies, but midway through Navarro and Perkins walked onto the truncated stage again and played some light keyboards and drums to accentuate the song nicely.
The new material from The Great Escape Artist sounded strong. It's quite a decent album and certainly not a mere 'excuse to tour' as I felt Strays was. 'Underground' and 'End to the Lies' sounded big and majestic live, living up to the potential the band originally showed over twenty years ago in both musicianship and powerful songcraft.
The crowd seemed most content when the introductory notes to 'Three Days' started resonating from the stage, towards the end of the evening’s main set of music. In retrospect, it's no surprise that a song well over the ten-minute mark has become Jane's Addiction's anthem. 'Three Days' set the template for what would become the norm in experimental rock and metal for a decade after it came out, inspiring bands like Porcupine Tree and Tool to make long meandering medleys in a smiler fashion. Navarro's guitar work utterly shone during the track, as it always does. It's an epic song and contains some of his finest guitar work - any Jane's show without 'Three Days' on the set list would be a weaker show because of its absence.
Navarro walked over to one of the dancers as he was levying the song's first significant solo and mouthed something to the girl, making her smile. It made me wonder what he said: "You look really hot tonight!" or "These leather pants are really riding up my crotch!" maybe? In reality, it was likely something mundane… perhaps a glib jibe about the catering earlier. It caught my attention because the guy was BUSTING out the coolest solos of the night at this point, and here he was, chatting up the dancer on stage whilst doing it, like the guitar work on the song was so off the cuff. It was the equivalent of him blowing on his fingernails as he played and he's one of a few living guitarists who can pull that kind of modesty off and not look like a douche.
I enjoyed this show. It wasn't the best I've seen from Jane's Addiction, nor was it the worst. The band can still play well and moments of this evening genuinely entertained me. One thing of note: Perry Farrell looks BETTER now than he did back in the day somehow. He's aged well, much like the fine wine he was slugging right out of the bottle for the duration of this evening's performance; he seems to have become better with age.
Been Caught Stealing
Ain’t No Right
Ted, Just Admit It
I Would For You
End To The Lies
Words Right Out Of My Mouth