By: Alex Wood
Standing in line outside of the Metro for Jane’s Addiction’s Lollapalooza aftershow, it quickly became clear that I was one of the few people there who had never seen the band before.
My expectations were already high for the intimate performance, but the sense of excitement around me drove them increasingly upward.
Despite the opener not even taking stage until 11pm, fans were lined up outside the venue by 8:30. Consisting mostly of middle-aged males, the people around me shared stories about seeing Jane’s Addiction in the 90s, partying with Perry Ferrell, bootlegs of past Metro dates and, in general, leaving their wives at home to seek out this show.
This wasn’t just another show for these guys. It was almost a religious experience.
By the time the opener, punk four-piece Nothings, finished, the venue’s floor was packed, with hardly enough space to raise your arms. The temperature rapidly increased to an unbearable heat, as though mirroring the swelling excitement of the audience.
The 20-minute delay beyond the band’s supposed midnight set-time felt unbearable, an anxious energy overtaking the capacity crowd.
The houselights dropped and the band instantly emerged from backstage like absolute rock stars, the audience screaming and cheering beyond the beginning notes of “Stop,” its bombastic introduction crashing through the speakers at an insane volume, the band joined by scantily clad women dancing sexually at the back of the stage.
Beyond the epic opportunity of catching a band like Jane’s Addiction at an 1,100 capacity venue, this was also the “Ritual de lo Habitual Anniversary Tour,” celebrating the album’s 25-year existence by performing it in full.
For those unaware, there’s a lot of history behind Ritual de lo Habitual, both for the band and rock music as a whole.
The record, recorded in 1990, was the final recording from the band before their initial breakup, and a marked departure from the sound of their 1988 studio debut, Nothing’s Shocking. The album introduced Jane’s to the mainstream, and is considered a masterpiece of the alternative genre.
Ritual has a kaleidoscopic template, shifting sounds constantly to explore hard rock, funk, psychedelic, and even Eastern-influenced raga, all under the umbrella of explosive alternative-rock.
25 years from the tour that supported Ritual’s release, led to the band’s initial demise, and included headlining the first Lollapallooza, could the band still capture the prophetic magic of the record’s initial release?
By the end of “Stop,” not a single fan in the room had any doubt in the group’s abilities, a fact made obvious by the moshing, crowd-surfing and singing audience, Perry’s vocals sometimes drowned out by the screaming audience.
The audience jumped in time with the funky bass of “No One’s Leaving,” Navarro’s jagged guitar and overwhelming volume keeping energy high as Perry moved about stage as theatrically.
The long, drawn-out vocal melodies of “Obvious” became a strange sing-along, the audience’s collective song a celebration of the beloved original recording.
The band sounded extremely tight throughout the show, separating them from the often sludgy mess of peers in the early 90s alternative genre. Perry’s vocals were urgent and melodic, the singer using an effects processor on stage as needed. Navarro’s guitar playing was masterful, providing captivating rhythm or wailing, emotional solos as needed, a plethora of effects pedals helping fit the album’s changing moods.
The rhythm section was essential in keeping energy high, the bassist moving melodically across the fret board and the drummer’s tight playing keeping the rest of the band together. A keyboardist added the stranger noises and melodic backing needed to give the songs additional density.
“Been Caught Stealing” predictably drove the audience nuts, the singing again drowning out Perry’s vocals in ecstatic reverence, the performance treated like a massive party.
Yet, as is true with the initial recording, the highlight of the evening followed with “Three Days” and “Then She Did,” the two songs amongst the band’s most epic and ambitious.
“Three Days” shifted moods constantly, the bulk of the work handled by Navarro’s guitar playing. Mellow, spacey verses were followed by an almost tribal, drum-centric breakdown, only to become an extended, blistering guitar solo, a shirtless Navarro performing with unparalleled abilities. Throughout the solo, Perry’s wife danced seductively with the singer.
“Then She Did” featured a psychedelic vibe, Perry delivering particularly emotional vocals over the intricate guitar and bass riffs. When not singing, Perry poured red wine into the plastic cups of audience members in the front row.
In classic 90s alternative fashion, the song featured quiet, reserved verses before deafening, distorted choruses, the effect mesmerizing given the sheer volume and musical capabilities of the artists.
The Eastern-influenced “Of Course” was driven by the keyboardist performing the violin part on the keys. The song’s strange, stomping waltz-time emphasized the original album’s strange diversity, the audience still singing enthusiastically with the slower track. Perry accepted what was presumably a joint from an audience member, nearly smoking its entirety on stage throughout the track.
As “Classic Girl” closed the set, the entire show had felt like a particularly special moment, a moment in history recreated for the music’s sake, and not simply nostalgia.
Without leaving stage, the band encored with five additional songs, four from Nothing’s Shocking and a Bowie cover, performing until 1:45am.
“Mountain Song” opened with an aggressive explosion of noise, the audience immediately breaking into an intense mosh-pit.
The band then performed David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” in a fairly straightforward manner, Perry occasionally botching the vocals. Despite a somewhat shaky performance, the song emphasized the classic, timeless rock vibe the band had mastered throughout the evening.
“Ocean Size” followed, again emphasizing the harder rock sound of their debut, the aggressive, distorted blast of noise a contrast to Ritual’s calculated diversity.
“Ted, Just Admit It” featured a stunt common to Jane’s Addiction’s shows, two young, nearly-naked women raised in suspension high above stage from hooks literally placed in their backs, the girls dangling and swinging near the ceiling throughout the song’s full, seven-minute duration.
With the crowd screaming along with lyrics like “sex is violent” and “nothing’s shocking,” the spectacle certainly made its point.
Jane’s predictably closed with their first hit, “Jane Says,” performing the song in a stripped-down, acoustic manner, Navarro and a guitar technician performing in chairs on acoustic guitars while the drummer used congas and steel drums beside them. Like a strange, alternative campfire sing-along, the song was a fitting end to an evening that surely met the audience’s colossal expectations.
As a whole, Jane’s Addiction embodied everything that rock ‘n roll is supposed to be. The sheer energy and volume, the showmanship, the enthusiasm from both band and audience.
The band proved to be exactly as their legend remains, capturing the time when they truly became amongst the most powerful, ambitious and innovative acts in rock music.
Video (of the Wednesday 7/27 show) via In The Loop Magazine
2. No One’s Leaving
3. Ain’t No Right
5. Been Caught Stealing
6. Three Days
7. Then She Did…
8. Of Course
9. Classic Girl
10. Mountain Song
11. Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
12. Ocean Size
13. Ted, Just Admit It…
14. Jane Says