Los Angeles alt-rock legends Jane’s Addiction were greeted with a hero’s welcome as they took to the Orange Stage to close out Fun Fun Fun Fest Saturday night.
Perry Farrell, vocalist and occasional sound guy to himself for the night, seemed as lively and electric as ever, whether twisting volume knobs on his mixer, sipping tea, spinning in circles or arching back with his mouth wide open to the heavens howling. Guitarist Dave Navarro effortlessly strolled the stage shredding, busting the occasional power move — kicking a foot up on the monitor — or giving an approving half nod to a rabid fan screaming in the front row. His explosive, energetic guitar was showcased in song after guitar solo–stuffed song. Remember when every song had a solo? Dave Navarro does.
While the solo-per-song formula has been out of vogue for ages, its near-complete disappearance from music makes it oddly refreshing now. Like many other aspects of Jane’s Addiction’s show, it turns out abscence makes the heart grow fonder, and the things that once became cliché seem almost fresh at the hands of the pioneers once more — at least for Saturday night.
It helps that Jane’s Addiction are still a well-oiled funk-and-rock machine that shows little sign of aging, or in Navarro’s case, no sign at all. (I theorize he either moisturizes his skin with baby tears or he’s a wax dummy brought to life in some sort of Madame Tussauds meets “Night at the Museum” situation, because normal humans don’t not age over the course of 25 years.) They also still feel just plain cool enough to pull off some questionable choices. I mean, not many 56-year-old white guys can get away with scatting without clearing out a crowd, but somehow Farrell did it.
The band seemed to have a blast throughout, with Perry flashing a humbled toothy grin at the crowd with each round of applause. Even the stone-faced Navarro cracked a sly smile or two that didn’t seem to be flirting directed at the backup dancers around him.
Scarves: You might wear one from time to time, and while you may feel extra cool in this neck-warming accessory, chances are you get taken down a notch when the whole assembly comes undone and hangs, an upside down “U” that looks like a Burberry-made bit of priestly robe regalia.
Now imagine you’re Dave Navarro — the never-aging, presumably immortal guitarist with a meticulously groomed cartoon devil beard. What happens when your long, skinny black scarf comes undone mid-shred in your jaguar roar of a guitar solo? Turns out your guitar tech doubles as a scarf tech, and he’s waiting just off stage to swoop in and re-wrap your scarf, giving it that ever-so effortless cool look that all neck-adorning fashionistas crave.
Not to be easily outdone, Farrell saw Navarro’s scarf and raised him a pair of shimmering sequin shoes and a three-piece suit sans shirt — which, just throwing this out there, could potentially be a smart alternative for white-collar (flesh-colored–collar?) Austinites looking to dress sharp but not suffocate in the Texas summer swelter.
Overall, this F gets an A+. One expects to see an abundance of man chest-revealing blouses and comical accessories that could only be pulled off by a rock star, and Jane’s Addiction delivered. And really, it’s a treat to see the absurdly dressed rockstars of old when the current rock school uniform is Levi’s and a kind-of-ugly thrift shop button-down. A little bit of pageantry never hurt anyone.
Out of all the relics of rock past, the one that felt the most out of place in the modern music space might be Jane’s Addiction’s dancers — a troupe of scantily clad young women seductively shimmying about behind, beside, on top of and above the band.
Treating women like objects may be OK if we’re talking grammar and “women” is the object of your sentence, but it’s a little less fine when it’s nearly nude dancers prancing behind a group of middle-aged dudes. It just felt unnecessary and gratuitous.
Perhaps it’s only fair to note that one of the dancers, Etty Lau Farrell, is Perry’s wife, and watching the two dance/grind together on stage is therefore kind of icky… but also kind of sweet. Still, there’s not much sweet or of great artistic value in one woman leading another by a leather collar to a chair and ripping off her lingerie while the band plays “Classic Girl.”
Sex sells, obviously. But you’ve got Dave Navarro in your band. He does two things: nonchalantly wails and rips up and down a guitar neck and looks like Dave Navarro.
The band ripped through their classic album “Ritual De Lo Habitual” in its entirety, making some tweaks along the way — like a jammy extended take of “Been Caught Stealing” with a brief, playful scat-guitar faceoff between Farrell and Navarro mid-stage or slowing things down for a circus-y waltz in “Of Course.”
But the best of the set was the funky, fast and filler-free five-track dash that is the A-side to “Ritual De Lo Habitual” — a non-stop, hard-rocking run from opener “Stop!” to the band’s biggest hit, “Been Caught Stealing.” The slower stuff that follows on the album’s B-side made the second half of the set drag a bit, if only by comparison to the high-octane opening numbers.
Jane’s Addiction ended their set with a handful of odds and ends, playing “Mountain Song” and “Ocean Size” before breaking out antique upholstered chairs, acoustic guitars, bongos and steel drum for the penultimate song of the evening, “Jane Says.” For the finale, two women suspended by hooks in their pierced backs flailed and twirled dangling on strings above the band, who were gathered around an assortment of monstrous drums for the thundering, tribal “Chip Away.”
As the music ended, the crowd shuffled away in the dark with ringing ears back to a world free of excessive, noodling solos and skinny scarves and leather pants — for better or worse.