The Christmas my parents got divorced my dad bought me Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing’s Shocking” (much to the amusement of the kid that sold it to my 300 pound bib overall-sporting father). I remember laying in the dark on the living room carpet listening to “Up the Beach” and “Ocean Size” and “Ted…Just Admit It.” It was weird and fascinating. In a way, it changed my path. I bet many of the concertgoers at Wednesday’s Jane’s Addiction show at Ovens Auditorium have similar stories.
And while I’ll never recapture the magic and romanticism of seeing Jane’s live for the first time during the “Ritual de lo Habitual” tour, I never expected them to be so good 21 years (to the month) later. Aided by stylized production, which included Perry Farrell’s wife Etty Lau as one of two scantily clad S&M dancers, Jane’s put on an incredible show that was far beyond the performance it gave a few years ago opening for Nine Inch Nails at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre (although that one did boast original bassist Eric Avery, which was a treat).
Wednesday’s show was more like one of Farrell’s twisted (his word) fantasies come to life. Whereas in 2009 Farrell seemed to show his age more, he, ever buff guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney all appeared fresh from the gym. Farrell in particular reveled in the spotlight grinning that wide Cheshire cat smile and repeatedly calling us “South Carolina” (which did garner some boos) until the very end of the show.
Britain’s the Duke Spirit opened the show with its sultry, bluesy modern rock. Singer Leila Moss is a show unto herself. In skintight leggings, a lacy poncho-style blouse, and braids framing her petite face she looked like a cross between a “Game of Thrones” character and CBGBs era Deborah Harry. Like Harry she’s got a sexy, capable and unique voice that purrs over the gnarling guitars as she shakes her tambourine, or at one point, played a killer harmonica solo. The Duke Spirit has opened for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ted Leo, and Incubus in Charlotte. I long to see it receive a greater reception stateside.
The audience stepped into Jane’s Addiction’s crazy, colorful world as the band took the stage with “Underground,” which opens its newest album “The Great Escape Artist.” The dancers swung above the band with parachute-like skirts that draped almost to the stage while a man dressed as an evil bird “flew” and pawed suspended on one side of the stage. The crowd erupted as Jane’s kicked into “Mountain Song” with Navarro turning in one of many spot-on guitar solos. The dancers left the stage giving way to retro footage that busily played on backdrops centered around the nude twin statues that serve as the tour mascots on t-shirts and posters.
“Just Because,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and “Ain’t No Right” followed. Then the two Asian girls returned wearing bondage gear and negligees and nestled on a rocking wooden seat that reminded me of a porch glider for a sort of disturbing showstopper - “Ted…Just Admit It.” They “unwrapped” each other using their binding as a prop while vintage pinup and bondage footage rolled on the screens to illustrate the lyrics (“sex is violent”). Although some of the footage featured women on women violence, it annoyed me that all the violence was perpetuated against women.
Written 25 years ago lyrics like “the news is just another show” are even more relevant today.
As if to disprove the “nothing’s shocking” refrain of “Ted,” the hauntingly catchy “Twisted Tales” was accompanied by a babydoll bashing performance art piece and clips from a 1988 documentary about doll abusing teen punks or, as the film is titled, “Sadobabies: Runaways in San Francisco.”
One fan climbed on stage during the stage front acoustic jam of “Classic Girl” and “Jane Says” (with Perkins playing steel drums on the latter). Farrell invited the fan to stay, but Navarro, who was incredibly patient, eventually had her escorted off the stage after she insisted on whispering in his ear while he was trying to play.
It was refreshing to see Navarro, so adept on guitar, focus on drumming alongside Perkins and Chaney during a tribal rendition of “Chip Away.”
The set really hit its stride with the instrumental “Up the Beach” leading into the atmospheric, reverb drenched “Irresistible Force” and “Ocean Size," which closed the set. The cast regrouped for an encore of the marathon “Three Days” and the powerfully spastic “Stop!” As the music dropped out at the latter’s climax the entire crowd seemed to join in with Farrell. The band appeared truly thankful and humble sticking around to shake hands and sign a few autographs after those last lingering notes disappeared. Farrell even handed a set list to one adoring fan - something you rarely see the actual artist do.