Jane’s Addiction led off their concert Sunday night at the Santa Barbara Bowl with the song “Underground,” the first track from their acclaimed 2011 album The Great Escape Artist. This song was visually enhanced by two sexy women on trapezes in ridiculously long white skirts, flanking two giant statues of naked women behind the stage.
It was quickly clear that this show would be a feast both for the ears and eyes. Jane’s Addiction’s circus — and I mean that in a good way — had arrived!
The band for this tour consists of guitarist Dave Navarro, a guitar hero not afraid to play a hard rock solo filtered through underground art sensibilities; drummer Stephen Perkins, whose powerful, tribal drumming style has roots as much in Africa as rock and roll; bassist and only non-original member Chris Chaney, who delivers the riffs that set the tone for so much of their music; and singer Perry Farrell.
Farrell deserves a special mention for his magnetic onstage presence, his brilliant echoed vocals, and his amazing zero-body-fat rock star physique on display when he (often) went without a shirt.
The band followed with the thunderous “Mountain Song” off 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking, arguably one of the most important albums in launching the alt-rock revolution that followed in the band’s wake. Everybody had the same opinion — these guys still know how to rock, which was reconfirmed over and over with songs such as the battering “Ain’t No Right,” the crashing “Ocean Size,” the catchy “Been Caught Stealing,” the epic “Three Days,” the trippy “Up the Beach” and the Pink Floyd-ish newer song “Irresistable Force.”
The delicate side of the band was also on display with the song that truly is about Jane’s (heroin) addiction, “Jane Says.” Here the band sat on big, comfy chairs, with Navarro on acoustic guitar and Perkins on bongos and steel drums. This was followed by the early song “Chip Away,” with Perkins, Navarro and Chaney all pounding away on drums.
There were more artistic and theatrical touches throughout, such as cool videos, more appearances of the women we first saw on the trapezes, including once with gagged mouths, an animatronic robot walking across stage with real-looking women’s legs in fishnets, and, during “Splash a Little Water on It,” a guy at a sink splashing water and applying what appeared to be clay to his face.
The show ended with “Stop!”, an incredible song that covers serious stylistic territory in just a few minutes. A high was hearing the crowd singing along to this song at the end, but a low was the realization that this marked the end of the concert, 15 minutes before the Bowl’s curfew.
Before Jane’s Addiction went on, the evening began with rich mixture of electronic and traditional rock sounds from thenewno2, fronted by Dhani Harrison, who happens to be the son of Beatle George Harrison.
Next up was an earnest, energetic rocking set by Airborne Toxic Event. The diversity of these acts, and Farrell’s history as the mastermind behind the original Lollapalooza festivals, tempts one to describe the evening as a bit of a micro-Lollapalooza, a fair assessment in my opinion.
The greatest show on Earth? Not quite. But Jane’s Addiction certainly did wow the Bowl crowd with a highly energetic and thoroughly entertaining feast for the senses.
Been Caught Stealing
Ain’t No Right
Up the Beach
Splash a Little Water on It
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.