In this industry, there are supergroups (hello, Zwan) and there are super groups (hello, Jane’s Addiction)—and in much the same way the winners of America’s Next Top Model are no Cindy Crawford, not every band can offer the desired combination of beauty and brains. Jane’s Addiction is the exception, then, with a devilish purse of spectacle and substance, a concert cum circus that is two lions and a headdress away from a full-fledged Vegas revue or living Dave LaChapelle photograph.
If there’s anything addictive about Jane’s, as anyone who has kept one of their ticket stubs would attest, it’s no more than in the band’s live performance. And even in 20-odd years the band hasn’t been able to kick the habit, much to the chagrin of a very select few who welcomed Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, and Stephen Perkins (joined by bassist Chris Chaney) back to where it all began: the very quaint Chicago’s Cabaret Metro.
In November of 1988 when the band took the stage of the barely 1,000-capacity venue, the show launched their debut Nothing’s Shocking—and when they returned in September of 2011, the appearance solidified them as a Titanic in a sea of sailboats, without plans of sinking from the spotlight anytime soon behind the strength of a new album and tour. Like Farrell’s fest Lollapalooza, Chicago was the lucky chosen city to begin the trek, the first in a series of double dates that the band has planned in major markets across the country to promote their latest effort, The Great Escape Artist.
But Houdini aside, the “magic moment” of this night, if you asked singer Farrell, was when a woman ran onstage apparently looking for her Springer beads. “That could bring peace to the Middle East,” Farrell cajoled as the streaker ran across the stage to plant her face on Navarro’s. The real illusion though was how none of this seemed, well, shocking as Jane’s Addiction had all under the guise of their “Irresistible Force” in a night that ranged from bizarre to near epic, intimate and yet completely grandiose.
The band could have done without the confetti guns during “Stop!”, the free chocolate before “Been Caught Stealing”, the Pink Floyd-esque laser light show and even the accessory trumpet player and dancing duo (flanked by Perry’s wife Etty Lau) and they would have still had the crowd’s affection. Stripped is the band at their best (and we’re not just talking about the ever-shirtless Navarro) as the final number of the 13-song night proved. After a short set break, the quartet returned to the stage to deliver a bare-boned helping of “Jane Says” that could just as well been held in Farrell’s living room, he sitting on a stool while Navarro parked himself on the lip of the stage and Perkins coddled a steel drum as if playing it was easy as making a pan of brownies.
Although the songs were few, ranging from early classics to the darker, Dave Sitek-produced new material, the quality behind each presentation was never in question. While Farrell made the crowd shiver with his ghostly town crier beckoning, Perkins and Chaney made the earth move with their tidalwave of drum-and-bass. And Navarro—he literally gives the shirt off his back for his craft, shown in his time-stopping solos and fancy fingerwork. Sure if Farrell hadn’t spent as much time conversing about “this generation” and his undying love for Led Zeppelin as Navarro did melting hearts and his fret board, we may have heard a few more numbers but no one seemed to care. This night was about living in the moment, as Farrell put it best: “Here’s to life. Here’s to death … I’m not afraid of dying, but I want to live! I have too many chicks left to bang”.