In ‘Jane’s Addiction: Live Voodoo’, the Air Is Charged with an Electricity that’s Felt Even on DVD

[12 October 2010]

By Christel Loar

PopMatters Associate Music Editor

On Halloween, 2009, a reunited Jane’s Addiction cast a spell over the crowd at the Voodoo Experience music and arts festival in New Orleans, a ritual exquisitely documented on Jane’s Addiction: Live Voodoo.

Live Voodoo features the original Jane’s Addiction line-up of guitarist Dave Navarro, bassist Eric Avery, drummer Stephen Perkins, and front man Perry Farrell, which was brought back together in 2008 at the NME Awards, and subsequently toured with Nine Inch Nails. Avery has since left the band again, but not before giving us this glorious night in NOLA. You often hear a lot of hyperbole around an act like Jane’s Addiction, and there’s always some exaggeration in the experience that is New Orleans, but this time it seems the experience actually did exceed expectations.

The combination of original band members in the Big Easy on the eve of All Hallows equaled far more than the sum of its parts. The air is charged with an electricity that’s palatable even on DVD. It’s almost as if something alchemical was occurring in the Crescent City that night.

The magic begins with opener “Up the Beach”. Avery prowls the darkened stage like a feral beast laying down the foundation while Navarro stands, a tattooed statue, punctuating Perkins’ powerful rolling rhythms. Farell, playing the part of priest recast as ringmaster,  relishes his role, raising a bottle of red wine to the masses, many of whom are masked. “Mountain Song” thunders in and the crowd roars in response, ready to be carried away in some sort of transformative rapture. Farell, every inch the shamanic showman, complete with sparkling cape, leaps atop the monitors in triumph before the band launches into “Ain’t No Right”.

“Three Days” briefly brings the brio back down a bit and introduces a pair of dancers dressed in pre-French-Revolutionary-period-inspired costumes who wiggle, writhe, pose and preen from pillars flanking the stage. The song then explodes from its controlled, tightly coiled state, into ecstatic ferocity that doesn’t let up at all as the band proceeds to tear through “Whores”. Throughout the performance, the cameras catch the frenetic activity with frequent quick cuts, and far from being irritating or jerky, this editing style is smooth and suits the show.

“As they say, NOLA, happy fucking Halloween!” shouts Farrell before inviting the entranced audience to join him in celebrating death. The stage is all shadow and smoke for the slow, sinuous sound of “Then She Did”, but the music snakes into a spellbinding spiral while Farell extols the virtues of getting out of control, drinks to the departed and then to New Orleans itself, as “the city that will not die”. It may seem a little mawkish when written, but it’s mesmerizing to watch. 

A momentary pause precedes “Been Caught Stealing”, which raises the power once again to a fevered pitch that continues to escalate during an epic “Ocean Size”. The crowd goes crazy on cue at the opening beats of “Ted, Just Admit It” and Navarro nails—no, he practically impales the worshipful on the stunning spires of his searing solo. A gorgeous “Summertime Rolls” soothes the savages as New Orleans sings along in blissful abandon and Farell again invokes the spirits. Then the band riles them up with a blistering version of “Stop!”

For the encore, of course, the guys pull out all the stops. Farrell says they’ve consulted a ouija board, and Navarro tells the crowd that the spirits assured him that “...tonight was going to be a very, very magical night…”. Apparently, the spirits were right. “Jane Says” becomes transcendent as the band is joined on stage by fans in fabulous costumes dancing and leading the rest of the crowd in the chorus. As the revelers exit the stage and the performance seems finished, Jane’s Addiction produces one final fascination with the hypnotic, pounding pulse of “Chip Away”. Then, though the air is still clearly charged from the force of the music, the show is over.

The single disc, approximately 91-minutes in total, boasts spectacular sound, which you’d expect from Jane’s Addiction, but is something that most other concert DVDs sadly and inexplicably neglect. Viewers can choose Dolby Stereo, Dolby 5.1 or DTS Surround sound, and (no hyperbole here) really feel as though they are in the crowd that Halloween night, even without the visuals. Bonus materials for Jane’s Addiction: Live Voodoo include two live clips (“1%” and “Ocean Size”) from 2008 performances in L.A., a photo gallery and a featurette. There’s also a booklet with liner notes written by Matt Pinfield.

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