It was as if "Smells Like Teen Spirit" never happened Wednesday night, as Jane's Addiction took to the stage at the Bayou Music Center and single-handedly turned back the hands of time — to 1990. For two hours, those odd pre-grunge/post-Appetite for Destruction days of Los Angeles came back to life with a vengeance.
The crowd proved a fascinating combination of metal heads and hippies that only frontman Perry Farrell and friends could draw. Standing in the audience, you could find yourself next a long-haired guy in a leather jacket while a lady waving her hands in a trippy Grateful Dead style danced at his side.
At 53, Perry Farrell and guitarist-slash-reality-star Dave Navarro, 44, managed to live up to their rock-god status.
The 53-year-old singer and guitarist-slash-reality-star Dave Navarro, 44, managed to live up to their rock-god status. Farrell himself was bold enough to don not only a pair of silver boots, but also a now-retro-seeming chain wallet.
"I never got to see them back when they were first around," was certainly the most popular phrase of the evening as the crowd mingled before the show in line for overpriced Bud Light and, surprisingly, Kingfisher.
While Jane's Addiction forged a new path through American rock in the late-'80s, the group disbanded in 1991 at a time when similarly underground acts like Dinosaur, Jr. and Sonic Youth were making their way to MTV. Farrell's iconic Lollapalooza festival, that came to define the "alternative" spirit of the early 1990s was, in fact, initially conceived as a farwell tour for the band.
The band reunited several times in the past two decades with slight alterations to the line-up that included brief appearances from bassists like Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses fame.
The roster for the current Theatre of Escapists tour features three of the four original members from the band's first two albums, whose songs certainly brought back the most nostalgia for audience members, who sang the lyrics to just about every song on 1988's Nothing's Shocking and 1990's Ritual de lo habitual (myself included).
The show kicked off with "Underground," a track from Jane's most recent effort, The Great Escape Artist. Not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, but nothing compared to the classics like "Mountain," "Ain't no Right" and "Been Caught Stealing" that followed.
A pair of scantly-clad dancers — one of whom, Etty Lau, has been married to Farrell since 2004 — performed in the background aside a 20-foot statue of two naked women. A spooky well-dressed man in a would occasionally make his way onto the stage, once even hanging himself (as well as a creepy doll) from the rafters. Several video screens projected vintage footage from old-time nudie shows and '70s-era drug awareness films.
The singer himself was bold enough to don not only a pair of silver boots, but also an ultra-early-'90s chain wallet.
About halfway into the show, I noticed a roaring taxidermied grizzly bear to the left of the stage when the crew pulled out large wooden chairs for the band, which broke into mellow faves "Classic Girl" (see above video) and "Jane Says."
"Houston, I love your perfume," Farrell said into the microphone, enjoying the quieter moment as he took a drag from something handed to him from the crowd. "They say smoking is bad for your health, but I can tell it's good for your soul." It was one of a number of admittedly cheesy quips, which along with much of the theatrics, spoke to the inner 16-year-old that brought me to the concert in the first place.
While several more Escape Artist songs dotted the rest of the setlist, the show's second half brought two of the evening's shining moments with the 10-minute rumination "Three Days" and the sweeping "Ocean Size."
Jane's Addiction plays Bass Hall in Austin on Saturday — totally worth the trip, if you missed Wednesday's concert.