by Josh Levi
Jane's Addiction | Black Box Revelation The Pageant February 22, 2012 Jane's Addiction remains an undisputed king of the '90s. From its inception in 1985 to the creation of Lollapalooza for its 1991 farewell tour, the band has lent more than its share to the birth of alternative culture, second to only marijuana and Nirvana. Last night, amidst the clouds of smoke, the sight of couples making out and the booze flowing like water, Jane's Addiction gave the sold-out crowd a standout show.
As the night began, Black Box Revelation hit the stage. Shrouded in red and pink stage lights, the Belgian duo kicked off into a handful of bluesy, garage-inspired rock songs. Stuck between the glory of its overseas popularity and the potential of arena rock stardom, BBR seem to still be cutting its teeth, only this time at the feet of a larger American audience. Songs like "Love Licks" and "I Think I Like You" heaved with fervor as rock guitar riffery met John Bonham-like thunder. It's a tough job to open for such a legendary band, but Black Box Revelation soldiered on, matching perfection with passion.
St. Louis has earned the reputation for being a "tough crowd" in certain cases, and this was no exception. Apathy plagued the audience as they fidgeted with ritualistic boredom. Clearly they were here for one thing, and one thing only. Maybe BBR would have a better shot opening for the Black Angels, but this crowd just wasn't there.
In between BBR's exit and the prepping of the stage, a once empty balcony and pit began filling by the minute. A fog of anticipation hovered above, with the stench of sweat, booze and weed becoming more and more prominent. Then there it was. A low hum, a slight rumble. Lights off. The crowd in an uproar. Hitting the stage just shortly after 9:15 p.m., the boys were back in full effect.
Propelling into "Underground," off of 2011's Great Escape Artist, Perry Farrell and company immediately took the reigns of the night with smiles, energy, and most of all enthusiasm. As the lights were drawn to the stage, one couldn't help but notice the elaborate set-up: A stuffed bear, trapeze artists, a giant mold of two nude pin-up girls center stage, video monitors, Black Swan-styled costumes and the longest white gown you'll ever see. As Farrell careened back and forth, he sang "I'll never give up the underground," tipping his hat to the days of counter-cultures passed. Where the current state of contemporary radio rock a.k.a. "alternative rock" is as stale as week-old bread, Jane's Addiction has retained and refined a vibrant, relevant image of the culture it fearlessly created. In the first show on the Theatre of the Escapists Tour, the boys in Jane's Addiction took the St. Louis crowd by storm.
The roar of the audience was quickly stomped out by the low-end rumble of bassist Chris Chaney as he played the opening line to "Mountain Song." Throbbing with downbeat energy, Jane's Addiction launched into the classic, complete with a topless, tatted-up Dave Navarro wielding his guitar, earning the respect of every devil-horned hand in the room.
Just before the third song, Farrell, finally acknowledging the fired-up crowd, simply yelled, "Saint Louis!" and the band continued to fire hit after hit. At this point in Jane's Addiction's career, songs like "Just Because" off of 2003's Strays fit right up there with "Been Caught Stealing," with everyone from the tattooed mom to the pierced teen to the acid freaks headbanging in approval.
In the early '90s, it was Farrell and friends who were responsible for informing the mainstream that a new wave of counter-culture was here to stay. With the creation of Lollapalooza and coining the term "alternative" in reference to the abandoned youth of the MTV generation, it was bands like Jane's Addiction that would leave their mark on generations to come.
As the band slithered into a red-lit version of "Ted, Just Admit It," the stage transformed into a demented circus. Two buxom vixens began performing burlesque, as the band played on, oozing sex. This was the Jane's Addiction that people knew.
Juxtaposing against the previous song, the band began the first lines of "Twisted Tales," another track off its 2011 album. More akin to the likes of Staind or Placebo, the song seemed to leave the audience a bit bewildered. But the stage show carried everyone through. A ringmaster-type character emerged, dressed completely in white. As the man pulled baby dolls out of a bag, a video narrative on abuse played in the background, leading up to a mimicked suicide. The lights dimmed, and the eager crowd was ready to see what was next.
As the lights came up, the stage had been transformed with a lamp and three chairs, with Farrell seated atop the center throne, wedged between Navarro and Chaney. In this more intimate setting, the band played through a number of ballads, leading to a gregarious version of "Jane Says" complete with Stephen Perkins on steel drum. With the beauty of a full house singing in unison, the band felt right at home, as the crowd cheered at Farrell's every swig of the bottle. At times it is astounding how Farrell's voice has retained its purity and ease. As a former frequent abuser of worldly delights, Farrell is still able to enchant audiences with his unique vocal approach.
For a band whose career spans nearly three decades, it is impressive how spot-on Jane's Addiction continues to be. Though he may have fallen from grace in terms of street cred (see: Spike TV's Ink Master), Navarro is still one badass guitarist. In the mystic rocking of "Three Days," Navarro was the star, soloing in a toxic fit of frolic.
From the opening lines of "Underground" to the adrenaline-injected "Stop," both the band and audience didn't let up for one moment. Jane's Addiction's fan base runs the gamut of alternative rockers, bringing mothers, daughters, fathers and sons under one roof...with everyone completely losing her shit. The band was on. The crowd was eating it up. Farrell was smiling like a five year old in a candy store, genuinely happy and thankful.
After a brief absence from the stage, the boys in black returned. "Thank you so much, St. Louis! It's fantastic to see you people!" said Farrell. "We put this show together yesterday in your hometown! But it was missing something: You." A gracious crowd erupted in applause as the band played its final song, "Words Right Out Of My Mouth," the last track from The Great Escape Artist. As the audience took their last glance at the stage, the band gathered, taking a bow as it opened a new chapter in its rock god story. Farrell left the stage, drinking from his bottle.
Notes and setlist are on the next page.
Overheard: "This was supposed to be our wedding song!" during 'Classic Girl'
"This is my second time seeing Jane's Addiction. The first time was in 1988 and it was them and the Smashing Pumpkins opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the American Theater. I was 21. Now I'm 45 and ready to take a nap. ...but this is fucking cool. I still like rock n roll."
Underground Mountain Song Just Because Been Caught Stealing Ain't No Right Ted, Just Admit It Twisted Tales Classic Girl I Would For You Jane Says Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object) Three Days Stop Encore Words Right Out Of My Mouth