Ocean Size

Six years after disbanding, Jane's Addiction still packs a megarock wallop

Jane's Addiction, and Goldie
Mesa Amphitheatre
December 4, 1997

Most of the time, Perry Farrell talks like he's a hippie, or at least on mushrooms. "How does it feel to be outside, with the ceiling so high?" he asked aloud, eyes gazing aloft in wonder, two songs into Jane's Addiction's sold-out show in Mesa. The answer? A bit chilly, actually. Nighttime temperatures during the show were in the mid-40s. The concert itself, however, was anything but frigid. Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and some new guy on bass quickly got the capacity crowd up, and then got it off, over and over again.

After a ponderous, post-Goldie set break, the lights went down, and the eerie whirls and moans of a didgeridoo heralded the show's arrival--further evidence of Perry Farrell hippiedom. The stage lights blossomed, and there was Farrell, standing on a platform in the middle, with musicians on both sides and dancing girls in the wings. He was styled like Jesus Christ Superstar, sporting some sort of white, caped, court-jester outfit, complemented with a Medusa 'do of gravity-defying, magenta-tipped pigtails.

First the band teased by playing just the intro to "Summertime Rolls," which segued into "Ocean Size." Opening with "Ocean" gave Farrell the chance to screech "3, 4" like a banshee, right off the bat, and let everyone know he wasn't going to be fucking around. Which was a relief, because with something like a Jane's Addiction reunion tour, there are bound to be some questions. But Perry Farrell looked strong and didn't sing like a junkie, and Jane's Addiction didn't play like a band just cashing in on its name.

Fill-in bassist Flea looked like he was having a hell of a good time--and, Christ, why not?--but his performance was one of the least remarkable parts of the show. There was no problem. He nailed all of his parts, and even pulled off a couple of minor but tasty solo flourishes. But the interplay between him and Perkins was a relatively poor substitute for the rhythm-section sorcery Perkins used to cook up with original Jane's bassist Eric Avery, who declined Farrell's invitations to make the reunion tour complete. Perkins alone was still a treat. If you haven't seen Jane's Addiction live, you probably haven't realized what a fantastic drummer he is.

Navarro tried to share the spotlight with Farrell as much as possible, affecting a glowering stage presence, smoking cigarettes with great flair, and striking more than a few power-chord poses with his ax. Maybe it was payback time for the Red Hot Chili Peppers show last year at America West Arena, where Navarro languished in a dark corner while Flea hopped around up front like a stoned monkey.

In any case, Navarro's allowed to indulge himself, because he shreds. The guy's just a monster when he throws those massive, metallic hooks around, and several times he lighted up the night with carefully aimed tracers of feedback. Navarro came up in mid-'80s L.A., remember--he's one of the last true guitar gods. And quite the provocateur. Navarro played shirtless, his wiry, swarthy flame rippling with muscle, wearing a black skirt, fishnet stockings and lots of black mascara. In Mesa, that's downright progressive, if not quite a hanging offense.

Farrell took it one step further, playing the deliberate, mischievous scofflaw. During a blistering version of Ritual De Lo Habitual's hard funk, red-light/green-light opener "Stop," Farrell interrupted the "goddamn radio" a cappella passage toward the end--and the crowd, which was chanting along--with the announcement, "Wine break!" He then grabbed a bottle of Bordeaux off a speaker cabinet and took a draft with gusto. Hey, now, son--that's a violation of Arizona state law.

Later, after wrapping up a hypnotic, sinuous version of Jane's longest song, "Three Days," Farrell asked someone in front of the mosh pit--over the mike, of course--"Is that a joint?" It was, and Farrell got down on all fours to lean over the barricade and take a hit. The crowd roared. It was shameless.

Not as shameless, however, as the troupe of exotic dancers--neotribal vixens, the lot of them--that alternately shimmied and writhed in ecstasy at Farrell and Navarro's feet during "Three Days" (Flea didn't get any), then simulated a variety of bachelor-party lesbian sex acts. Nothing's shocking, indeed. Keep in mind this was still in Mesa, a land where cops shut down rock concerts for public lewdness. But Farrell and Co. got away with it in front of several thousand people. Ha-ha.

"Beauty," Farrell said, earlier in the evening, in one of his characteristic, street-philosopher asides. "You can't take that shit with you. Money. You can't take that shit with you. Where we're going--let's sing to praise to it, here and now." Which could be taken to mean that Farrell believes red wine, ganja, half-naked dancing girls and rock 'n' roll are all good things--please bring more.

Unfortunately, The Man cracked down on the glorious high weirdness via Mesa's abhorrent concert curfew on shows at the municipal amphitheater: 10 p.m. on weeknights. Ouch. Jane's didn't even take the stage until shortly before 9, and rushed to get its last couple of numbers in under the wire. Dynamite songs that, for whatever reason, didn't make the cut for Mesa's playlist included "Mountain Song" (which would have really showcased Navarro's war-hammer guitar work), "Had a Dad," and, most lamentable, "Been Caught Stealing."

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