Ocean Size

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

The band also did not play an encore. Which is not to say the show had no finale. After "Three Days," the band disappeared from the stage, Farrell instructing the dancers to "Do your thing," only to reappear a minute later out in the audience. Like title-fight boxers headed for the ring, the band members made their way through the throngs, flanked by security, and ascended the scaffolding to a smaller, acoustic stage in the middle of the amphitheater's grass, festival section, which had been dark until a few seconds before. Farrell arrived on the stage puffing on a second joint someone had bestowed upon him on the way. "This is delicious," he said, holding it aloft for all to see. "Delicious, delicious. Thank you so much."

Once in place, the band played a three-song acoustic set--including a gorgeous "Jane Says," with Navarro playing an Ovation 12-string and Perkins going native with two bongos and a steel drum. Farrell's vocals were strong all night--they're always nasal and scratchy, but he makes it work if he gets into it, and his vocals on "Jane Says" were nearly perfect--naked and fearless. He and Navarro performed in the round on the small stage, and fans who just a few minutes before had been kicking it on the lawn, well away from the action, suddenly found they had a killer seat.

At the close of the acoustic set, Farrell politely asked the crowd to let the band make its way quickly back to the main stage. "We're going to try and get back there in time to do one more song. It'll be an exercise in kindness." The one more song was "Nothing's Shocking," still one of the best rock songs of the '90s, even though it actually came out in 1988. The band stuck close to the recorded version until the final "sex is violence" wind-up, when Navarro threw down his guitar, creating massive waves of feedback, and scaled a 30-foot metal post to wave at the crowd and join two of the showgirls, who had dazzled the crowd with erotic, acrobatic feats throughout the song, and were now performing a vertical 69.

Thus concluded the best Big Rock Show to hit the Valley this year. In combined terms of spectacle, musicianship, style and power, Jane's Addiction blew away every other A-list touring act that's come through here recently--and that includes the Smashing Pumpkins, Bush, 311, et al., and especially the Rolling Stones, except for Keith Richards. Big-label American rock 'n' roll has been in pretty sorry-ass shape since Nirvana's last album. It could use a Jane's Addiction comeback. The band's performance left no doubt Jane's still has it, and the crowd response left no doubt people still want it, so here's hoping.

The Mesa Amphitheatre audience was testament to the wildly diverse fan base drawn to Jane's Addiction's funk/metal/alt-rock hybrid sound--and Farrell's early and continuing embracement of electronica (although it would have been nice if Farrell had hired a local DJ to spin records and keep the energy up during the set break instead of a lame tape of Jane's Addiction dance remixes). Everyone from bikers wearing "Support Your Local Red and White" hats to the skate-punk set to urban-chic club kids was in attendance.

In an ideal world, they would have all danced together to Goldie's opening set. Fat chance. The British jungle king and his minions faced a surly, "What the fuck is this shit!?" crowd of rockers staking out a place in the mosh pit, and beat a hasty retreat after performing the opening "Inner City Life" trilogy from his last album. A few ravers down front got into the cerebral beats--and the deep, fluttering bass lines came through the sound system with awesome clarity and force--but, for the most part, Goldie proved just a wee too abstract for a crowd that came to Rock.

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