Jane's Addiction, Koko, London
Thursday 01 September 2011
Jane's Addiction are both a product and a victim of their time. Formed in the same city (Los Angeles) in the same year (1985) as Guns N' Roses, they ascended to their pinnacle in 1990, even then overshadowed by the heavy metal titans next door, only to then split up for the first of what would be two times in 1991. Their history is fractured and staccato, one of acrimony and reformation, but the warm embrace afforded the band by tonight's crowd at Koko speaks volumes about the impact that their first two albums had on a generation of young rockers.
Unfortunately, tonight's show seldom offers anything more than retreading of old ground. Not just musically – although tracks from the group's first two LPs dominate the setlist – but stylistically; the gestures, the overlong solos, the between-song patter all feel transplanted from the era in which Jane's Addiction were a phenomenon.
Not to intimate that the band is now devoid of talent; far from it. Chris Chaney's aggressive, percussive bass playing is tremendous, Stephen Perkins's drumming driving along track after track. Dave Navarro's wailing guitar is beautifully played at times (if sometimes for too long), but standing atop a monitor, shirtless and baring his copious tattoos to all, he looks as if he's teleported in from another band altogether. Frontman Perry Farrell's vocals are still impressively far-reaching, but are overwhelmed by the unstoppable riffs of Navarro's lead guitar for much of the time, as well as being frustratingly plagued by feedback problems throughout.
In the thrilling throes of the big hits – "Been Caught Stealing", "Mountain Song", the excellent "Just Because" – the band are charged and focused, creating an electric atmosphere befitting their origins as an edgier, spikier GnR. Other tracks, however, become rudderless, the group not sure whether to follow the lead of Farrell or Navarro, early promise dissolving into an impenetrable mélange of effects pedals. Songs all too often sound like ersatz versions of Aerosmith or Rage Against The Machine, the LA quartet channelling their roots without ever really escaping them, sounding dated rather than revitalised.
Most people in attendance seem to wish it was 1990 again, and on tonight's evidence it looks like Jane's Addiction feel much the same way.
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