Jane's Addiction at the Allstate Arena


October 23, 2001


At a time when the corporate-rock machinery tries to present cookie-cutter conformity as "alternative," pioneer of the genre Jane's Addiction serves as a welcome reminder that it was once all about letting your freak flag fly.

The reunited Los Angeles quartet was in fine gonzo form Sunday night at the Allstate Arena, playing a much tighter and more focused set than it presented at the Aragon during the initial "Relapse" tour in 1997.

One of rock's most distinctive frontmen, Perry Farrell changed from one outlandish costume to another, at one point stripping down to tiny black bikini briefs and singing while twirling in an arc on a giant swing that had been set up onstage. He eschewed his traditional monologues, preferring to stick to the music, but he was as lovably weird as ever.

Shirtless guitarist Dave Navarro colored the sound with powerful washes of feedback and psychedelic noise, while the amazing Stephen Perkins kept the band's slinky sex grooves alternating between African poly-rhythms and Led Zeppelin stomp.

Adamantly anti-nostalgia, the band's original bassist, Eric Avery, wants no part of the reunion. (Porno for Pyros' Martyn Le Noble is a more solid replacement than Flea, who filled the role in '97. The group is also augmented by keyboardist Linda Good, of the former Chicago duo Twigs, who spent most of the night half-hidden in the shadows.)

Still, Sunday's show made Avery's objections seem pointless. While there was a shortage of new material, save for one selection each from Farrell and Navarro's recent solo albums, Jane's circa 2001 was no oldies act. Familiar hits such as "Ocean Size," "Summertime Rolls" and "Mountain Song" were reworked and invested with as much passion and energy as ever, holding out the promise of good things to come.

The only downside was the poor choice of venue. Jane's did its best to make the Allstate Arena seem more intimate, setting up platforms throughout the space for its five leggy go-go dancers, adding extra lights and lasers, and taking the time to craft a sound mix that was among the best I've heard in the venue.

Still, the house was at best two-thirds full, raising the question of why Jane's didn't opt to play at a mid-sized theater.

Another misstep was Jane's choice of opening acts. A decade on, the Stereo MC's mix of techno and R&B was tolerable if tired, but Pennsylvania grunge band Live was simply pathetic.

Performing semi-acoustic while sitting on couches and stools on a stage set to look like a living room, the no-longer-bald dime-store guru Ed Kowalcyk led the band through lame versions of pompous radio hits, as well as new wet-noodle material and a sorry cover of John Lennon's "Imagine."

When Kowalcyk concluded with the maudlin ballad "Overcome," he literally wrapped himself in an American flag. This is a performer with a complete lack of shame.