Perry Farrell’s aura seems to be present in every aspect of Lollapalooza. (There’s even a giant LED rendering of his first name on Columbus Drive inside the festival grounds at Grant Park, announcing the dance-music stage called simply “Perry’s”.) But this year the Lollapalooza founder and figurehead opted to go offsite to make an appearance in the flesh. Late Saturday night — or, to be accurate, early Sunday morning — he and his band Jane’s Addiction took the stage at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom to perform an intimate after-party for a few thousand fans lucky enough to score a ticket to the last-minute show.
And the band put on a show indeed, inhabiting a stage populated with gyrating ladies, giant TV screens and even, at one point, what appeared to be a human dressed as a monster. They opened with “Underground,” an electronic-tinged goth-rock cut from their most recent album, The Great Escape Artist, with Farrell singing from out front and the rest of the band, including guitarist Dave Navarro, hovering in the shadows behind him.
And this was clearly Farrell’s show. “Chicago, do you love me?” he asked rhetorically before his bandmates plowed into “Mountain Song,” the first of several tracks played from their seminal 1988 major-label debut, Nothing’s Shocking.
Though the band stayed faithful to their classic material in a structural sense, in terms of musical approach the Jane’s Addiction of today is a much different animal than the one that helped spearhead the alternative rock movement in the late Eighties and early Nineties. Songs that were once sinewy and open-sounding are now thick and throttling. And the band seems to go more for atmosphere than attack. The shift in tone has certainly modernized their sound. But something also seems to have been lost, in particular in faster material like “Ain’t No Right” and “Stop,” both from 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, in which rhythms were often reduced to a rumble of guitar, bass and drums, with Farrell’s reverb-drenched vocal soaring high above the murk.
Last night, it was often the lighter and more mid tempo material that worked best. Navarro imbued “Ocean Size” with massive riffs and a regal, wah-drenched guitar solo, and set closer “Summertime Rolls” was rendered in exquisitely hazy fashion.
In general there was a celebratory tone to the show, with Farrell honoring the coming of yet another Lollapalooza and hinting at what lay ahead—“I’m already thinking about next year,” he commented at one point. There were also surprises. Near the end of the evening Farrell introduced to the stage Peter DiStephano, the former guitarist in Porno for Pyros, the band Farrell formed following Jane’s Addiction’s initial split in the early Nineties. Together, they all tackled the Porno for Pyros song “Cursed Female.”
Farrell also related a story to the audience about how he knew DiStephano was a loyal friend. In short, it involved a girl who cheated on the singer and the man she cheated with, whom DiStephano, in an act of revenge, stabbed in the buttocks.
“He’s mishbukah to me!” explained Farrell of the guitarist, employing the Yiddish phrase for family.
He then motioned to the thousands in attendance, many of whom had come to the Aragon directly from Grant Park. “You’re all mishbukah to me!”
— Richard Bienstock, CBS Local