When western New York’s summer concert lineup began to filter out near the end of May, the show that catapulted its way to the peak position for many astute music aficionados was Jane’s Addiction at Artpark.
The reunited lineup of Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro, Stephen Perkins, and Chris Chaney were fresh off the 2011 release of “The Great Escape Artist,” a prodigious yet misunderstood canvas that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the band’s finest work, and ready to share their perverse vision with the world.
While they’re known for giving birth to the so-called “Alternative Nation,” the band hadn’t exactly been blowing up the scene as of late given the dramatic shift in society’s musical attention since Jane’s late ‘80s heyday. An eight-year hiatus in today’s market could be the kiss of death for lesser artists, but the level of musicianship these guys display every night is too great to ignore.
In other words, they’re back, and still capable of bringing an audience to its knees with tunes that put modern alternative outfits to shame.
The catalyst for the band’s ongoing resurgence is the effortless guitar panache of Dave Navarro, who churns out solo after solo without ever breaking a sweat. Perhaps his duties as television host and all-too-brief marriage to Carmen Electra have clouded his stature for some, but the guy flat-out brings the house down when necessary.
He and singer Perry Farrell appear to be flaunting their chiseled physiques to those who don’t think it’s possible to say in shape once you hit 40, because they played the entire set sans shirts of any kind. With Navarro at 45 and Farrell at 52, their energy and onstage dedication to their craft set an example for younger bands to follow in the future.
With the motif of the evening being “Theatre of the Escape,” the stage was sprinkled with scantily clad trapeze artists in chains, video screens depicting 1950’s pin-up girls, and a giant statue of two naked women smack dab in the middle.
Even a clip from a brilliant 1988 documentary called “Sadobabies: Runaways in San Francisco” found its way into the set, but I doubt that many in the audience picked up on the significance of what they were watching. I applaud the band for shedding light on the film and hope that fans decide to seek it out at a later time.
As for the songs, they come at you as wild and crazy as they did upon their release.
“Mountain Song,” “Just Because,” and “Been Caught Stealing” exploded onto the stage early on, while “Whores,” “Splash a Little Water on It,” and “Ted, Just Admit It…” stood out as points where one could really feel that the band was having a killer time of it.
“Stop” has always been my favorite Jane’s Addiction tune and their version at Artpark was a bona fide masterpiece. Farrell’s voice bounced from one end of the theatre to the other as Navarro’s Gibson made its presence felt more boldly than in any of the previous numbers.
The night capped off with “Summertime Rolls” much to the chagrin of those clamoring for an encore, because an extension simply wasn’t to be.
For me, the show is easily among the top concerts of the summer, and is destined to be one of the best of 2012 by year’s end.
Once again, I ask you: Is there a more invigorating jolt the system that hearing Farrell scream “Comin’ down the mountain!!!!!!!!!” on a gorgeous August evening in Western New York?
I didn’t think so.