When I heard that Jane’s Addiction was touring again, and playing Toronto’s Massey Hall (one of my all-time favorite venues), I was totally into it. But then I kind of dropped the ball on getting tickets, so I had resigned myself to the fact that I would miss the chance yet again to see Perry Farrell in action, which was a shame because I have heard many accounts of what an excellent front man he is. Plus I love the band. I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard them. It was the summer after grade 9 and I was in San Francisco visiting family. I met up with a bunch of my high school buddies who were also in town. We were hanging out down at Pier 39 doing the touristy thing, and it was one of those perfect San Fran days where it’s sunny and kind of cool but the air is crisp and the sky is unbelievably blue. My friend Matt turned to me and said “Spencer, check this out,” shoving a pair of earphones into my ears. ‘Been Caught Stealing’. That was my first taste of Jane’s Addiction.
I can’t believe that it wasn’t until twenty years later that I finally saw them live. I was sitting at work yesterday afternoon when a friend called out of the blue to say that a buddy of his had extra tickets and did I want them? I didn’t hesitate, and I have to say that getting the opportunity to catch their performance at Massey Hall was a pretty unique and amazing experience. As you can probably tell from the photos, our seats were excellent, and I spent most of the show right up in the front row. There’s something I love about being that close to the band – you get to see all the movements, the facial expressions, the things that ‘humanize’ people, if you will. When you see famous bands in huge venues they’re often beamed up on a giant screen above your head, larger than life, and as a result you tend to forget that rock stars are ultimately just people too, and that running around on stage playing their instruments takes the same amount of effort (give or take) for them as it would for lesser-known performers. When you’re up close, you get to see the little details – the sweat, the concentration, the timing – that reveal this effort. Perry Farrell has been famous for so many years that he had become sort of a caricature in my head, so it was kind of crazy and mind-blowing to be watching him from such a short a distance. Awesome, but in a totally disconcerting way…like, “dude…Perry Farrell is jumping around mere inches from my face”.* Surreal.
*Well, okay, more like 3 or 4 feet…but still…that’s close.
As to whether or not he is an excellent front man…in a word, yes. A thousand times yes. I had heard it said before but I didn’t really understand it until I experienced it firsthand. You just can’t keep your eyes off of him. In pictures, I had never found him particularly attractive or unattractive, one way or another — he always seemed kind pale and skinny, if anything – but in person he exudes charisma, vitality, and, yes, sex appeal. Plus, check out his outfit:
Obviously I am all over the vest, the gloves, and the black-on-black stripes. Understated (particularly for him), yet awesome.
The rest of the band members were solid, and then some. Say what you will about Dave Navarro — the man knows how to strut onstage, and has the chops to back it up. I saw him super up close as well and he was wearing a rather amazing amount of makeup but it wasn’t out of place, it just looked theatrical. Stephen Perkins broke out the steel drums for a slowed-down version of ‘Jane Says,’ which many critics thus far along the tour have deemed lackluster, but I will just point out that hearing the entire audience singing along to every word was pretty awesome.
Of course, being a Jane’s Addiction show, there was no shortage of imagery on display intended to shock and disturb. ‘Twisted Tales,’ most notably, featured a man in a white tuxedo tailcoat whose head was wrapped in bandages, abusing plastic dolls in a variety of violent ways for the duration of the song before finally hanging himself as it reached its’ conclusion. Slightly tamer was the lesbian-and-bondage-style live performance (featuring Farrell’s wife, Etty Lau), which included canes, leather bustiers, and spankings.
The highlights of the show for me included a high-energy performance of ‘Mountain Song,’ the sinister menace of ‘Ted, Just Admit It…,’ a pretty, stripped-down version of ‘Classic Girl’ (one of my faves), and the hauntingly sublime ‘Three Days’.
- Mountain Song
- Just Because
- Been Caught Stealing
- Ain’t No Right
- Ted, Just Admit It…
- Twisted Tales
- Classic Girl
- Jane Says
- I Would For You
- End to the Lies
- Three Days
- Words Right Out Of My Mouth
- Ocean Size