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Jane's Addiction reunion at the El Rey, April 23

These days there’s every reason to be skeptical of a reunion concert. After the breakup we watch our heroes get older, buy their post-Great-Band solo projects with worried hearts and minds, certain that they have peaked and that nothing they do could capture the magic of the Grand Statement of Purpose they delivered when we were all young and in love.

photo courtesy of NME

And we’re usually right because that thing that was special about the band, say, for example, Jane’s Addiction, mostly exists in our head, in our memory of when they, like us, were younger, more beautiful and in better shape. They gave us their music, and we accepted it. It’s a memory of energy transfer, of constructing a conduit between musician and listener, and pouring music, beautiful music, through it.

Like the aging process itself, that conduit tends to shrink over time, and during reunion concerts only a smidgen of the former energy is able to squeeze through (okay, this metaphor is getting gross). It’s not the same. But last night at the El Rey, Jane’s Addiction totally tapped into whatever that was they once had, and shut us snobby-ass skeptics the hell up. Boom, like they’d been rehearsing for years, they kicked into “Stop” and the four original members, for the first time in 17 years, played their music together, and it was really great.

Setlist:

'Stop'

'Mountain Song'

'Ocean Size'

'Jane Says'

Before that, we had to sit through an excruciatingly dull and embarrassing awards ceremony, an experience we won’t dignify with a response save to say that the recipients of said awards seemed a little underwhelmed. But it was worth it when Evan Dando of the Lemonheads walked out with an acoustic guitar and performed two songs from his recently reissued gem, It’s a Shame About Ray. Specifically, Dando performed the classic “My Drug Buddy,” one of the best songs ever written about wiling away the days getting high.

And then, after an awkward presentation to Jane’s Addiction of some meaningless Godlike Genius Award, the band took the stage.

Perry Ferrell’s a little wobblier than he used to be. He’s still skinny as Ichabod Crane, and can dance and spin and rock his cute little but off, but he’s gonna need some knee surgery soon I bet. (He took a little tumble during one of the songs, but recovered.) Navarro’s Navarro, a shirtless tattooed rock star indeed with those same annoying abs, a shit-eating grin and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He’s a stereotype, but a good one, and nailed his riffs and solos and posing with grace and assurance. Drummer Stephen Perkins was loving every minute of it. When they broke out the steel drum for “Jane Says” and he started tapping out that percussive melody, he seemed giddy.

And Eric Avery, long the holdout for this type of reunion shenanigans, proved why his bottom-end, tug-boat bass style is so essential to the band’s sound. Navarro and Ferrell may get all the hoo-has and ovations, but Avery got the biggest round of applause last night, and tapped into the groove that is at the band’s essence. He was the band's quiet superstar during the reunion. (And he looked great. I need to get in touch with his personal trainer.)

Yeah, it was just four songs. But they were four great performances from four great musicians who gave little hint that they'd not done this together for 17 years.