Jack's 11th Show with Jane's Addiction
Irvine Meadows Amphitheater
September 23, 2016
Irvine Meadows, also known as Verizon Amphitheater, will be closing next month, and last night saw its most bittersweet night yet, as Jack FM’s annual end-of-summer concert (Jack’s 11th Show) celebrated the 25th anniversary of one of the Meadows' most popular events — Lollapalooza. The venue, set to be demolished to make room for an apartment development, has long been an ideal off-the-beaten path locale for all-day concerts, offering great views and vibes whether one was close-up or in grassy hills of the amphitheater’s rear.
At the show’s close, with headliner Jane’s Addiction, frontman Perry Farrell was clearly emotional about saying goodbye to the venue. His voice wobbled as he invited fans in the back, including those who’d been sitting on the grass all day, to come forward “as close as possible,” to watch the band and bond a bit during their acoustic jam-flavored finale of “Jane Says,” and security didn’t appear to object when many did just that. Giant inflated silver balls were thrown out into the crowd and bounced above it as the band sat on chairs and played their hearts out one last time. It was a poignant, rhythmically charged, and pretty much perfect moment.
Unfortunately, before that, the band's set was uneven at best. Since Lollapalooza also marks the 25th anniversary of the Jane's second major label release, Ritual de lo Habitual, they understandably chose to play that album in its entirety, and it has several mid-tempo numbers that just didn’t translate very well live on Friday. The record opens with a bang: the band’s signature intro en español touting, “Juana’s Adicción!” leading into the bouncy “Stop.” But it has low-key moments, too; moody, atmospheric stuff that showed Jane’s depth on record 25 years ago, but was never really highlight material on stage.
The celebratory energy that was called for, especially for this milestone evening, just wasn’t prevalent, and Farrell’s vocals, while still uniquely seductive when he was able to hit the notes, were strained most of the time. Scantily clad dancers came out and writhed behind and beside the band for many songs as they have done for past shows, but it felt forced and proved distracting, especially the segment in which Farrell’s wife had another woman dress her (yes, dress, not undress), all the way down to her shoes.
Jane’s Addiction have always been a performance-arty band, but now that they’re elder statemen, the eye-candy just felt gratuitous. An exception was the still-intoxicating "Ted, Just Admit It ...", off Nothing's Shocking, which saw them flanked by two girls flying above via suspension (hanging from hooks by their back flesh), a fetish that Jane’s guitarist Dave Navarro is known to dabble in.
For his part, Navarro’s performance deserves props. His reality show stints and penchant for shirtlessness can come off a bit gauche, but that shouldn’t diminish his talent. He is one of the greatest guitar players in alternative music, and last night he proved it, turning in one of his most intensely intricate performances ever. Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins kept the show from going full snooze during the slow spots. Still, the venue got emptier as Jane’s set progressed, which ultimately made it easier when Farrell asked everyone to move up to the stage.
Before the headliner, Jack's sonic sampler had some other high points. Coming off their big gigs opening for Guns N' Roses, The Cult played a tight and vibrant set, heavy on the metallic tunes from Electric. And before that, Garbage (who will be getting moody at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery next month) delved into some of their newer material and the darker, heavier hits.
While it was still light out, Everlast and House of Pain melded the hip-hop hellraising of the band’s early jams with the singer’s later solo acoustic crooners, and it worked pretty well for all involved — though for many in attendance, it was all about the moment they got to mindlessly “Jump Around.” And Violent Femmes, who opened up the fest, proved to be most on-point act of the day, playing their infectious sing-alongs with giddy precision. Sadly, since it was a Friday afternoon, many concertgoers were stuck in O.C. traffic and missed the Femmes' set, as well as the “pre-show” performance from Taylor Hawkins' '70s rock cover band, Chevy Metal.
Hawkins, best-known as the drummer for Foo Fighters, joined Perkins on the skins during Jane’s set, and it made me wish for more cross-pollination between the performers, something Lollapalooza saw on occasion back in the day.
The future for large-scale outdoor music events in Orange County is now in doubt. A group called Save the Music Irvine were on site asking fans to sign petitions to erect a new concert venue nearby. But until that’s worked out, many big shows in the area will have to move indoors, and that’s a shame. As fans of the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theatre in L.A. know, watching rock stars under real stars can't be beat. Concert environs can be just as important as what’s on stage, and in Orange County, Irvine Meadows was one of the best. Gwen Stefani will play the final, final shows there Oct. 29 and 30.
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Set list below.
No One's Leaving
Ain't No Right
Been Caught Stealing
Three Days (with Taylor Hawkins)
Then She Did ...
Ted, Just Admit It ...