Historic (i.e., pre-Chinese Democracy debacle) Guns'n'Roses bassist Duff McKagan debuted last night holding the low-end for Jane's Addiction in a small gig at Hollywood club Bardot.
The band (dubbed by the fans Jane's Addiction 6.0 or Jane's'n'Roses) sounded happy, a little loose, and much more OG UK punk than ever. It was difficult to tell, though, if that was because Duff and drummer Stephen Perkins were locked in a deliberate late-70s scuzzy groove or because the tiny venue (a smoker's patio decked out cantina-style for Cinco de Mayo) didn't allow for any more aural weirdness than the occasional heavy reverb on Perry's mic.
Here are some moody (i.e., a little out of focus, as if they had partaken from Perry's pricey stage red wine) snapshots of a crazy evening that mixed reloaded '80s nostalgia, supergroup (and superfans) intimations, a fake Mexican holiday started by Corona and handed over to the bottle-service-tequila crowd, and a beloved, sometimes infuriating institution of LA musical history:
The band took its time making it to the improvised “stage” while fans crowded the smoking patio and listened to a DJ set heavy on early '80s staples like Siouxie, “This is Radio Clash,” “Psycho Killer” (still the most modern-sounding thing the whole evening, and a singalong-inducing, stealth funk monster after all these years), “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” etc. (They did mix in Julian Casablancas' “Rebel Rebel”-sounding single from last year, but it was mostly Alterna-Hot Tub Time Machine fare.)
While everybody waited, a bunch of VIPs (including several cocky record industry-seeming types with entourages, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello, erstwhile minor Gunners Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke, and other friends, relatives, and models) got placed front and center in the best GoodFellas style. Joaquin Phoenix was also spotted, though he's seemingly walkin' the line these days and had left his annoying “rapper” alter ego at home.
After a longish while, there was a noise from the side as Duff McKagan made his dramatic entrance as a full member of Jane's Addiction, strutting among the crowd and strapping on his bass right close to everyone in the jam-packed club with the epic assurance of someone accustomed to arena crowds and having to project his snarls over huge distances.
Then the others joined him. Dave quietly standing to the side and Perry coming in with his comfort-blanket bottle of red, that trademark grin halfway between goof and maniac, and his uncanny sense of style and carriage that caused many of his fellow 50-year-olds in the audience to gasp in envy.
(Aside: from very up close Duff McKagan is one intense mug. If a handsome lion-ape manimal had somehow become one of our greatest presidents, and if his face had been etched onto Mt. Rushmore, well, that's what Duff looks like up close.)
And then, the music. Here's what they played:
Had a Dad
Another Soulmate (new song)
Pigs in Zen
Ain't No Right
(They also sang “Happy Birthday” to Duff's hot wife.)
Confetti exploded (twice). Perry talked some nonsense about a midget being made into a pinata (“Perry is either corny or surreal, depending if he's drunk or stoned,” tells us a long-time Jane's watcher. Hard to pick one or the other for last night.)
It was short and sweet, and a little loose, not in a bad way. Some fans were grumbling about “Another Soulmate,” the new song, and a return to the controversial sound of Strays was feared. Again, it's hard to assess the new lineup because some of their “new sound” will probably be very different in the studio takes. This club gig was great if you were there, but it's probably not very representative of what these four veteran players are currently up to with access to their whole bag of tricks.