Tuesday October 7, 2003
The weather turns bad just as soon as our plane lands, sullen black clouds rolling out across gunmetal skies, and by the time Uncut reaches the Columbiahalle, it’s raining something Biblical. We find the venue on the outskirts of town, halfway down a long boulevard lined with an endless parade of stern-looking federal buildings. The Columbiahalle appears to be little more than a glorified school hall, smiling staff wandering around selling pretzels out of huge wicker baskets. Someone thinks it’s a good idea to turn the house lights up full between bands, which does a fine job of massacring the atmosphere. It isn’t very rock’n’roll.
As if in response to this, the support band, New York’s The Star Spangles, kick up a ferocious racket, racing through their Ramones-inspired pop-punk with what sounds like a bad case of amphetamine psychosis, everything haring by at breakneck pace.
Jane’s Addiction are dressed sombrely, lot of blacks, khaki and muted yellows. We’re half expecting Perry Farrell to be dressed to the nines, sporting some outlandish work of haute couture?instead he slinks on stage in a nondescript parka, the only flash of colour a purple scarf, swiftly dispensed with.
It’s been 13 years since Jane’s last toured, nearly that long since the band collapsed, burned out by bad drugs, fractious internal relationships, arrests and nasty rumours concerning Farrell’s health. It was a disappointing end to an unusual five-year run. The widescreen cosmic rock of 1988’s Nothing’s Shocking and 1990’s Ritual De Lo Habitual, channelled through Farrell’s glammed-up junkie poet chic and Dave Navarro’s thundering guitar riffs, put them up there with Sonic Youth and the Pixies at the forefront of what some might call the alternative rock explosion. The first time I saw them live was in west London’s Subterania in August 1990. The hottest day of the year, condensation pouring from the ceiling and a bare-chested, dreadlocked Farrell launching into lengthy, semi-coherent rants about George Bush, the CIA and the Gulf War like a bedraggled, half-mad prophet of doom. It was, you might guess, quite some show, and with their passing a little bit of colour seemed to leach from the world.
Now, here we are with Jane’s Addiction circa 2003, Farrell, Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins joined by former session bassist Chris Chaney, out touring new album Strays, the first new material from the band since 1997’s odds-and-sods compilation Kettle Whistle. While Strays was a fine comeback, Jane’s have always worked best on stage?Navarro’s terror storm of noise can strip the enamel from your teeth and Farrell’s mesmerising presence, his unpredictable flights of freewheeling fancy, are best witnessed in the flesh. So they open with the psychedelic prick-tease of “Up The Beach” before slamming head first into the propulsive “Stop!”. “True Nature” sounds like a thunderstorm, “Been Caught Stealing” struts and spits, alley-cat feral. “Three Days” is way out there, a little piece of the apocalypse, Navarro whipping up a hellstorm, Perkins’ voodoo drumming tight while a stick-thin Farrell preens and sashays round the stage, a crazed poet warrior with an alien voice and eyes as big as oceans. New songs?the acoustic swoon of “Everybody’s Friend”, the greasy riffs of “Just Because”?sit snugly next to old classics. “Ted Just Admit It” is hideously oppressive, Navarro’s guitar squealing like an animal being slaughtered, Farrell shrieking “sex is violent” over and over like the last lunatic left in Bedlam. And on it goes.
What you remember, watching Jane’s Addiction for the first time in well over a decade, is how quite unlike any other band they are. The flamboyant Farrell is unique, while it’s incredible how the muscular Navarro can always manage to make it sound like he’s playing 50 guitars and not just the one. The sense of timing, too, is superb?songs careering along, suddenly slamming to a standstill, a pause, then off again at full throttle. After a thundering version of “Coming Down The Mountain”, they close with a heartbreaking take on “Jane Says”, Perkins’ bongos light as a summer breeze, Navarro’s rolling acoustic chords and Farrell leading the crowd through a mournful chorus of “I’m gonna kick tomorrow!”.
A pleasure to have them back.
Shoot For The Stars
The Addiction plug straight back into the main vein