Jane’s Addiction review – original lineup, same thrilling riff-driven thrashers

The spectre of wasted potential has long hung over Jane’s Addiction. The Los Angelenos helped define alternative rock in the late 80s with two albums of cosmic, bohemian funk-metal, driven by mysticism, debauchery and loss, but were quickly undone by exhaustion, heroin and frontman Perry Farrell’s new role as Lollapalooza’s ringmaster. Subsequent reunions struggled to locate that mercurial power, keenly feeling the absence of their creative cornerstone: founding bassist Eric Avery, who resisted the filthy reunion lucre until 2008, only to exit again two years later amid considerable rancour, seemingly for ever.

His presence tonight is a big deal, then. Restlessly prowling the stage, pounding his bass, mouthing along to every lyric, Avery’s not phoning it in. His vigour underscores a sense that that Jane’s Addiction may have finally rediscovered their mojo. Riff-driven thrashers like Pigs In Zen and Ain’t No Right are dispatched with thrilling ferocity, Dave Navarro making his guitar sound like a chainsaw, a siren, a crashing jetliner, sometimes all at once. In white cowboy duds (with Navarro as his shadowy spaghetti-western nemesis), Farrell relishes every mischievous punk-funk twist of Been Caught Stealin’, and goes positively feral on new song Imminent Redemption, which sounds more like Jane’s Addiction than anything off their underwhelming reunion albums.

Not phoning it in … Perry Farrell and Eric Avery. Photograph: Sonja Horsman/the Guardian

They soar highest as they go deeper, though. Opening with And She Did – an atmospheric piece, Farrell mulling over his mother’s depression and suicide – is a bold move, but showcases the tender power within their sleek heaviness. And Three Days once again sounds like the greatest rock epic of the alternative era, its tribal drums chasing one ecstatic crescendo after another as Navarro fires off glorious, alchemical solos stripped of cliche and Farrell weaves together the carnal and the spiritual.

Tonight, they play rock as thing of beauty as much as show of strength – always their signature play back in the day, but something that’s eluded them on the nostalgia-driven reunion circuit. However, with the classic lineup at last realigned, visibly pumped to be in each other’s company, and with new material on the way, they’ve not sounded this vivid and alive in decades. It might finally be time to believe in Jane’s Addiction again – after all, they clearly do.

The Guardian