Live Report: Jane’s Addiction – Roundhouse, London

"A towering wall of noise..."

How easy it is to forget Jane’s Addiction’s assured position in the annals of rock and roll, given their relatively scattered nature, and occasional fits of activity. But here tonight, as we witness the original quartet performing together for the first time in 14 years, their enchanting, shamanistic brand of psychedelic rock is a firm reminder of the group’s powerful and impressive stature.

In the mid-’80s, when they emerged from the same fertile alternative club scene of Los Angeles that spawned the likes of Fishbone, Guns N’ Roses, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s were already the aural equivalent of a cosmic trip – their experiments in sound less about crafting the perfect song and more about leading the listener on an exhilarating journey.

Two albums – 1988’s brilliant ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ and 1990’s classic ‘Ritual De Lo Habitual’ – arrived during their first flash of success, as alternative rock beat furiously on the mainstream’s front door. But after touring ‘Ritual’, the band – strained and strung out – broke up. Three-quarters of the group convened again just long enough to release 2003’s decent ‘Strays’, and when founding bassist Eric Avery finally returned to the fold in 2008, he only lasted a little under two years. 

‘The Great Escape Artist’, the group’s fourth album from 2011, seemed to ignite a steadier period of playing, as the group toured with Chris Chaney on bass. However, following the announcement in 2022 that Avery had returned – again – and, subsequent to reports from their US shows that relations were not only healed but were palpably sizzling with ferocious musical chemistry, it felt like a new chapter had opened up for the band, one with a future, and hopefully one that might bring them to these shores.

Thankfully, it did, and indeed the Jane’s Addiction we see on the stage of London’s iconic Roundhouse – their first UK show since 2016 – is a rejuvenated unit, working as one to conduct their dynamic sonic trip in the most potent fashion.

They have matured, much like the red wine that’s regularly being glugged from the bottle wielded by frontman Perry Farrell. The lithe and rakish frontman belies his 65 years, so loose and loud as he is, mischievously prowling the lip of the stage in jeans and a fitted waistcoat, and holding the most glorious sustained notes.

To his right, cloaked in black, is guitarist Dave Navarro, whose ongoing battle with long COVID seems to do little to hamper his performance – screaming solos give way to tender runs and sexy licks with such sultry effortlessness. 

Avery is a solid presence stage right, his low-slung bass the melodic anchor to Navarro’s six-string adventuring. At the back, almost completely obscured by his kit, is drummer Stephen Perkins, the awesome powerhouse that keeps the whole thing driving forward in a perpetual blur of sticks.

The evening began with the lesser-known ‘Kettle Whistle’, which on record (1997’s compilation of the same name) is an almost eight-minute mantra with hypnotic undulating guitars, but here becomes a slow, trippy meditation that builds into a towering wall of noise that sets the volume level for the remainder of the night.

They thrash through ‘Whores’ and ‘Pigs In Zen’ from 1987’s self-titled live album, before the first big sing-along in the shape of ‘Been Caught Stealing’ – its grooviness coming almost as light relief from its harder counterparts. 

A surprising treat arrived halfway through, when we got to hear the yet-to-be-released ‘Imminent Redemption’ – Perkins’ rumbling toms sounding thunderous as Farrell wails, “Let’s all make a comeback” – which, along with last year’s ‘True Love’, itself appearing later in the set, makes up the band’s first new original material in over a decade.

‘Jane Says’, in all its acoustic beauty, is accompanied by the full chorus of the Roundhouse attendees, who are also quick to echo the recorded Spanish introduction to ‘Stop’, before bouncing themselves silly to its tumbling intensity.

We know ‘Mountain Song’ is coming as Avery starts hammering its classic intro bassline, and the track is a suitably mighty penultimate track for the night. The finale that followed was well worth the wait. ‘Three Days’, extended into a seven-minute climactic freak-out replete with piercing guitar solos, crashing tribal drums, and Farrell’s maracas, is what’s left ringing in our ears as we exit onto Camden High Street.

Though all the hits were delivered, tonight felt nothing like a band just doing the old numbers. This was Jane’s Addiction driven by an intense passion, a band grateful to have survived long enough to make this reunion something rather special, and pulling out all the stops to ensure every song exploded on impact. Let’s hope it’s not another lengthy wait until we can see them here again.

SET LIST

Kettle Whistle
Whores
Pigs In Zen
Been Caught Stealing
Ain’t No Right
Summertime Rolls
Imminent Redemption
Ted, Just Admit It…
Jane Says
Up The Beach
Ocean Size
True Love
Stop
Mountain Song
Three Days

Words: CC Baxter
Photography: Craig McConnell

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