Last Night: Jane's Addiction at Bayou Music Center

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Jane's Addiction Bayou Music Center May 9, 2012

Perry Farrell is a twisted freak. Of course that's intended as a compliment.

Farrell has become one of rock's most successful misfits of the past 25 years, combining an astute business sense with a sincere interest in the any number of alternative subcultures that fuel Jane's sound. The man knows how to sell records, concert tickets and most of all himself.

So of course he would imagine himself as a ringmaster, pulling the puppet strings and making all the clowns dance on cue. That's the theme of Jane's new album The Great Escape Artist, Farrell's love letter to L.A. that's more enthusiastic than Joe Ely's but about as noirish. It's a surprisingly solid Jane's album, better than good but less than great, and I found myself wishing they had played a little more of it Wednesday.

What we got at Bayou Music Center instead was a show that took half an hour to ripen, or maybe for Farrell to decide that he was really into it after all. His washboard abs are impressive, and he would make a great bobblehead doll, but it wasn't until about "Ted, Just Admit It" that the show became more than perfunctory and I really started to believe him.

The early part of the set was deafening, but not riveting. The Led Zep thunder of "Mountain Song" is always a headbanger's ball, but the opening run of the new "Underground," "Just Because" and "Been Caught Stealing" tried to trace an arc between Pink Floyd -- the concert opened with a snippet of "Welcome to the Machine" -- the Beastie Boys and Faster Pussycat, but didn't quite click.

Too much volume, not enough groove. Maybe they needed an actual chainsaw onstage to go with the grizzly bear.

Oh well. As the man said, everybody has their own opinion. Personally, I liked the goth moment of the evening, the Cure/Sisters of Mercy-lite new song "Twisted Tales" and hope it sticks around in future tours.

Farrell can be both vulnerable and confrontational. He remarked that the last time Jane's was in Houston was the night Osama bin Laden died, and gave the same speech he gave to last year's Buzzfest audience at The Woodlands -- something along the lines of "I'm glad that motherfucker's dead."

At moments like that, the raging id loosed by the speed-metal riffs of "Ain't No Right" needed no other explanation.

At the same time, there was no mistaking the tenderness and affection in acoustic-flavored songs like "Classic Girl" and "Jane Says." As a campfire singalong and calypso tune including steel drums, those two songs opened a a kind of marine mini-set that went on into a tribal drum circle starring Navarro, drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Chris Chaney ("Chip Away," from 1987 debut Jane's Addiction), and finally the mystical rites of "Up the Beach/Ocean Size," lacking only a bonfire onstage and maybe a human sacrifice.

Navarro's psychedelic Pink Floyd guitar is especially adept at illuminating the darker corners of Farrell's psyche. Wednesday, that was especially on display in "Ted" and then again sinister closer "Three Days," which gave us an LSD-fantastic Fillmore light show to go along with Navarro's fried-synapse Hendrix solo.

As that song entered its home stretch in brawny Metallica mode, the two busty dancers who had been flickering on and offstage (and above it) all evening gave Farrell and Navarro standing lap dances while Perkins and Chaney were left with nothing but their instruments. The rhythm section never gets to have any fun. Or maybe that's what that drum circle was all about.

Californians: They're different from us.

Personal Bias: Longtime fan. Hadn't seen Jane's live in ten years. A little disappointed, but they ended strong.

The Crowd: Broke, unemployed losers. Just kidding. Ladies love Jane's Addiction, and Houston's rock fans were representing, though not enough to sell out the hall. It was close, though.

Seen in the Crowd: A guy in a Mohawk and his lady making out during "Ocean Size." Awww.

Random Notebook Dump: New favorite band alert -- openers the Duke Spirit, a.k.a. Echo & the Bunnymen with a lady singer. I'm in love.

SET LIST (* - new song)

Underground* Mountain Song Just Because Been Caught Stealing Ain't No Right Ted, Just Admit It Twisted Tales* Classic Girl Jane Says Chip Away Up the Beach/Ocean Size Three Days


Words Right Out of My Mouth* Stop!

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