ROCK PULSE: Perry Farrell and Jane's Addiction reinjected the rock of the late-'80s with a sense of purpose and fury.
By Dan Pulcrano
WITH ALL the kitschy nostalgia for '80s pop, it's often forgotten what a white-glove era it was for rock & roll. The melodic synth music of dark, brooding British bands displaced the raw, untamed guitar abandon of the '50s rock pioneers, Woodstock-era '60s rock (the Who/Hendrix) and the envelope-pushing of the '70s that began with the New York Dolls and culminated with the punk explosion at the decade's end. By 1983, however, Duran Duran straddled the bow of a boat and finger-snapped its way down the Rio and up to the top of the charts in a banana colored suit (look it up on YouTube). It was time to stick a fork in rock & roll.
A dreadlock-flailing singer appeared onstage at the Santa Clara club One Step Beyond in April 1989, proving that rock still had urgency, life and territory to explore. Along with another breakout band of that era, the Replacements, Jane's Addiction tore up the set list, lived for the moment and embodied—rather than performed—rock & roll.
Soon Jane's Addiction graduated from clubs to halls like the Warfield, where Perry Farrell postured like a crucified Jesus under a spotlight, then climbed the tent riggings at Shoreline in 1991 when his Lollapalooza touring rock festival catapulted the band to amphitheater headliner. The tension in the band by that time was palpable. Eric Avery stomped in a circle the entire show, looking down at the taped box on the stage floor that governed his movements and playing the angriest bass ever. Avery quit the band after that, sitting out reunions for 18 years. When Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea wielded the bass ax at the 1997 Enit Festival version of Jane's Addiction, emotional authenticity lost out to cerebral/psychedelic weirdness.
By then, a skinny kid named Trent Reznor had grabbed the baton in the anger relay and wanted to f us like an animal. During Nine Inch Nails' July 1991 Lollapalooza set, Reznor attacked his band mate James Woolley and toppled his keyboard. Any suspicion that this was just theater evaporated when Woolley left the band three years later, citing physical abuse. Reznor then retreated to wrestle his demons, touring only once between 1995, when he appeared with David Bowie at Shoreline and bonked my sister in the head with a full water bottle hurled from the stage, and 2005, when he re-emerged better behaved to take his industrial art to the next level. Harnessing new lighting and sound technologies in a powerful show captured on the 2007 Blu-ray DVD Beside You in Time—one of the best recorded concerts ever to hit a flat panel—Reznor has grown stronger with reinvention, applying edge as well to his business model as one of the few major artists to release complete albums for free on the Internet.
If Reznor had any role in patching up the rift between Avery and his band mates, as well as in engineering this epic pairing of supergroups, it's worth a call to the Nobel Foundation. On Friday, both bands return to the scene of the crime. Reznor, Avery and Farrell, along with original Jane's Addiction bandmates Stephen Perkins and Dave Navarro, will share the same Shoreline stage for the first time in 18 years. That's not a long wait at all for a show this big.
JANE'S ADDICTION and NINE INCH NAILS perform Friday (May 22) at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Tickets are $19–$59. (408.998.TIXS)
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