weekend concerts at Chicago's Metro. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)
Now here's something I haven't seen in quite a while. Jane's Addiction wrapped its brief reunion set Saturday night at Chicago's Metro, played a single encore, then stumbled back offstage. But the crowd wasn't in the same hurry to move along -- they stood their ground, still cheering as the houselights came up, genuinely begging for more.
For an instant, it looked like they might get the second encore they wanted, but no such luck. Roadies started pulling plugs. The crowd was so fired up a lot of folks just stood there singing along with the Pink Floyd on the PA.
Did I mention this was Jane's Freaking Addiction? In 2011?
"Wow, 20 years and we still suck, right?" front man Perry Farrell chortled to the crowd midway through the show. "We still don't know what the f--- we're doing. ... But we're gonna be something someday."
• 9 p.m. Sunday
• Metro, 3730 N. Clark
• Sold out
Much has been written this week about the end of R.E.M., the band that built the bridge from post-punk to alternative rock. Waiting for them at the end of the 1980s was Jane's Addiction, a trashy Los Angeles clubland band that wrote much of the declaration for the "alternative nation" -- but then didn't stick around to enjoy the fruits of their labors. After three years and three albums, Farrell built the first Lollapalooza in 1991 as a celebratory farewell tour for Jane's Addiction, and today it lives on every summer in Chicago's Grant Park.
But in 1988, Jane's Addiction launched its second album, "Nothing's Shocking," with two shows at the Metro. This is Jane's third go-round now, and next month they release their first new album in eight years, "The Great Escape Artist." Impressively, the band performed a few of the new songs Saturday night without once ever mentioning that fact or hawking the record between songs. New songs "End to the Lies" and "Irresistible Force" fit right into the otherwise nostalgic set ("Mountain Song," "Jane Says").
Farrell -- who also made time this week to drop in on some "Yo Gabba Gabba!" shows in town -- jittered and gyrated with the energy of 20 years ago, dancing like a boxer in skinny jeans and a tank top. He swigged from a wine bottle and spanked the two female dancers that pointlessly strutted around the stage. He grinned mischievously through "Been Caught Stealing" as if he still snatched stuff; at the end of that song, with Farrell's final "It's mine," a fan up front handed him a camera.
He twiddled knobs to drench his wails in reverb while the band stomped out creaky grooves. That's pretty much the Jane's formula, and the band worked that last nerve for 13 songs. Guitarist Dave Navarro -- the epitome of the journeyman guitar wanker -- stripped off his shirt early to show off his tattoos and gym membership, dragged on a cigarette he kept pinched between the upper strings of guitar, and stood largely still with his leg thrown onto a monitor while playing utterly professional, scale-shattering solos. He came alive during the lengthy "Three Days" and "Ocean Size," the same time one of the night's three (count 'em, three) crowd surfers took flight.
Jane's Addiction's fractured history leaves it with only a few real highlights, and a short, sharp show packs more of a wallop than if they went on for three hours. Saturday's show was barely 75 minutes, but it didn't feel rushed or cut short. Then again, I wasn't one of the ones standing there singing "Wish You Were Here" as security was moving people toward the door.
Jane's Addiction set list Saturday night
"Ain't No Right"
"Ted, Just Admit It ..."
"Been Caught Stealing"
"End to the Lies"
"Up the Beach"