JANE'S ADDICTION - “Nothings Shocking” - London Brixton Academy 20th August 2014
25 years after release, and Jane's Addiction – well, three quarters of the band that released their debut record – finally tour “Nothings Shocking”. Considering it didn't even break the Top 100 when it came out, the idea of them headlining Brixton to play it a quarter century later would, at the time, seem a little odd, although now everyone seems to be doing nostalgia tours.
I've never understood nostalgia tours : why would you want to pretend music stayed stuck forever in 1991? Sure, I see lot of old bands – but music is not just a young mans – or womans - game. Nobody writes off those later Stanley Kubrick films. Sure, when Robert DeNiro made the risible “Moose & Squirrel” movies to fund his restaurant he may as well have given up on life completely, but that's not to say that the older someone gets, that they should just give up. As I get older, I want to know : how will music follow me on the journey through life? How will bands write about getting old? About the divorces? About the body failing? About making decisions … and not being about to back out of them and Abort / Retry / Fail again, fail better, when you get older? How will bands that were my age then respond to being my age now? Will they pretend this isn't happening... or adapt and survive?
Why do you not want to hear where the people that wrote those songs then that you loved might be here and now? Sure, you might not want it if its crap.. but it can never be as good as then in some eyes, because we see things differently now, with the years behind us. They change us, and they change how we see those things.
And thus, Jane's Addictions choice – to play only one song less than 24 years old – is safe and comforting. To some. Given that they have only performed one song, once, from the “Great Escape Artist” album in the UK, wouldn't they want to .. broaden minds? Wouldn't they want people to see where they are now, not where they were … way back when? I don't want the music I love to be in a museum. I want it living, breathing. I want to know where they are going now. I know I am in a minority.
Whilst the bands commercial appeal has waned slightly, they still do stirling business with 3,500 tickets sold. But when the band have played just three proper UK shows in the last 11 years before this one, and only one (a support slot) outside of London since November 2003, is it any surprise? And not only that, their workrate is rewardingly slow : they have released only two studio records since 1990. Not that I would advocate them releasing a mediocre album every year like Prince, but Jane's Addiction are a band that have stood at the cusp of world domination, and self-destructed. .
Tonight, with the same lineup they had in 2002, and one that has seemingly lasted longer than any other, Jane's Addiction are slicker, more practised, still as sincere, but with more craft, and – when you play an album in full – predictable. What works on record doesn't always work on stage : traditional set closer “Jane Says” is halfway through the night, and there's still 45 minutes left, in a show that is barely 89 minutes long. On the other hand, 89 minutes of Jane's Addiction is worth about 20 hours of Morrissey, with a fluid and strong chemistry, with a biting, beautiful sound, and there's moments, moments, moments, like seeing a stuntman perform immaculate miracles, when everything just works. Sure. It's predictable, and there's a degree of knowing, the power has been replaced by the familiarity, and the band itself is not as powerful as they were in 1991, or even 2002, but there's no sense really of going through the motions, or of clocking on for a paycheque. And whilst “Nothings Shocking” is a much better record – and was utterly alien upon release – than many ears noticed, they were an art band that rocked. Now Jane's Addiction are a rock band that arts, : and, given that most of the rest of the evening is gifted to a reprise of most of “Ritual De Lo Habitual”, the debut is a record that perhaps has its weak points - “Idiots Rule”, “Had A Dad” just aren't as fantastic as some of the other songs, but they still tower over the then-competition. It may only be guitar, bass, and drums, but the use of ever changing time signatures, or unusual and unexpected patterns, of guitar riffs that sound like solos and a bass line that sounds like a melody, all come together, when combined with vocals that use words you rarely hear in rock and a callous disregard for the conventions of verse / chorus in favour of a soaring cacophony and the endless drama of dynamics mean that a chorusless song such as “Three Days”, where nothing is repeated, sounds more like a hymn to ascension than a song.
The night is brought to a close by the predictable“ Stop!” and a final, all-band-pounding-on-drums of “Chip Away”. Whilst perhaps there is an element of avoidable cliché in the singers wife dancing on stage and a tattooed rock weird being suspended from the ceiling, little can really diminish this band for what they were. Maybe we're seeing things that aren't really there – but a night like this isn't about what happens on stage, but what happens in our minds. And it is always the way : the audience project a form of reality, as do the band, and somewhere in the middle, some kind of joint hallucination occurs. And this is, for a short while, our reality.