Perry Farrell - lead vocals; Dave Navarro - guitar; Stephen Perkins - drums, percussion, steel drums; Eric Avery - bass, acoustic guitar
Beginning in the latter half of the 1980s, several Los Angeles-based bands began stirring up a powerful new brew that had a significant impact on the landscape of modern rock music. Feeding off such diverse musical elements as hardcore punk, classic hard rock, funk and rap music, groups like Jane's Addiction, Fishbone, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were intentionally blurring the lines between these genres in an explosive new way.
By 1989, Fishbone and the Chili Peppers were emphasizing the funk and hardcore punk elements. Jane's Addiction also incorporated these elements but their music was more cerebral and unpredictable. Their second album, Nothings Shocking, would become one of the most influential rock recordings during the forthcoming decade, filled with a volatile mix that wasn't formulaic and often contained meaningful lyrics.
Much like Lou Reed before him, no subject matter was deemed off limits for lyricist/lead singer Perry Farrell. His lyrical observations of the goings-on around him were both disturbing and psychologically stimulating, a compelling combination. Nothings Shocking played a major part in reviving the American rock music scene at the time, although at the point of this recording, the band was still relegated to college radio and touring club size venues. They were gaining attention, but were too controversial for the likes of MTV and modern rock radio. This would soon change, but in February of 1989 Jane's Addiction was still struggling for recognition and gaining it one gig at a time.
All of which makes this particular recording so fascinating, as it captures Jane's Addiction on the cusp of breaking through, when they were young, hungry, and playing as if their lives depended on it. Adding to the fevered pitch of this particular night in Philadelphia was the fact that this was a make-up date for a postponed December 17, 1988 performance, with an audience that had waited an additional two months for this night to arrive.
Rising to the occasion, Jane's Addiction deliver a sizzling performance that includes thoroughly engaged versions of every song from Nothing Shocking as well as two choice numbers from their independently released live debut album. The set begins introspectively with "Up the Beach," a gently droning instrumental with an undercurrent of disharmony that gradually builds into a launching point for the two older songs, "Whores" and "1%," which here serve to encapsulate the group's debut album. From here on out, the entire set will focus on the newer Nothing's Shocking material, beginning with the heavy funk of "Idiot's Rule." Afterwards, "Had a Dad" starts out slamming hard, but then a colorful, lush chorus kicks in, one of the many unusual structural elements that made this music so surprising at the time.
"Ted, Just Admit It," Farrell's musings on serial killer Ted Bundy, is a deeply disturbing atmospheric piece with tribal drumming that explores the media's obsession with keeping everyone in a constant state of fear. It is indeed haunting, but to mix things up they follow with "Standing In The Shower, Thinking," a fun, funkified number that lightens the mood considerably. The jazzy swing of the minute long "Thank You Boys" is a short humorous interlude, before they again shift gears into the pummeling "Pigs In Zen," one of the most pulverizing performances of the set. "Summertime Rolls," a subdued hypnotic piece, calms things back down, leading up to the equally dreamy opening of "Ocean Size," intentionally setting the audience up for another jolt. Following sudden count in screams from Farrell, this rips into high gear, featuring unusual tempo shifts, piercing vocals, and wailing guitar.
They close the set with the heavy hitting "Mountain Song," an intense hard rocker that showcases the sheer strength of these musicians while Farrell exorcizes his demons in a wash of digital delay, which gives his voice such an otherworldly quality throughout this performance. They return for an encore of "Jane Says," one of their most recognized songs despite it never being issued as single. A brutally honest, but sympathetic portrayal of a struggling heroin addict friend of Farrell's, this unusual ballad is incredibly penetrating, utilizing acoustic guitar, steel drums, and a captivating vocal that replaces technique with raw passion.
This was groundbreaking music in 1989 that, unlike much of that era's offerings, retains much of its intensity to the present day. This is rare in any form of music, and is a testament to the chemistry of these musicians. Guitarist Dave Navarro plays in a manner that proves him equally adept at wild abandon as he is at tasteful restraint. The exciting and unpredictable rhythm section of drummer Stephen Perkins and bassist Eric Avery propel Farrell's musings to an intensity level rarely equaled since. Aggressive and even ferocious at times, Jane's Addiction could also be soothing and gentle, and it was this expansive musical coloring that truly set them apart.