If anyone knows how to put on a big production yet manage to keep things intimate, it's Lollapalooza founder Perry Farrell. On Thursday night at the sold-out Grand Olympic Auditorium, the alt-rock impresario dropped his reconvened Jane's Addiction into a fanciful festival setting that recalled the dark side of Dr. Seuss.
Bewitching an estimated 5,000 fans, the band conjured its hypnotic musical spell from a stage dominated by fringed parasols and giant fake red and purple poppies.
Farrell and original Jane guitarist Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins, plus Chili Peppers bassist Flea (standing in for Eric Avery, who declined to join the reunion), were surrounded by scantily clad dancers who undulated atop platforms on stage and towers out on the floor. At the back, a smaller stage served the mini-"acoustic" segment near the end of the set.
It was a fitting spectacle for the notorious ensemble whose blend of self-absorbed dementia, twisted Zeppelin riffs and art-rock decadence carved an indelible scar into alternative rock in the late-'80s.
The performance--a warmup for a six-week tour that begins Thursday in New York--quickly laid to rest the question of whether Jane's Addiction had any business getting back together in this supposedly darker age. The 75-minute set comprised songs that have aged nearly a decade yet sounded remarkably current. If anything, they seemed less pretentious now and more like good dirty fun.
Farrell relished his role of modern-primitive pied piper, dressed in a red cowboy suit with silver fringe, his hair twisted into braids adorned with glittery scarlet ribbons. He pranced and shimmied shirtless, looking so absurd, yet at times emoting so sincerely you wouldn't dare laugh.
His antics would have quickly become tiresome, however, had the music not made the whole environment so palpable. From a fire-breathing version of "Stop!" to epic renditions of such songs as "Three Days," the players laid down a sublimely droning foundation for Farrell's high-pitched, mannered vocal riffing.
But the defining moment lay in the band's positively joyful take on its alienated classic "Jane Says," as band and audience rode high on the song's syncopated acoustic bounce, underscoring just how compelling the bleak side of fairy tales can be.
* Jane's Addiction plays Nov. 28 and Dec. 1 at the Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, 8:15 p.m. Sold out. (818) 622-4440. Also Dec. 2 at the San Diego Sports Arena, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., San Diego, 8 p.m. $26.50 (on sale today). (619) 224-4176.