The Rapidian

Jane's Addiction's kinky theatre of rock

After 20+ year absence, influential rock group Jane's Addiction brings Theatre of the Escapists tour to DeVos Performance Hall.
Underwriting support from:

Jane's Addiction Setlist

Underground

Mountain Song

Just Because

Been Caught Stealing

Ain't No Right

Ted, Just Admit It...

Twisted Tales

Classic Girl

Jane Says

Chip Away

End to the Lies

Three Days

Stop!

(encore)

Words Right Out of My Mouth

Ocean Size

Jane's Addiction's first GR show since December 1988.

Jane's Addiction's first GR show since December 1988. /Photo by Tyler Steimle

After a long intermission following the drums and guitar duo of opening act Black Box Revelation, the blue mood lights finally go dark and a low swirl of static hisses from the PA. 

Ferrell's voice breaks in, "I try to find some love from up high, there just ain't enough to go around." The red and blue stage lights suddenly go berserk as Ferrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, drummer Chris Perkins, and bassist Chris Chaney launch into the first track of their new album, The Great Escape Artist.

It has been almost 24 years since Jane's Addiction last played a show in Grand Rapids—it was at Club Eastbrook (now The Orbit Room) in December 1988. 

Tonight the stage is set like a theatre production. Two female trapeze artists in long and flowing white costumes hang high in the air, flanking a background centerpiece of a pair of stretching naked women. Three large digital screens displayed vintage-styled footage of, mostly, Marilyn Monroe types taking their clothes off.

The band's close to 90 minute set proved to be filled with many surprises of the bizarre and, at times, even challenging variety. 

After "Underground," the trapeze artists vanished and the band plowed through some of their more powerful tunes. Ferrell's voice sounded just as incendiary and primal as it ever had, and the band still exuded their inimitable sex-infused attitude and artfulness. 

Dave Navarro's guitar playing was powerful and his solos fluid and searing. Yet I couldn't help but get the impression that the legendary rocker (also a former Red Hot Chili Pepper) didn't really want to be there. Is it just that he comes off even more aloof in-person than he does in music videos and live YouTube clips? (At one point between songs, mid-way through the set, Ferrell was chatting up the crowd a bit when Navarro started the next song, effectively cutting Ferrell off. Ferrell turned on Navarro and stared at him for a second or two before sprinting to Perkins' drum riser to come in on vocals.) 

One of the highlights of the night was the band's performance of "Ted, Just Admit It..." from their 1988 debut album, Nothing's Shockingfollowed by a short film about abuse in which a selection of teenage boys acted out abuses inflicted upon them by their parents on plastic toy baby dolls. This was the challenging part of the night.

During the film there was a set change, after which was revealed a second drum kit set up house left, a large taxidermic brown bear standing on its hind legs, and a living room table and lamp, replete with chairs for Navarro and Chaney to sit on while playing through a series of acoustic songs.

The band of course played "Jane Says," and the crowd acted like they were supposed to love it much more than they actually did; like because it is arguably the band's biggest radio single they were obliged to stand for it and perform their own lackluster karaoke versions. Is this standard fare now? This was the only time of the night where I felt like I had gone to see a past-their-sell-by-date rock act more known for Lollapalooza festivals than relevant and energetic material.

House right of this little pseudo-livingroom setup were three large drums. Navarro, Perkins, and Chaney each straddled one, sticks in-hand, to perform "Chip Away" with Farrell wildly howling and dancing beside them.

The rest of the show ended with strong, muscular tunes and an unbelievably charismatic Perry Ferrell clutching his wine bottle and swaggering around the front of the stage, stealing sunglasses from pink-haired girls in the front row and asking the crowd, "Do you guys have like a lake or a river around here where you like to go swimming?" Why, yes—we do.

"How many of you own boats?" Ferrell asked. A small fraction of the crowd cheered and raised their hands in the air. "Cool. Do you have girls on your boats? And beer? Can I come?"

I had been hoping all night they would play it, when Ferrell finally confessed, "We love the ocean," and Navarro launched into the guitar intro of the song "Ocean Size."

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