I rarely go to big concerts to see big names at huge venues, but I find them kind of stupidly enjoyable. Ozzfest, Journey concerts, Tom Petty concerts, and such can be a blast even though they are not necessarily the main kinds of music I’m into. So when a friend wanted to see Jane’s and NIN I was amenable to the possibility. A couple of the big-name concerts I’ve seen in the past have been Nine Inch Nails and I enjoyed those shows, and I have never seen Jane’s Addiction, so it had potential to be interesting. Also I was much happier to head to Merriweather Post Pavilion than the dreadful Nissan Pavilion, where I watched Radiohead in the cold, driving rain a year ago, and where I’d seen NIN the last couple times.
Of course, no outdoor concert is complete without problems with the weather, and last night there were crazy storms and lightning that led to utter gridlock during the DC rush hour, so we missed the opener (sounded kind of intriguing — a Boots Riley/Tom Morello collaboration) and the beginning of Nine Inch Nails. It was okay, we saw enough. Nine Inch Nails are always kind of fun, but they were not well-served by opening for Jane’s. Opening at an outdoor arena is always a tough gig… people are still getting in, it is still light outside, nobody is paying really close attention. Oh well. I would’ve guessed that NIN were the bigger draw but it seemed like most of the crowd was more excited for JA and few people — at least on the lawn — were paying a lot of attention until NIN finished their set with a bunch of hits:
I like how Nine Inch Nails songs all sound kind of the same, and they all sound sort of like ’80s synthpop songs with more distortion. Nothing in the NIN canon is very far removed from A-Ha; it’s just good pop music with evil-sounding processors. A fun combination… Also fun was the mom-and-son combination I spotted in matching NIN t-shirts: a 12-year-old and his 30-something mama. Fun! What could be more American in the 21st century than a family outing to the Nine Inch Nails show? I approve.
On the physical side, Trent Reznor looked kinda old… I guess that is the danger of these dinosaur tours. Buff, but old. Perry and the rest of Jane’s Addiction looked old too, but looked good. We speculated that the Jane’s dudes, being from L.A., have access to better plastic surgeons and hair-transplanters than midwesterner Trent Reznor does.
Jane’s Addiction put on a more interesting show, too. It’s always more fun to watch a real rock band than a synthesizer-based one, and JA are definitely a rock band. Kind of the definitive rock band of their era, which was the era when I was first really getting into rock music. So I have a past with Jane’s Addiction; they’ve always been on my musical radar screen. I saw Porno for Pyros once at a festival (and I think they are an underrated band) but I have never followed all the personal-life stories about the band members, and their relapses and reunions. I read, though, that this tour was the first time the whole original line-up was back together since the early days, like the first Lollapalooza that my big sister attended.
Jane’s Addiction played pretty much all the right songs, and the audience was bouncing around, rocking out, smoking lots of pot, reminiscing over the past. My friends and I kept on saying things like, “oh yeah, I totally forgot about this song!” I felt that way about “Summertime Rolls” which was the fist encore song, and one of my favorite songs of theirs:
The secret of Jane’s Addiction is that they are not really a guitar band at all, despite being noisy and aggressive. They’re a bass-and-drums rock band that has vocals and guitars as atmospheric effects; Dave Navarro as a guitarist is the least essential member of the band. Perry Farrell provides style and stage presence. But in a way, Jane’s Addiction is not that different from a drum-and-bass act like Lightning Bolt. Even though they launched alternative rock with all its guitary goodness, it’s the bass and drums that make me wish the band had never… STOPPED: