As the epic “Ted, Just Admit It” gradually unraveled, the vintage ’50s video footage grew more disturbing. As two lingerie-clad dancers worked their corner of the stage, films of old stripteases graduated to spanking, bondage and S&M, reinforcing the chorus of “sex is violent.”
After “Ted” ended, Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell urged the audience to do the Twist, singing a few bars of the famous song and demonstrating the dance. Those two moments captured the essence of the late-’80s alt-rock quartet: sexy, intense, sleazy and silly. And loud.
Farrell and his fellow founding band members — shirtless guitar god Dave Navarro and drummer Stephen Perkins — and longtime bass stand-in Chris Chaney rocked a comfortably crowded Uptown Theater for 90 minutes on Friday.
The 15-song setlist leaned heavily and appropriately on the two classic albums Jane’s released during its original incarnation, 1988’s “Nothing’s Shocking” and 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual.” The band has reformed several times since originally calling it quits in 1991 after the first incarnation of Farrell’s Lollapalooza tour. The four songs from last year’s “The Great Escape Artist” acquitted themselves well alongside the longtime favorites. “Just Because,” the lone song performed from 2003’s “Strays,” was easily the weakest performance of the night.
Although the band occupied a smaller stage than its appearance at Livestrong Sporting Park last summer, it still piled on the theatrics and visuals. Three screens showed recycled and found video footage. Two women in skimpy attire danced on a small stage atop one of the screens at stage left and took sultry strolls through the musicians. During “Twisted Tales,” a man in all white hanged and destroyed baby dolls before ultimately hanging himself. A large sculpture of two naked women loomed over everything above the drum kit at center stage.
Despite everything happening onstage, the music easily overpowered everything else. For “Classic Girl” and “Jane Says,” the band set up in an intimate corner at stage right. During “Jane Says,” Navarro strummed his acoustic guitar from the edge of the stage, legs dangling. For “Chip Away,” everyone except Farrell pounded huge drums. Both “Stop!” and “Been Caught Stealing” featured a little sonic experimentation in the middle sections.
Farrell didn’t need to do much to get the crowd involved. The teased intro to “Jane Says” fooled no one, and as expected the number quickly turned into the biggest sing-along of the night. The fans were also impressive during the a cappella bridge in “Stop!” while “Mountain Song” provided the earliest opportunity for everyone to throw their lungs toward the stage.
Both “Ted” and “Three Days” spanned more than 10 minutes. While the former framed the mood of the night, the later captured the band at peak form. Perkins was at the center of the performance. As a psychedelic light show encircled his kit, Perkins’ drumming held the song together. Later in the number, Navarro delivered one of his best and flashiest solos of the night. Although Chaney didn’t play on the original recording, his thick bassline propelled the song.
More than two decades removed from their original heyday, there may not be anything shocking in Jane’s world anymore, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a lot of fun.