Jane’s Addiction jacks up the nostalgia at de facto silver anniversary show

Jane's Addiction at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (Photo by Carl Pocket)
Jane's Addiction at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (Photo by Carl Pocket)

A long time object of derision, an unloved faceless edifice, functionally unsound and lacking facilities, beautifully tucked into the surrounding hills yet wholeheartedly architecturally uninspiring, Irvine Meadows Amphitheater took another step towards the wrecking ball Friday night as it hosted Jack FM’s 11th Show.

The place where Bubbles the hippo tragically met her maker after her daring escape (a wild animal park operated at the site until 1984), the place Will Ferrell used to break into as a kid, and the place where I suffered my greatest five minutes of personal indignity (ask me about it, but buy me a drink first) will be closing Oct. 30 with O.C. homegirl Gwen Stefani fittingly being the last act to grace the stage.

As with anything that has stood around for a generation or two, the old amphitheater has ghosts aplenty for those who sojourned there over the past 35 years. Old friends who have vanished into the ether, bandmates who are no longer of this earth, ex-loves who left a scorch upon the heart, they were all here floating about in the cool summer breeze. Funny how a bland unadorned odeum like this brings those moments screaming back to the present. In the end, it’s not about the physical space but the memories made there. Sadly, a few months from now, Irvine Meadows will be under a frenzy of heavy equipment, clawing and scraping to make way for more faceless condos that will meet a similar fate 40 years from now.

||| Photos by Carl Pocket

Matching the nostalgic atmosphere were five bands, all featuring members bouncing around the half-century mark. They all still had mad game, as there was none of the visible and embarrassing self-parody that often burdens many veteran acts. While not officially related to the Lollapalooza Festival held in Irvine in 1991, Jane’s Addiction, who headlined that inaugural event, made the connection obvious.

Opening the main stage festivities were the Violent Femmes, who were at one time the favorite collegiate band in all the land. The Milwaukee buskers have aged well, their singalongs still darkly humorous and snarkily sarcastic. Their set deserved better than being listened from the parking lot or the side stage however (Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins held a pre-show party with his dirt rock cover band, Chevy Metal), where it seemed much of the crowd was pre-partying.

Next up were Taft High locals House of Pain, one hit wonders who transformed their careers from drunken Anglo peckerwoods into the socially conscious acoustic hip hop of Everlast. Of course, the Pavlovian response to “Jump Around” was too much for even the most cursed stiff to ignore.

Shirley Manson was all kinds of Scottish badassery. Garbed in a raven black outfit, the fuchsia-coiffed Garbage singer delivered a master class in being a frontwoman. She was as feline and ferocious as ever.

While never appearing on a Lollapalooza bill, one could argue that the Cult were inspirational for the idea on which the festival was conceived. Singer Ian Astbury was the driving force behind “A Gathering of the Tribes,” a first-of-itskind concert that featured an eclectic lineup across the musical spectrum, with the intention of striking back against the musical and racial segregation that dominated the early ’90s era. Soundgarden, Ice-T, Indigo Girls, Queen Latifah, Joan Baez, Steve Jones, Michelle Shocked, Iggy Pop, The Cramps, Charlatans UK, the Mission UK and a very dangerous Public Enemy took Costa Mesa’s Pacific Amphitheater stage that Oct. 7 of 1990 and despite financial losses in the tens of thousands, a new genre of festival was born.

The Cult got their start as Yorkshire Goths, but upon hearing AC/DC in the late ’80s all their mystical noir was transformed into Harley rock. From a career standpoint this made sense, as with this shift in style they firmly etched a durable spot between alt and hard rock genres for themselves. Equal sums Astbury’s Morrisonesque baritone and Billy Duffy’s signature crunching guitar tone, both were in full effect as the band roared through their hits while largely ignoring the latter stage of their catalog (they, along with Garbage, released a new album this yera), nicely upping the level of anticipation for the headliner.

“Would it be safe to say we were different people 25 years ago”? shouted Perry Farrell before launching into “Been Caught Stealing.” Playing their 1991 album “Ritual de lo Habitual” in its entirety, Jane’s Addiction’s set was purely about nostalgia. Trademark bottle of red in hand, Farrell was here to party and recapture some old glory while educating the crop of millennials as to how it’s done, as many in the crowd weren’t so much as a glint in their father’s eye in the summer of ’91. Dapper in a burgundy ensemble, Farrell sounded a bit road-weary as he hit the occasional blue note and often ventured into purple territory. No one cared. You can get away with murder when you have charisma.

Highlighting the set was “Three Days,” the psychedelic 10-minute saga that featured lingerie clad vixens writhing throughout the Doors-ish dynamics and Dave Navarro’s Zeppelin blasts, conducted via Stephen Perkin’s thunderous rhythmic cacophony (briefly augmented by an affectionate Foo, Taylor Hawkins) The ambitious epic best represented Jane’s Addiction at the top of their game.

Oversized black and silver beach balls were tossed into the pit during “Jane Says”, a fitting metaphor to the end of an era. At song’s end, Farrell looked wistfully over the audience and not wanting to depart, meandered about in an attempt to capture the moment before his betrothed, Etty, led him offstage.

The house lights came on to Blue Train by John Coltrane, and the ghosts of 25 years past drifted off into the night.