In a recent email to my pal Melissa telling her I was attending the NIN/JA 2009 tour featuring Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails (with openers Street Sweeper Social Club) she responded with the humorous and very accurate "Wow! What Up 1991?!"
Accurate because 1991 was not only "The Year That Punk Broke" (according to the Sonic Youth / featuring Nirvana documentary of the same name), it was also the year Mr. Perry Farrell created Lollapalooza which would feature his band Jane's Addiction's final tour and also feature up and comers Nine Inch Nails in a hot and sunny early day slot (I've always heard NIN sold more T-Shirts on that tour than either anyone else or all the other bands combined...it would be three more years before they took over the world with their mud covered set at Woodstock '94 bringing them to the attention of the masses - happy to say I was there for that one...but did miss Green Day's mud set).
I caught Lollapalooza at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center that year and enjoyed Nine Inch Nails (in what would be the first of about a half dozen times I would see them over the years including just this past October headlining Saturday night at The Voodoo Festival in New Orleans) and LOVED Jane's Addiction.
Eighteen years later I finally got to see them again. I somehow missed them on the various reunion tours they've done (although I remember really trying to get tickets to the Halloween show in NYC for the first reunion, but it sold out too quick). I saw Porno for Pyros numerous times (including that '94 Woodstock as well) and Perry fronting various super groups at benefit shows, but there's nothing like the real thing as Pepsi might say (or is it Coke?)
So Welcome back 1991 indeed!
It had been on and off rain since Wednesday and by the time Saturday morning, June 6, arrived, it was looking overcast and rainy...not usually a problem for shows, but we had lawn seats for this one. Luckily by noon the sun was out and it was in the 70's, an absolutely perfect day for a lawn seat show!
We paid for a VIP parking pass which allows you to park right outside the entrance to the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. If you don't buy one of these reserved lots passes you have to walk about a mile or further up hill to the venue...no thanks. It also allows you to hear when the bands hit the stage although this information is posted for all the shows on Jane's website. It would be Tom Morello's Street Sweeper Social Club at 7:30, Nine Inch Nails at 8:15 and Jane's Addiction at 10:00pm. While this is called a co-headlining tour, Jane's has been the headliner on every show so far. Perhaps on the second half of the tour they'll trade slots.
Monetarily this tour is a great idea for both bands as while there is obvious alt rock crossover, many fans seem to be die hard fans of either one or the other. I know I would have passed on Nine Inch Nails this summer without Jane's and I heard many with the opposite sentiment while waiting on the will call line which I'll get to in a minute.
I had seen SSSC do a short set at the Road Recovery benefit recently (see my past blog for review) and really truly was planning on seeing them here, but when you're with family and friends and doing the parking lot party...time just goes by and how can you leave those last three beers sitting in the cooler?
So needless to say, I missed their set which word has been for every show that they killed. They've been doing a standard seven song half hour with six originals and a great cover of M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes".
I know it's a great cover because there is an open taping policy on this tour! Not just audio, but video as well. Almost every show has been showing up immediately on the various bit torrent sites and YouTube. Actually this show I'm reviewing right now, less than 24 hours later is already on my hard drive...ah technology!
So Suddenly we're finishing our last beers and hear NIN hit the stage and decide along with the rest of the parking lot partiers (of which there were MANY!) that we should go to Will Call, pick up the tix and head inside.
Well I learned a lesson on this night, if you're at the show early, hit will call early to get your tix. There was one Will Call window open and HUNDREDS of people on line to get in. It was slow and kind of annoying listening to some of my fave Nine Inch Nails songs while waiting to get in (Damn...why did "March of the Pigs" have to be so early in the set!). It was while waiting that I heard many complaints from people who came just to see NIN whining about missing them, again I already saw them on this tour and was really there for JA, so it wasn't so bad.
As we get about four people away from the front, they of course open another will call window...so got my tix and then go walk over to the gates to go in.
This was where we noticed the weird security vibe at this show. As I stated it was open taping, so you could bring in audio, video, still cameras, but there was a major pat down on everyone. There was also a heavy police presence with one group of about eight cops standing around waiting for trouble. Someone was worried about trouble from this crowd for no apparent reason. First of all there was a good amount of "older" fans - I mean Jane's has been around 22 or 23 years...hell, Perry just turned 50...I don't think anyone was going to be forming a moshpit. All the cops were cool and I didn't see them hassle anyone drinking from glass bottles or anything...maybe there was a riot at a Nine Inch Nails show here in the past or something? The security issues continued somewhat inside when it came to lawn seating.
Here at Holmdel and most other ampitheatres with lawn sections I go to, they usually have an option to rent a chair for 5 bucks for those who don't want to sit on the grass or didn't bring a blanket. Every time I've gone to a show here in the past, I did this and we all planned on doing this tonight, but when we went inside, we saw the chair rental booths were there full of chairs, but no one renting. A security guard was stationed there and had to get sick of people (like myself) going up and asking him if we could rent a chair to which he would reply, "No, there are no chair rentals at this show." Very odd indeed considering they always rent out a few thousand chairs, so that's potentially tens of thousands of dollars the venue was giving up because why? Were people beaten with chairs in the past? Did they get destroyed? They just did not trust this crowd with anything. Oh well...I was REALLY glad at this point it hadn't rained so I didn't have to suffer muddy ass on the grass.
Although later in the night Perry would say this was a sold out show, it wasn't...but a real nice turn out. We were still able to get a nice spot on the right side of the lawn where we could view the stage and there were also screens on both sides to view as well. Sound was excellent as it always is when I've seen a concert at PNC.
So with the beer drinking, will call line waiting, patting down and rental chair searching, we missed about half of Nine Inch Nails set. They were rocking and excellent as always, with "Mr. Self Destruct" from "The Downward Spiral" being the first song we heard once settled.
They followed that up with a double shot from their 2008 free downloadable album "The Slip" playing "1,000,000" followed by "Echoplex".
The double shots continued with the third and fourth tracks from 2007's "Year Zero" in the way of "Survivalism" and "The Good Soldier".
Their set completed with a pair of singles, "The Hand that Feeds" from "With Teeth" and that 1991 Lollapalooza anthem "Head Like A Hole" from "Pretty Hate Machine" which had the audience screaming for more as the band left the stage.
They returned giving the crowd what they wanted, their biggest hit and another visit to "The Downward Spiral" with "Hurt." From what I saw a great career spanning set which made with the die hards and more casual fans happy.
What I truly came to see would hit the stage in about fifteen minutes, the return of the original line-up of Jane's Addiction!
So for fifteen minutes we wated the mad dash of thousand of attendees running for the beer line and/or bathroom line and then the lights dimmed and the stage lit up with a curtain in front of showing classic images of the band as we heard that acoustic opening with Perry telling us "Right Now you should be here with us..." as the band opened with their epic "Three Days" from "Ritual De Lo Habitual!".
This is such a monster of a song on album and live it reaches new heights. I had been following the setlists of this tour and when I first heard they were opening their set with this song I thought it was a bad idea. "Three Days" takes you on a musical journey of over 10 minutes and while it is a must have in the set list, I didn't know if it would work as the bring in. Well it works with the slow build into the psychedelic / tribal breakdown (with the amazing Stephen Perkins on drums) peaking two thirds of the way through as Perry screams of "Erotic Jesus...plays with his Marys..." and then the final Dave Navarro shredding road trip to the end... amazing and tight - sounding like these guys have been playing together for the last 18 years instead of the last month of this tour.
If you forgot that bassist Eric Avery is back in the mix, you're reminded immediately with his bassline intro to "Whores" from their self titled live debut album. It becomes apparent over and over through out the night what an important roll Avery's bass played in Jane's music. While Navarro gets the real notice as guitar hero, so many of the songs in tonight's set are based on the base line including "Ain't No Right" which comes next. As Perry sings the opening line "I Am Skin and Bones..." you realize he certainly is, but in excellent shape physically and vocally. The muscle tear he suffered early in the tour is no wear to be seen as he prowls and dances around the stage all night.
"Nothing's Shocking" album closer (and also featured on the debut) "Pigs in Zen" rocks out next and then another "Ritual..." epic with the second longest track after "Three Days" the very personal "Then She Did." Another song which shows the expertise Jane's has in slowing bring the audience into a song and building to an emotional peak.
While the boys do the epics well, they also do the balls out riff rock as good as anyone else. "Up The Beach" starts playing, but instead of going into "Ocean Size", it leads into their first real MTV exposure with "Mountain Song." This one brought everyone in the audience back on board and could only be topped with their biggest hit "Been Caught Stealing".
It was about 11:00pm at this point and a decent amount of the audience, having felt they heard most of what they came to hear, departed after "Stealing" as the boys took another dip into the "Ritual" pool with the one suprise song of the night - "Obvious."
The setlist has been standard for this tour with one open slot where they are switching things up. "Obvious" first appeared in the set only a week ago right after Stephen Perkins announced on the website that they were practicing this as well as "No One's Leaving" to work into the setlist. Considering the other choices of songs which have come in this mystery slot, I'm glad we got "Obvious" (the only song I know they've played on this tour that I would have rather heard would have been their great cover of The Grateful Dead's "Ripple" which I think they've only played twice live. At most of the shows they've been doing "Had A Dad" with "1%" as a close second and a really occasional "Standing in the Shower Thinking" - I do love that song too...I think I gotta go check out one of the few Jane's theatre gigs their doing where they probably get more time and play all of these!). Again I was amazed at how tight the band sounded on a song which was just added to the set.
While "Mountain Song" didn't get any hate, I'm sure there were plenty of people who wanted the massive guitar onslaught of "Ocean Size" and after "Obvious" they got it. Only one more song for the main set and it was another from "Nothing's Shocking", it's depraved epic "Ted Just Admit It..." with it's similar structure to "Three Days" with slow beginning to tribal middle and "Sex Is Violent" chant to guitar madness at the end...then the boys left the stage to return a couple of minutes later.
The next song was very fitting considering the beautiful weather as the encore set started with "Summertime Rolls." They had some rocking left to do so "Stop" the first track on "Ritual came next and then the night could only end with what has truly become the bands biggest song, the acoustic guitar and steel drum driven "Jane Says" which had everyone singing along and smiling wide as they left to find their cars for the ride home.
Amazing show and I hope to see them again at least one more time on this tour.