I love live concerts. But I find something about just focussing on a single album – a band playing that and only that at a show – a little hard to take. In that situation, what one is witnessing ceases to feel like a show or a concert and sort of feels like a clumsy re-enactment of a moment. When a band elects to play an album from front to back, it feels very calculated and sterile and not at all like a concert anymore to me.
For me, part of the appeal at a live performance is hearing/seeing new music, yes, but also seeing and hearing how that music interrelates with the stuff that fans already know. That kind of amalgamation can be challenging, and that’s where the interest lies for me. It’s for that reason I approached Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual – Alive at 25 CD/DVD set with no small amount of trepidation.
On this release, Jane’s was playing their third album in its entirety (which, yes, I listened to pretty constantly in high school and feel pretty confident that I know from front-to-back, note-for-note), and they were doing it twenty-five years after the fact. My primary concern was that, a quarter century later, the now 58-year-old man that Perry Farrell had become by 2016 just wouldn’t be able to hit the notes and vocal cues required for this kind of performance and, while being a very good bass player, Chris Chaney might somehow not be able to present Eric Avery’s bass performance, thereby rendering the show either incorrect or irrelevant.
As it would turn out from the opening moments of “Stop” – which opens both the album and the show – I needn’t have worried. Turns out, when the band said they were doing Ritual De Lo Habitual from front-to-back, they knew what they were signed on for and were prepared to deliver it.
Without the pomp and ceremony that fans know is normally affixed to the beginning of Ritual included (read: there is no “mass influencia” announcement overlaid onto the beginning of “Stop”), the DVD is allowed to just put the gas pedal on the floor as one would expect at a regular rock show – but better because the band has learned how to temper their performance so it sounds flawless.
Here, Dave Navarro’s guitar sounds like a manic rock-punk-metal pastiche and Stephen Perkins’ drums sound like the most monstrous thing since John Bonham. It’s all tightly wrapped such that there are no stray sparks of chaos flying off the edges.
Likewise, someone taught Perry Farrell how to use his voice rather than abuse it, so he pours himself into the performance but has the discipline to not let his voice squeal or crack, and he also has a better sound tech working the Echoplex on his vocal too.
All of that (combined with the fact that Chris Chaney has gone out of his way to do his best impression of Eric Avery from the equipment he uses to tone to style of performance) really amounts to the best performance of “Stop” as it exists on the album that has ever been committed to tape on stage. And I say that with a horde of bootlegs in my basement which I can use for comparison. Because it is so tight and is so well-rehearsed, this beginning is incredibly gratifying.
After “Stop” makes believers out of the lion’s share of cynics, those remaining fall one by one like dominoes as the set progresses. The normally live wire and chaotic nature of “Ain’t No Right” runs so smoothly that it sounds like it might be on rails here, and the truest test of this performance – a spectacular version of “Been Caught Stealing” (which always sounded a little too loose and awkward on any bootleg I’ve ever heard) – comes off like a genuine triumph which will leave listeners at home with their stereos glowing as brightly as those who were in attendance at Irvine Meadows.
Following “Been Caught Stealing,” those watching the DVD will be amazed again at the spectacle which is “Three Days” which comes complete with a walk-on cameo from Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins (who appears to add a second set of sticks to Perkins’ kit for the bridge of the song) before the album begins to taper off through the dénouement which is “Then She Did…,” “Of Course” and “Classic Girl.”
Now, I’ve always felt like Ritual tapered off too fast in the running after “Three Days” and that feeling proves to hold up as consistent here as well. But, happily, after “Classic Girl” dribbles to a close, Jane’s Addiction breaks form and appends a few more songs to the running to end on a satisfying, orgiastic, high note.
Here, those who follow along will thrill at brick-thick takes of “Mountain Song” and “Ted, Just Admit It” as well as what might just be the best version of “Just Because” ever caught on tape before wrapping up with a carefully crafted and classic reproduction of “Jane Says” to close the show. Some purists may balk at the fact that Jane’s went off-script to conclude this performance, but true fans will appreciate the reach that the band clearly made to not just play the roles of human jukeboxes and give a little more here.
… And how could anyone really argue with that? Not even me – who hates the “human jukebox” nature of front-to-back album shows. I cannot find anything to dislike about Alive at 25 because Jane’s Addiction put more effort into this performance than they did when they were promoting Ritual De Lo Habitual in the early nineties. Here, viewers get the performances they always wanted back in the day, but only occasionally (at best) got. That fact is what makes Alive at 25 something fans need to see – this is everything they ever dreamed of.