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Monday, May 25, 2009

Friday Night: NIN and Jane's Addiction at Shoreline

Posted By on Mon, May 25, 2009 at 9:53 AM

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Jane's Addiction, Nine Inch Nails


May 22, 2009


Shoreline Amphitheater


Review by Sam Prestianni
Photos by Christopher Victorio
Better Than:
Junkie karaoke... barely.



Friday night, as I made my way into the Shoreline, I interviewed dozens of fellow concertgoers, asking who they were there to see: Jane's Addiction or Nine Inch Nails? Overwhelmingly, NIN got the thumbs up. So I figured Trent Reznor's industrial rock project, which enjoyed its heyday in the early '90s but has continued to sporadically crank out new albums, would be the headliner. I was wrong.



NIN hit the stage shortly before sunset and seemed silly in the sunlight. Wearing a pitch-black, tight T-shirt, jeans, and neatly coiffed dyed hair, Reznor looked like a suburban single dad trying to act cool for his kids. But without the added drama of darkness and disorienting spotlights, his tough-guy posture came across as little more than wannabe-angsty affectation.

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The music wasn't much better: a cross between aggressive elevator music and classic rawk parody. Plus, starting out the set with newer songs that people aren't familiar with was a downer that didn't work--unless of course NIN intended to disappoint the audience from the get-go, thereby generating a disaffection that could be redeemed by show's end when the band deigned to humor us with "Head Like a Hole" and "Hurt." By this time, the sky was dark and the stage lights throbbed to the machine beats, deep bass, mangled guitars, and ominous vocals, but it was too late. We'd been beat down by boredom long ago.



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Reznor said this would probably be NIN's very last tour. But rather than burning out in a blaze of demonic glory, he was just going through motions that once served him well, but were no longer relevant to him or us. I hoped for more from Jane's Addiction. Sadly, I was wrong again.



Rather than screaming from the mountaintops like in the late '80s and very early '90s, when his band was a ferocious-beautiful force of nature, frontman Perry Farrell is now more into dippy preacher-speak, his brain clearly a fried green tomato or perhaps a plantain.

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He told us to "grow wild and be proud" by embracing "freedom, individuality, love, and happiness." Words of wisdom, to be sure, but we were there to trip away and rock our asses off, not endure Farrell's post-therapy dogma. I'm sure truisms like "Don't let the haters get you down with self-disrespect" served the singer well as he was kicking his lifelong heroin habit, but I didn't come for the Dr. Phil routine. Besides, who wants to heed advice from a scarecrow in a corset and a Mad Max body suit?



Thankfully, guitarist Dave Navarro came to tear the house down. Glamour-boy Navarro, who moonlights as co-manager for 21-year-old porn star Sasha Grey, appropriately stripped off his shirt halfway through the set to let us gaze at the awesomeness of his nipple piercings and Hollywood tattoos while he blasted through ocean-size six-string solos in the grand dinosaur-rock tradition of Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin.



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The group played the best tunes off of Nothing's Shocking, the single great Jane's Addiction album. But given the limitations of Farrell's addled vocal cords, the audience had to fill in the blanks. So the songs became combinations of what we were hearing, our memories of the recordings, and crowd singalongs--not shocking in the least.



Critic's Notebook



Personal Bias: I was sorry I missed opening act Street Sweeper Social Club, brainchild of Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and the Coup frontman Boots Riley. When I asked another concertgoer what they sounded like, the guy simply said: "Oh my fucking God, dude!"



Random Detail: The investment in black hair dye by last night's demographic may pull us out of the banking crisis yet.

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Sam Prestianni

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