Jane’s Addiction was one of the most iconic acts of its era — in a love-’em-or-hate-’em way — because of the band’s insistently loopy individualism. It’s strange, then, that a sort-of reunion — taking in three-quarters of the final Jane’s lineup — would be as faceless as the Panic Channel.
The quartet, which previewed material from its upcoming Capitol debut before a sparse-but-enthusiastic aud on Thursday night, didn’t so much struggle to escape the shadow of onetime front man Perry Farrell as pretend that specter didn’t exist. That was a big mistake, given the lack of presence conveyed by new singer Steve Isaacs, whose previous credits include a stint as an MTV VJ and a role in the Broadway run of “Tommy.”
Isaacs is a likable enough sort with an undeniably powerful, if overly pristine set of pipes, and wisely, he mostly deferred to guitarist Dave Navarro when it came time to occupy the spotlight. Navarro, as ever, proved up to that challenge, strutting shirtless across the stage and effortlessly unleashing eye-opening solos that ranged from sexy to smirking to outright scary.
Those interludes, however, only served to emphasize the leaden arrangements and hackneyed lyrical stance of songs like “Tea House of the Spirits” and “Bloody Mary” (yet another tale of women, drugs and the netherworld where they intersect). Effort was hardly lacking — drummer Stephen Perkins, in particular, treated his instrument the way Mike Tyson used to treat sparring partners — but undirected power seldom electrifies.
That was borne out most clearly on a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.” Even in the precise tribute-band manner in which it was delivered at this perf, the tune packed more passion, more tension and more honesty than anything airing on the Panic Channel as of now.
The band plays the Roxy in Los Angeles on June 7.