Admittedly, hinging a blockbuster summer tour around the return of a prodigal bassist is tricky. For all the talk of this iteration of Jane’s Addiction being the first pure reunion in 17 years, you could have seen a band with that name and with three of the four members, augmented by the very famous Flea, just a few years ago. There was an album, and that one song is the opening theme to Entourage. How can we miss you if you won’t go away?
Put another way, why should we care that the band is trying to drum up excitement over the fact that their original bassist Eric Avery (nee Eric A.) is back in the fold? Why is the fact that they’re playing an abandoned supermarket during South By Southwest something we should be reading about over our morning Grape Nuts?
The answer is surprisingly simple: Turns out, they’re really quite fucking good.
Opening — opening! — with the epic “Three Days,” the reconstituted quartet strutted out bearing little resemblance to their late-’90s/early-aughts selves, save for guitarist Dave Navarro’s continuing aversion to shirts: no dancers, no steel drums, no adornments. If you hadn’t already completely forgotten about Satellite Party, Perry Farrell’s slinking and wailing and overall sense of command would have done the trick. No, they didn’t play “Jane Says,” and no, nobody cared. They were taut, to the point, and engineered to quiet the cynics, many of whom could be found within a square-mile radius.
Moreover, it was Avery, muscular and clearly having a good time, who set the tone, stepping towards the front of the stage, propelling the set, drawn mostly from 1989’s Nothing Shocking, and smirking like a man who knows he’s the missing piece. He may be the band’s least notorious, or even least recognizable, member but every song — from “Three Days” to “Ted, Just Admit It” to the immortal “Mountain Song” — is rooted in his bass lines, in his presence. If he looks like a man who’s glad you’re noticing this, he should probably be forgiven.