As the saying goes, timing is everything, and on Thursday night, the timing was just a little bit off. Teaming up for what they’ve dubbed The NINJA Tour, ‘90s rockers Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and Jane’s Addiction (get it?) proved to complement each other well enough throughout their Santa Barbara stay. Where NIN frontman Trent Reznor growled and whispered through high intensity industrial anthems, Jane’s Perry Farrell flailed and chortled over party-ready rock hooks; yet together they somehow stood for a long-gone era of unexpectedly radio-friendly rock ‘n’ roll.
Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction at the Santa Barbara Bowl with opening act Street Sweeper Social Club
Still, the choice to have Reznor & Co. play prior to Jane’s caused more than a few ruffled feathers among the band’s army of diehards. Come to find out, watching electro rockers spit obscenities through humanmade fog and schizophrenic strobe lights just ain’t the same when the sun’s still shining. Scheduling woes aside, Reznor did more than his fair share to help bring the rock, belting through singles like “Sin” and “Head Like a Hole,” demanding speed metal-style drum work on “Burn,” and getting all distortion heavy on the recently penned “Non-Entity.” The surprising highlight of the set came midway through in the form of David Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans,” which built from hushed proclamation to effects-driven scream fest in its six-minute run.
Taking the stage long after the sun had set, the newly reassembled Jane’s presented the crowd with one of the more elaborate stage setups I’ve seen of late. Flanked by two billboard-sized pinup girls, and backed by a swirling palette of lights, the foursome managed to keep the majority of the house up and dancing throughout the show. Farrell, known as much for his drug-fueled antics as he is for his high-pitched vocals, showed up dressed in head-to-toe black (including a girdle), wine bottle in hand, and spent his time on stage shimmying, posturing, and climbing atop every amp he could feasibly scale. Guitar solos on songs like “1%” and “Ted, Just Admit It :” allowed a shirtless Dave Navarro to prove that he’s far more than a toned set of pecs, and the set-closing “Jane Says” managed to maintain its signature summertime vibe. Still, Farrell’s voice-and shtick-just ain’t what it used to be, and might have sounded a wee bit better during the dusky dinner hour.