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Concert Reviews:
Lollapalooza Vets Still In Fine Form At DTE Show

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, June 1, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- It was a kind of Lollapalooza tour class reunion on Sunday night (May 31) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Top of the guest list was Jane's Addiction, whose frontman Perry Farrell hatched Lollapalooza as a touring concept in 1991 and still rides herd over it as an annual three-day event in Chicago. This year the group is touring with original bassist Eric Avery for the first time since the inaugural Lollapalooza trek, and it's joined by nine inch nails, another first-year Lollapalooza alumnus, and Street Sweeper Social Club, the latest project of guitarist Tom Morello, whose Rage Against the Machine played on the 1993 edition of the tour.

But this was no mere nostalgia trip. Under a cloud-free sky and with a near sell-out crowd in front of them, all three bands played with abundant energy and urgency, as if to prove they're still as potent as they were all those years ago and that rock can still have the kind of subversive, boundary-pushing "alternative" edge that Lollapalooza celebrated.

Jane's was the only one of the three without new or relatively recent material, but the quartet's reconnection with songs that date back more than two decades had its own kind of freshness. The group's collision of "Nothing's Shocking" ideas and imagery remains intact, with Farrell as androgynous femme fatal -- decked out Sunday in a black skirted outfit complete with fox tail -- oddly complimenting Dave Navarro's guitar heroics and the brawny attack brought by Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins.

The group's 90-minute, 14-song set also celebrated the dynamic diversity of its catalog, mixing the thundering hard rock of "Whores," "Ain't No Right," "Been Caught Stealing," "Mountain Song" and "Stop!" with the expansive ambience of "30 Days," "Then She Did...," "Obvious" -- which Farrell said the group, which has reunited several times without Avery, hadn't played in 18 years -- and "Ocean Size," the latter of which included a bit of "Detroit Rock City." A clip loop from Oliver Stone's 1994 film "Natural Born Killers" dressed up "Ted, Just Admit It...," meanwhile. And Farrell quickly learned that the right chant for the night was not "Dee-troit bas-ket-ball!" but rather a Red Wings cheer, and he saluted Saint Andrew's Hall before name-checking it in show-closing version of the group's biggest hit, "Jane Says."

nine inch nails' Trent Reznor rightly dubbed his band's 85-minute performance "really...weird and surreal," for reasons that had nothing to do wtih the music. With its dark lyrical imagery and reputation for inventive light shows, nin is used to playing indoors or at least after sunset; this was it's first time performing entirely in the daylight since that 1991 Lollapalooza stop, when nin was a fledgling band forging a new industrial rock alliance for rock in the dance club community. And a number of fans attending Sunday's show were surprised nin was positioned in the middle rather than closing the night.

But Reznor and company did not melt, nor did they let the sunshine stop them from presenting a career-spanning 18-song blitz that stretched from the ambience of "Now I'm Nothing" and the gentle melodicism of "Lights in the Sky" and the instrumentals "The Frail" and "La Mer" through the sinewy bite of "Terrible Lie" and "The Wretched," and the full-on fury of "March of the Pigs," "Non-Entity," "The Hand That Feeds" and "Head Like a Hole." nin used copious amounts of smoke to enhance the lighting effects it did employ, while a group of fans allowed to watch and photograph the group from the back of the stage provided an extra bit of backdrop.

With its self-titled first album due out June 16, Street Sweeper Social Club introduced itself in powerful fashion, storming through seven songs that recalled Rage Against the Machine more than Morello's next band, Audioslave, or his folk-rock protest music as The Nightwatchman. Frontman Boots Riley of the rap group The Coup made note of his Detroit roots (he lived here until he was six years old and attended Hampton Elementary School) and spit out the politically minded, populist lyrics of songs such as "Somewhere in the World It's Midnight," "The Oat" and "Nobody Moves (Til We Say Go)." Morello announced the group's mission "to feed the poor, fight the power and rock...out," and after Sunday's set it's likely the Club gained more than a few new members.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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