Last night, the Palace Theater turned into an eerie revisiting of the spirit and vibe of the Lollapalooza festival. Well, sort of. Because Lollapalooza was 20 years ago, and now all of those fans are 30-and-40-something faux-grownups who still tried to party like it was 1992.
As odd as that was, the most striking part of the evening was the essence of the show itself. Perry Farrell is an amazing showman and visibly demonstrated his love of performing throughout the evening, eternally smiling and skipping around the stage while constantly interacting with the audience. He really seemed to capture what I think entertainment is about – connecting with your audience and working to inspire and uplift them. This aspect of the show was particularly relevant to me; as an aspiring musician myself, it is so great to see other performers that one can look up to and attempt to emulate. The band was incredibly tight and majestic – they somehow, using just instruments, managed to recreate the epic noise of their records, filling the concert hall with a wall of sound.
But then there were these odd interludes, with videos of teenagers talking about these dolls called “sadobabies” and how they were symbols of your worst times in life, and punching them and throwing them on the ground. There was a young man on the stage mimicking the act of cutting himself, and then ultimately slitting his own throat. While I can see how they were attempting to convey and express the angst and disillusionment of youth, it came across to me as violent, morbid, and pointless. It also seemed very disjoint from the band’s energetic, upbeat, and exuberant attitude. Not only did the message seem to condone a sort of victimhood – a justification for self-violence as a backlash against a cruel and abusive world – but it also was out of rapport with an audience of people who haven’t been teenagers for decades (not to mention a band whose lead singer is 52 and has young children of his own!).
It also got me thinking (I think too much! But bygones) about how much potency a musician, or any performer, has to influence their audience, and if they really consider what message they are putting forth when they are deciding how to present themselves. Did Jane’s Addiction, the band, ask themselves, what message does all of this say in the world? Do we want to express joy and love for performing, an excitement for life and for music? Or do we want to condone violence, anger, and self-loathing?
I left the theater with a mixed feeling from a mixed message; I was uplifted by an outstanding performance by a fantastic band, but the non-musical statements ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth.