Jane's Addiction Massey Hall, Toronto ON February 27

Jane's Addiction Massey Hall, Toronto ON February 27
The frontman and guitarist-with-mystique dynamic served Jane's Addiction pretty well for over two decades. Admittedly, Perry Farrell lost some ground to Dave Navarro when the singer bid farewell to the bat-shit crazy -- aka stoned out of his mind -- shtick in favour of his current preening, first-pumping approach. And therein was part of the problem with the band's Massey Hall appearance.

Pushing last year's The Great Escape Artist while offering up old faves, the four-piece's show suffers from some identity issues. Is it a black-clad cock rock extravaganza? A late '80s/early '90s celebration? A bizarre theatre production? As it turns out, it was all of the above and then some.

Early on, new cuts and dusty numbers sidled easily up to one another. Taken from Jane's latest effort, leadoff "Underground" saw Navarro pile on the heavier-than-an-anvil guitar before punctuating it with high fretboard tapping. Next up, oldie "Mountain Song" followed the same route to a sky-scraping solo as if to say, "See, folks, the recent stuff is just as good as the classics." At the very least, it has some sonic similarities.

Still, Navarro's chops remain intact -- reality television dalliances be damned -- and he had the spotlight just enough of the time to make the proceedings palatable. Going big on "Ain't No Right" and "Stop!" and nuanced on "Ocean Size," the guitarist was in deft form.

For his part, Farrell has retained his lofty pipes, and his voice soared on "Ted, Just Admit It" and the darkly melodic "Twisted Tales." However, he's not entirely certain what to do onstage. Thus, he preened, saluted, shook hands and bounded about, occasionally dropping douche-chilly banter (sample topics: sex-related groin injuries and Canadian fellatio) while grinning maniacally. Oh, and faux-spanking backup dancers.

That's right: the current tour is a stage show of sorts with a male, Black Swan-style performance artist and a pair of burlesque-inspired backup dancers. That setup made for a far from cohesive experience full of forcedly odd set pieces and light misogyny. The incongruence was particularly obvious on a slowed-down, strangely tender three-song showcase of "Classic Girl," "Jane Says" and "I Would for You."

Oddly, the quiet interlude saw the band at their best, restraining Farrell's antics yet unleashing his pipes while letting Navarro take an acoustic break and showcasing drummer Stephen Perkins on steel drum. After that brief respite, it was back to the sludge rock and frontman mugging.