CLEARWATER — Perry Farrell, the scrawny, spastic lead singer for odd-rockers Jane's Addiction, unloaded a numbing barrage of fever-dream images at a sold-out Ruth Eckerd Hall on Saturday: lusty bondage dancers being attacked by an equally randy giant spider, a naughty Mary Poppins robot legging it across the stage.
And, in the feel-bad portion of the night, a masked ogre putting plastic dolls in a noose then hanging himself. Um, hooray?!
But for all the cloying performance-art dumbness aimed at the frothed-up crowd of 2,180 — and wow, when's the last time REH saw a sweaty, besotted club throng like this? — nothing was as confounding as when the 53-year-old Farrell was trying to be normal. Here's a brief sampling of his casual 'tween-song banter, all delivered in earnest tones:
"I saw a gator across the street. I tried to get him to come over. I was going to eat him."
Cue the steel-drum-driven Jane Says, one of the debauched L.A. band's more accessible hits, even though it's about Farrell's heroin-addicted housemate.
"Florida is wild. No sidewalks. You don't have sidewalks, right?"
Cue Farrell and his mates unloading tribal-drum head-trip Chip Away, a pounding sound melange that either made you dizzy or desperate for Advil.
"Never before have I heard such beautiful applause for our gang of thieves."
Cue, um, oh whatever.
If you've always bought what Jane's has sold since its late-'80s, early-'90s heyday — especially seminal alt-rock albums Nothing's Shocking and Ritual de lo Habitual — the near-two-hour gig was out of this world.
If the whole thing seemed like a clock-watching slog after the fourth song of the set, well, you were in for a long haul.
As for me, I admit to a bit of clock-watching. Farrell is a smart dude, the creator of Lollapalooza. He's a free-thinker, uninterested in a normal concert experience. That's commendable in a way, but it should also come with a warning. The show was more like one of Farrell's side-gig raves, with vocals merely part of the sound, buried in the swirling punk-meets-electronica mix.
I spent most of my time following Dave Navarro, the band's effortlessly cool guitarist. Navarro, a tabloid fave for his Hollywood excesses and brief marriage to Carmen Electra, is a low-key Slash, his prickly, needle-sharp solos adding much-needed tangibility to Ted, Just Admit It... and Ocean Size.
Before the show-closing breakdown of Stop!, which allowed Navarro to really cut loose, Farrell said, "We can find the best time in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, man, time is endless."
Not quite sure what he was trying to say there. But as for "endless," yeah, man, I can relate.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.