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Hey, is that 120 Minutes knocking on the door? Nostalgic readers that enjoyed/endured the halcyon days of alt.rock (a meaningless pigeonhole if there ever was one) rubbed their hands in glee with the announcement of three early 90’s titans of this loosely-grouped movement touring together for scant selected dates. Boston was one of four cities to have all three bands on the bill, with NYC and Asbury Park omitting Living Colour.
Billed as the Sterling Spoon tour, Perry Farrell and company, including founding members Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins, this jaunt celebrates the 25th anniversary of their third record (if you count the eponymous live record as their debut); it’s just a guess but the spoon reference is probably not related ingesting food. As with 2014’s tour that recognized Nothing’s Shocking’s 25th birthday, the number of dates was pretty selective. Either Farrell and company don’t like long, drawn-out tours or they have better things to worry about. Either way, Boston was fortunate enough to snag one of these dates, especially considering the strong support acts.
For those who ran out the grooves of the 1990 LP, the spoken Spanish introduction would trigger waves of memory, and soon enough the raucous, celebratory vibes of “Stop!” kicked off the show. With Navarro’s guy-lined eyes peering out from beneath his pork-pie hat, the riffs flew effortlessly from his constantly in motion fingers, and I had to take a look or three to make sure there were no other guitarists on stage, augmenting the sound. The downsides of hearing a record played in its entirety is that the surprise of the set list is gone, and some of the songs you’d want to skip over now become endurance tests.
Thankfully, Ritual doesn’t have much in the way of dry spells, with perhaps the ersatz fusion of Middle Eastern modes with late Camper Van Beethoven of “Of Course” providing a window to hit the rest rooms or get another beer. Of course the big songs are gonna be played anyway, with “Been Caught Stealing” and their mega-sex and drug-doused epic “Three Days” were both played four years again when I saw them the last time. The upside is hearing great but overlooked material that would never get printed on a typical set list, and “The She Did…” was the perfect, Led-Zep haze of languidity.
The lithe Farrell prowled the stage like a leopard, and as with all things Jane’s, the aura of sexuality was never far away. This was obvious with the three dancers that shimmied and gyrated around the edges of the stage scaffolding throughout the show, and took on a decidedly S&M tone when two women, suspended only via metal hooks that plunged through the skin of their backs, swung out and over the crowd. Yowza!
Of the three bands on the bill, Dinosaur Jr. is the only who’s got a legitimate claim to staying current, and they just released their fourth full-length record since the restart in 2006, when Lou Barlow and Murph re-joined forces with J Mascis. Without downplaying the essential contributions of the rhythm section, Dinosaur has always been about the fretboard prowess of Mascis, and it was certainly with a decent amount of tongue lodged securely in cheek when their label Jagjaguwar released a preview of the new record as Solo Extractions, a compilation of every guitar solo on the new record. At the time of the show, the record hadn’t yet dropped and only “Tiny” was previewed, but they had a shortened set time as an opener, and will be heading back to Boston later this year where I’m sure more of the excellent new record will be played. Opening with “The Lung” was cause for rejoicing, and J didn’t let up on the pedal board until the last note of “Just Like Heaven” abruptly cut off.
First up was Living Colour, who had an absolutely massive debut record with Vivid and then failed to live up to that high water mark with subsequent releases. Ditching the neon neoprene of Body Glove surf wear for a more dignified look of a sharp suit, Corey Glover showcased his excellent vocals with Vernon Reid still ripping off fiery, spidery guitar runs. Their cover of Talking Heads “Memories Can’t Wait” still resonates, and they also paid tribute to two who have departed, with covers of Notorious B.I.G. and Prince (“Who Shot Ya,” and “17 Days” respectively). The show ended with the familiar non-linear opening riff of “Cult Of Personality,” Glover trading the stage for the audience floor and roaming the seats while delivering the still-relevant message of political danger.