Friday, August 10, 2007
Perry Farrell's Satellite Party
Opera House Toronto ON
Perry Farrell brought his latest project into Toronto this week, showcasing Satellite Party at the cozy Opera House, for what is promised to be "a night of absurdist, glamazon, alt-rock mayhem." Much like his name he has always been on the periphery of the new music scene, his first band, Psi Com, being in the hardcore, quasi-underground scene with LA heroes X and Black Flag.
Jane's Addiction followed and fame not too far behind. He hasn't been able to shake the shadow of Jane's Addiction, falling on-and-off the wagon through the years. That's not a bad thing. It was a seminal period, that brief time when talent and energy results in unconscious creation.
He was, and still is, a major player in the development of the Lollapalooza Festival, in 1991 and through the decade. This transformed the summer concert going scene in North America. On the heels of the European industry, with the help of the success of this project, large festivals are almost the sole means of seeing major acts once the season turns.
In the intervening years he's continued to explore and expand musically, his most notable incarnation being the wonderfully visual Porno For Pyros, a highlight of 1994's Woodstock reunion, where he gave a speech on the equality of man that rivalled Lincoln's opening to the Gettysburg Address...ok, maybe not, but it was a flag-waving moment for egalitarianism.
Perry is a hippy out of time, and that implies nothing negative from this corner. His personal interests find him putting his time and money where his heart and mouth are...be it in Sudan, working for the Free Tibet movement or organizing a Purimpalooza in 2006 to showcase Jewish musical styles.
It seems nothing ever gets finished, or left behind, in Perry's world. Satellite Party has had a rocky start, be it by design or not, and has coped with a couple band shake ups in it's short life time. This show is only the 3rd on the current leg of the tour to promote "UltraPayloaded". In a recent blog Perry alluded they would compensate for the new personnel by mixing in some older tracks while they develop their chops. I can't see that as bad news.
Rock Star-INXS-loser Neil Carlson is fronting an Aussie/American power-pop band called Mink. Tonight they got the call, armed with their sixty (60!) songs written since their inception waaaaay back in early 2006, to warm the crowd. Of course, I don't know a band alive who did 60 worthwile songs in their first year of existence, so I just think...can you say: "shot your load?"
Neil bursts onstage with a ton of energy, looking like a thin Jim Morrison. Leather jacket, bare chest, dog-tag jewellery, oversized sunglasses and stage moves that are, at best, derivative, and at worst, awkward. It's like he's undecided whether he wants to channel Mick Jagger or Johnny Rotten(note: he does a better pogo than cock-walk). If he tones down the prima-donna posing this band has a chance of finding a niche with their straight-forward power-pop, led by a firestorm on drums, Stella Mozgawa. Now there's a person who moves fluidly and Neil could do with watching some film of her antics. Coolness is an intangible thing, you can look the part but you gotta feel it to carry it off.
On first listen the highlight of their set was a cover, Bowie's Suffragette City. A couple of their original tunes stood out...the upcoming single, Talk To Me, being the most memorable.
Eight songs later it's time for the main set.
With the stage quickly cleared the Satellite Party don't make us wait too long for their entrance. It's apparent, as soon as he steps on stage from the wings, that the crowd is here to lavish some love on Perry. It's a shame it's not a bigger crowd but you couldn't have found a more enthusiastic one. Throughout the night Farrell kept a steady stream of banter going with the audience at the front of the stage. Besides sharing his bottle of wine he accepted two beers, one mickey of Canadian Club and a joint from the adoring throng. After all, it is a party.
The recent departure of ex-Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and drummer Kevin Figg forced a change in direction for Satellite Party. Farrell quickly rounded up Nick Perri, formerly, and perhaps still, of the Philadelphia outfit Silvertide, who you might have heard covering a couple Dylan tunes on the soundtrack for Lady in the Water. Jordan Plonsky, of unknown origin, is in on drums. The band had some hurried rehearsals and decided to dig into the more familiar back-catalogue to narrow the learning curve from disparate parts to Satellite Party.
Which is a bonus for someone who's waited way too long to see Perry Farrell live.
The show opens with an anthem to bull-headedness called Ain't No Right, from Jane's Addictions third album, the breakthrough Ritual De Lo Habitual. The audience joins in right away as Perry spits venom with a smile. By songs end everyone has a glisten on.
Next up, a breather in Tahitian Moon, an hypnotic, harrowing, homage to unconditional love and the vagaries of a swift current. Not many songs like that in the rock oeuvre. This is from the short-lived career of Porno For Pyros, Perry's answer to the massive attack of fame that followed 'Ritual' and led to the demise of JA. I could play the hook on this song in one continual loop. A great back-yard hammock tune.
There are smiles all around the stage as the band is swimming in the love. Back up singer, exotic tightie extraordinaire, and, oh right, wife, Etty Farrell, ups the beauty quotient onstage all by herself. She feeds off the excitement of the crowd, sometimes miming the events in the song lyrics or just soaking up the mood being created by her beau's Party while gyrating agains the speaker banks. At times she seems almost overwhelmed by the response, her joy leaping out of her eyes as she watches Perry and the crowd engage in a virtual orgy. Not the extravagant show that was Porno For Pyros, but just as sensual.
Satellite Party is as much an IDEA as it is a thing. Perry's always got something going on and this time it has to do with 'solutionists.' The world inhabited by the Party seems to be cross between Hedonism II, 1984 and the Yellow Submarine. Survival is found in love. The wet messy kind too.
Insanity Rains is the story of the beat-down, when the bottom falls out. Nice moment when they dub in a piece of the Clash's Armaggedeon Time...no justice tonight!
Salvation for the Party comes in Hard Life Easy, where love is a salve for the bruised and battered.
The Satellite also moves...so time travel is on the schedule. Perry's taking trinkets from the crowd, signing cd's and tickets, when he's handed a gold bracelet. Holding it up for inspection he announces: "Fantastic, this is a beaut. Looks like it's real gold or something. See back in the day I couldn't afford this kind of thing but I would go, and I would just STEAL IT..." The crowd goes wild as the band breaks into the classic Been Caught Stealing. It's just a simple fact, for sure. Audience participation is over-the-moon on this one. During a late musical break Perry leans over, steals a camera from the hands of a rail-hugger, and takes a couple pics of her from the stage before handing it back. 600 greedy bastards close the song with chants of MINE, MINE, MINE. The band sounds great and the whole venue is energized another tier higher. "Never has theivery been so rewarded, thank you so much," Perry says as the crowd cheers wildly, "I so enjoy stealing, it's such a pleasure to be here with you."
Sensing he's soared to high, and not caring, Perry sends the fans into another state of frenzy by announcing he's "coming down the mountain" as he reaches back to Jane's second album.
Back to the Party Platform with the single,Wish Upon A Dog Star . No, not Keanu's band. Nor is he taking sides in the XM vs Sirius battle.
I think it's about the fireworks that would ensue if Christ bedded Cleopatra, but you can come up with your own wish.
Stage banter sets up another Porno For Pyros moment, and I'd forgotten all about this one, the insightful, Pets. OK, maybe it's more sardonic and cynical. A thesis on the plight of mankind whose only hope for survival is that some benevolent superior being will domesticate us. It's got a beat, you can dance to it, I give it an 87. Al Gore should co-opt it as his theme song.
The main set closes with the bands title song, both album and group, Ultra Payloaded Satellite Party, a call to arms of sort.
Perry keeps the party going with the encore opener, sister song to the set closer, Only Love, Let's Celebrate. Hard to argue with the sentiment.
Back to the Jane's Addiction catalogue for a loose, STOP, which kind of slowed down to a crawl, more than stopped. Another fan favorite and only the 5th singalong of the night. Another tale of man's inability to see the folly of his ways.
Jane Says is drowned out by the crowd. It's a dark song and though you fret for Jane you can feel the hope shine through as long as there's still tomorrow. Great end to the show which never lagged for energy. Not the longest show I've seen but it delivered and surpassed expectations for fun.
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Buy the record.
See the show.
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