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Alt-rock pioneers Jane’s Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins to rock the Spokane Arena

The Smashing Pumpkins, with Jane’s Addiction, will play Wednesday night at the Spokane Arena.  (Paul Elledge)
The Smashing Pumpkins, with Jane’s Addiction, will play Wednesday night at the Spokane Arena. (Paul Elledge)

Much is made of 1991, which is known as the year punk broke. The hair metal bubble burst shortly after Nirvana’s “Nevermind” was released in September of ’91. There was a tangible shift in music and pop culture after Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” catapulted the Seattle band from clubs to arenas in a matter of months.

However, the seeds for such a transformation were planted in 1988, which is one of the greatest years for recorded music of the last century. Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation,” Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back,” the Sugarcubes’ “Life’s Too Good,” My Bloody Valentine’s “Isn’t Anything,” The Feelie’s “Only Life,” Prince’s “The Black Album” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Nothing’s Shocking” are among the seminal releases from a mind-bending year.

The latter album was fueled by an incendiary tour by Jane’s Addiction, who proved to be more than proficient studio artists. Jane’s live show was performance art. The short-lived burst of brilliance from a band that emerged in ’88 and bid adieu, for the first time, in 1991, was unforgettable. The early days of Jane’s found vocalist Perry Farrell emerging from the haze twirling as if he was conducting an exorcism and guitarist Dave Navarro would impress the crowd with fast, intricate solos as the rhythm section of bassist Eric Avery and drummer Stephen Perkins, delivered in lock step.

“Some amazing music came out then,” Farrell said while calling from Los Angeles. “I remember the energy of those days. I could be outrageous and do what I wanted to do since I wasn’t that popular. People wouldn’t have issues with me (laughs) yet.”

Bands like Jane’s Addiction and Sonic Youth had yet to be embraced by the mainstream.

“We couldn’t be above ground yet,” Farrell said. “It wasn’t the time yet. I was just charging ahead back then. I remember the electricity, that undercurrent. “

Jane’s Addiction’s first two albums, the aforementioned “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual de lo Habitual,” which are filled with powerful, provocative and unpredictable alt-rock, paved the way for a new era of adventurous recording artists.

Such fiery tunes as “The Ocean,” and “Stop” tripped out headbangers and the moody and atmospheric “Three Days” mesmerized rock fans.

Just as Jane’s Addiction continued to ascend, the group took fans aback by calling it a day in 1991 at the conclusion of the initial Lollapalooza tour, which Farrell created.

“It was just time for it to end,” Farrell said. “When I got back from Hawaii after that last show of Lollapalooza, I had no idea what I was going to do. I wanted to do other things.”

One of the bands influenced by Jane’s Addiction after the band splintered was Smashing Pumpkins.

Pumpkins’ leader Billy Corgan melded alt-rock with classic rock elements from Queen and Cheap Trick. Corgan delivered big riffs and layered guitars expertly out of the gate with the Pumpkins’ debut, 1991’s “Gish,” which predated “Nevermind.”

“Siamese Dream” in 1993 and 1995’s “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” propelled the Pumpkins to arena headliners. “Disarm,” “Today” and “Tonight, Tonight” hit the charts while such visceral deep cuts as “Quiet” and “Siva” pleased ardent Pumpkins fans.

A generation later the Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction, which will perform Wednesday at the Spokane Arena, are back in the big halls playing the familiar.

The good news for Jane’s Addiction fans is that Farrell is slated to hit the stage after missing shows in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Quebec City after suffering an injury last month at Madison Square Garden.

Jane’s Addiction plans to perform in Spokane for an evening of songs which shaped the alt-rock world a generation ago.

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