Jane's Addiction is a parody of itself, while Black Keys and Mumford & Sons wipe out pretenses; Florence + the Machine and Foster the People are embraced.
Guys with guitars roamed freely Sunday night at the Gibson Amphitheatre, where bands including Jane's Addiction, the Black Keys and Death Cab for Cutie took part in KROQ-FM's annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert. But throughout this sold-out six-hour marathon — the second of two presented by the influential modern-rock station, after Saturday's bill with Blink-182, Social Distortion and others — those durable guitar heroes were shadowed by another musical figure. Witness the rise of the resourceful tech-head, hunched over a keyboard or sampler, tapping out newfangled sounds with near-scientific precision.
Some groups at the show had room for guitar wizards and computer geeks in their lineups; others staged a production around one or the other. Taken as a whole, though, Almost Acoustic Christmas felt like an investigation of where rock is today, what it's made of and what it should do.
One firm conclusion among the many more half-answers: Jane's Addiction has finally turned into the parody act it's been threatening to become for years. Headlining Sunday's show (albeit to a significantly thinned-out crowd), this on-again/off-again L.A. outfit interspersed hits from its original late-'80s incarnation with material from this fall's “The Great Escape Artist,” Jane's Addiction's first studio album since 2003. Yet it all sounded equally terrible, Perry Farrell's adenoidal vocals meandering aimlessly atop Dave Navarro's bludgeoning power chords. Worse still were Farrell's clownish between-song ramblings about Christmas in the era of Occupy Wall Street, which made the presumably unintentional argument that the once-ubiquitous character of the preening rock god has lost all but his comedic value.