Red Hot Chili Peppers tore up the Veterans’ Memorial Arena on Monday night, April 24
The band’s set opened with improvised saxophone, setting the tone for the largely ad libbed show. Original bassist Flea cut in with a thumping bass line, along with the band’s long-time drummer, Chad Smith, and guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer. The trio jammed for an entire song before frontman Anthony Kiedis took the stage. Under an army of hanging glowstick lights cresting together as a wave, Kiedis raked in the applause.
Watching the band live, it’s clear how Flea got his name. He jumped around the stage constantly, from place to place. At points, he nearly flew, tossing his legs into a midair split. He never seemed to stop moving and playing his bass—whenever a song ended, he immediately snapped into the next one. His live energy is the object of envy. Somehow, despite this excessive cardio, he still managed to sing backing vocals, too. Flea’s synergy with drummer Smith was sensational. The two played to one another regularly to build a tight rhythm section.
Klinghoffer, the most recent addition to the band, shredded complex guitar solos with accuracy. His solos were riffs on RHCP’s original recordings, pumping the familiar with flair.
Kiedis dragged the microphone stand behind him as he scatted and sang. His voice didn’t sound any different than it did back in the late 1980s. It’s one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary rock music. Commanding, yet soft; it’s a little smug-sounding. Live, he controlled it well, not allowing himself to get winded as he thrashed along the stage’s edge. It’s hard to believe these guys have been playing for so long. They each performed with enthused youth.
At live shows, the rhythm section can be challenging to hear over cranked-up vocals and electric guitar. Sound turns to incomprehensible loudness too often. RHCP’s show was a pleasantly surprising exception. Every instrument was clear, not drowned out by Kiedis’ distinctive voice. Perhaps this mixing is the effect of RHCP keeping an extremely famous bassist along for the ride. Fans don’t buy tickets to just hear Kiedis’ lyrics. They want to headbang to some pounding Flea bass.
After the show, the arena’s exits were abuzz with disappointment toward RHCP’s exclusion of the song “Under the Bridge.” Many hoped for a special encore performance of the band’s all-time greatest hit. Perhaps Kiedis has simply tired of singing such a personal song nearly 25 years after its release. That didn’t stop RHCP from jamming to other hits like “Scar Tissue” and “Californication.” Much of the set list was oriented toward their new album, The Getaway. They also threw an Iggy and the Stooges cover into the set list.
Chili Peppers fans are an incredibly devoted breed. How could anyone tire of singing these contemporary American classics? There’s a reason why RHCP’s sold over 80 million records and counting. Still, I don’t think any of their fans ever saw the scene in the 1994 flick PCU, when Droz implores his friend not to wear “the shirt of the band you’re going to see.” A sea of black shirts with signature red asterisks flooded the arena. Most everyone sang and headbanged along to every song.
The opening act was another noteworthy aspect of the concert. Babymetal, a Japanese metal band, has a wackiness that corresponds well with RHCP’s style. The band is fronted by three Japanese teenaged girls. Together, they danced in a hyper-choreographed fashion while singing in Japanese. Like Flea, they never seemed to stop moving.
Meanwhile, Babymetal’s instrumentalists donned flowy hospital gowns and ghoulish masks. They played strict heavy metal among seizure-inducing strobe lights, contrasting heavily with the girls’ Japanese idol singing. At one point, the band stepped forward to break into Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” This caused a great uproar of Jacksonville pride from the crowd.
Babymetal was the perfect opener for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s refreshing to see a widely-popular band choose an opening act that sounds nothing like themselves. Opening acts tend to showcase watered-down versions of the headliner. Thankfully, this was not the case on Monday night.
Perhaps the only parallel between these two bands is their unabashed union of genres. Since 1984, RHCP has been fusing funk music with rock to create “funk rock.” This style emerged in popularity during the 1980s among other bands like Rage Against the Machine and Primus.
Babymetal combines heavy metal with Japanese pop—hard rock and adorable girls makes a winning, albeit slightly silly, combination. But what good is music if it’s not a little silly?