Red Hot Chili Peppers: concert review

Published 9:23 am Monday, January 23, 2017

Red Hot Chili Peppers made a name for themselves off their hyperactive funk-punk-rock shows in Los Angeles nightclubs during the early ‘80s, and 34 years since their inception, the now Rock and Roll Hall of Famers haven’t missed a beat.

Last Thursday, RHCP roared into Memphis with a set that was heavy on their hits, but also a few deeper cuts to satiate the diehards. With a band like the Chili Peppers, who have such an extensive discography, assembling a setlist must be a Herculean task. However, they rose to the occasion and got fans both young and longtime moving in their seats and the aisles.

Fresh off a new album (“The Getaway”) from last year, the band seemed re-energized and ready to roll right out of the gate. An opening improvised jam between guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith laid the ground for frontman Anthony Kiedis to come bounding from backstage and grab the mic. Once Flea started the opening, fuzzed-out bass riff from “Around the World” off 1999’s blockbuster album “Californication”, the show had officially begun. Kiedis’ familiar barked vocal delivery rang through the FedEx Forum as he rapped and sang his way through the track. After a few years away from the stage, it’s great to have them back in action.

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Early on in the set, other hits like “Otherside” and “Snow” gave way to songs from their new record, including lead single “Dark Necessities”, which was a welcome addition to their live repertoire. By including tracks from their latest effort, the band is decidedly looking to the future as much as celebrating their vibrant past.

Throughout “The Getaway” tour, the quartet has been digging up some old gems and the Memphis stop proved no less fruitful. The slinky funk of “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” sounded just as potent as it did when it was first recorded in 1991. “Right On Time” was another song dusted off from the archives and it flew by with punky ferocity that the band is so good at mustering when the time calls for it.

The lighting design for the show was just as much a spectacle as the Peppers themselves. A few hundred cylindrical light bulbs dangling from wires would sway and illuminate in sync with the music being played.

A few setlist selections like “By The Way”, “Californication” and “Give It Away”, songs that the band has played literally every night of this tour, could be switched out for some other tunes. Yes, these are clear-cut greatest hits for the band, but when you’re the Chili Peppers with 13 number one singles to your name, fans would probably be forgiving if one of the above was missing from the concert.

At this point in their careers, RHCP have locked into each other’s abilities and know how to play to their strengths. Even Klinghoffer, who joined the band as a full-time member in 2011, looked like he’s known the band his whole life. Flea remains a virtuoso on the bass, thumping out distinctive melodies while providing a sturdy rhythmic foil to Chad Smith’s impressive drumming. Kiedis carries his weight too and even when his vocals waver, his unbridled energy is unlike any other frontman in the rock business.

Similarly, by blending impossibly catchy pop hooks with the instrumental finesse of a jam band, the Chili Peppers continue to be one of the most unique concerts out there.