In a sea of smartphone flashlights, a few traditionalists held up cigarette lighters.
“Kids these days already know what they’re going to play. They look it up on their phones,” one man said while walking to his seat. Sunday’s Red Hot Chili Peppers concert put the clash between old and new onstage at Oracle Arena.
Thirty-three years after releasing their eponymous debut album, Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer proved that they can still bring down the house to a new generation. Fresh singles followed classic rock anthems across a decades-spanning setlist. “Go Robot” from the band’s latest album, The Getaway, preceded the immortal “Californication”.
Though their discography may be old, the band certainly did not sound like it. RHCPs signature rock-funk sound and live energy fit right at home in 2017. Kiedis galloped around the stage while belting his vocals. Flea made frequent use of the forward panels to get close to the fans near the sides and the pit. Smith tossed drumsticks into the air without missing a beat, even apologizing into his mounted microphone after hitting a fan in the head with one. Throughout the concert, Kiedis and company were not afraid to let loose. Sprawling, improvised interludes seamlessly transitioned from one song to another. Periodic guitar solos forced the crowd onto their feet every time. In a time when rock and roll is somewhat in an identity crisis, it was refreshing to see a group simply rock out.
Sonically, the live renditions of the band’s songs are funkier and more memorable than their recorded counterparts. Smith’s percussion is crunchier and sharper. Flea’s bass lines are louder, and watching him play with such dexterity is mesmerizing. Kiedis is an even more entertaining vocalist when you can see him dance to his own music. Plus, throughout the show, the group members paid homage to the band’s famous love affair with California and the role the Bay Area has had on their careers.
“You know why we are so lucky?” Flea asked. “We get to live in California. Is there a more dynamic state? Hell no!”
“Thank you for being with us for 35 years!” Kiedis screamed.
Behind the group played flashing colors and psychedelic imagery, but the most captivating effect was not behind, but above. Above the audience and performers were hundreds of individually suspended rods of colored light. The lights were raised and lowered to suit the vibe. They were lowered just above the grasps of the listeners for “Hey” before swiftly ascending to the rafters for “Dark Necessities.” While RHCP played “Around The World,” the lights moved up and down to the rhythm, creating waves of light that bathed the audience in deep reds and vivid blues. The reduced height of the lighting introduced some much needed intimacy to the absolutely massive room.
When the lights were raised, the faces of all the spectators in the nosebleeds lit up, showing just how big the arena was. At other points, the lights were used to create a rotating Red Hot Chili Peppers logo that nearly grazed the audience. Rather than stick with a traditional setup, one of the most historic and prolific alternative rock bands in music history performed with an undoubtedly modern and inventive lighting schemes as their backdrop.
Nowhere was the contrast between old and new more apparent than in the crowd. Almost everybody was over eighteen years old. The few that were younger were accompanied by parents wearing weathered Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts. Many seemed bored and checked their phones as their moms and dads waited in eager anticipation. Despite releasing a new album with successful singles less than a year ago, it seems that that success did not translate into attracting newer, younger fans. Nevertheless, once the band began the performance, it was hard to look away because of the pure energy emanating from the stage. The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave the audience a show and surely converted some disinterested teenagers into fans.
Contact Derek Fang at [email protected].