MANHATTAN, NY—After a short wait in a cove-looking area of the basement of Madison Square Garden, it was time to coalesce like a group of elites. The tiny and unique grooves in the white concrete walls decorated a stealthy walk past by family lounges and dressing rooms for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is the “honor walk” during which photographers and writers are escorted into the area closest to the stage, where the amps align and the barricades are behind.
The lights dimmed; it went totally dark, and the smartphone flashes served as the limited source of light to hype up a beautiful New York crowd.
Drummer Chad Smith, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and “class clown” bassist Flea enter from stage left. The audience welcomed them with enthusiastic shrieks. It took a moment of patience but lead singer Anthony Kiedis appeared—no surprise to the ladies’ sheer delight—as he skipped onto the center of the stage and grabbed a hold of the mic.
After a brief, informal intro jam, “Can’t Stop” was an apropos opener, as it screamed the ultimate emblem for the energetic and passionate band we’ve loved for more than 30 years. The track live offered a career culmination and a delightful introductory zing that got the crowd amped up.
When you’re at this for so long, there must be some degree of nervous pressure to create a production that captures the essence of your longstanding energy, enthusiasm, and passion. But for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it’s no thing.
The band conceived a “kinetic installation” created in conjunction with TAIT and Scott Holhaus. The fixture was synced with digital content on stage and responded to the rhythm of the show. More than 1,000 Nano Winches and connected LED fixtures hung above the band and the audience in sweeping waves of color. According to the designer’s website, the fixture was designed to move quickly to create 3D movement, shapes, and textures. The movement of the light changed along with each night’s set list.
The Peppers powered through the essentials of their collection, including “Californication,” “The Zephyr Song,” and “Dani California” before they shared tracks from their latest album: “Dark Necessities” and “Go Robot.”
The backup vocals on “Californication” were incredibly strong—though John Frusciante’s low high notes are missed, Flinghoffer showed some serious chops. It may not have been an identical switch but he does the melodies—and Kiedis’ croons—justice.
While “The Getaway” pulled in a heavy bass line that served as the lift off to a new adventure, the audience’s energy made it clear that they weren’t there to hear the new material. They flared up for the oldies. The Peppers’ signature sound is rooted in Flea’s deep, rich bass lines—the bedrock of that authentic funk. It’s not really supposed to be dance music but one can’t help but bop along to the fun.
When Kiedis’ shirt comes off the crowd generally swooned. At 54 he is a specimen who, along with the great party animals Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, should be studied for rock star preservation.
During “Suck My Kiss” everyone came in for the chorus as fists moved about in unison with the song of a sexy declaration. The foxy frontman left the last “Suck My Kiss!” exclusively for the crowd to close it out.
Just at the performance peak, everybody in the house had a moment of emotional congregation. During “Under The Bridge” the lights turned blue to manifest the melancholy mood. Tens of thousands of people from all different walks of life came together to sing an intense therapy cry. It’s as if, even in the depths of his former phased-out pain, Kiedis wrote these beautiful words knowing the evolution of the song, fortune telling these moments during which we’d all sing together: “Lonely as I am together we cry.”
As the most immersive moment of the show fades away, the stench of marijuana and cotton candy flows through the air. Kiedis takes a breather to give the last bridge to the crowd. And “together we cry,” but nobody here is lonely in spirit, but connected by the Peppers.
Before they get into “By The Way,” Flea pays verbal homage to musicians who’ve died by suicide. The light fixture’s tempo cooperation is reminiscent of a high school marching band adding psychedelic, synced up production value. The lights accompanied a morbidly vibrant cartoon loop of guts and gore.
While Kiedis moves about the stage like a teenage skateboarder who keeps finding new parks to explore, the light fixture comes out into the crows, swaying to the beats, cords, and melodies. They then died down like mood lanterns for special moments.
The New York crowd crows “I love you” and gets rowdy before the band comes back onstage for the encore. In Flea fashion he crawls onto the stage in a handstand and closes out with “Goodbye Angels” and “Give It Away.”
When you’ve been in a band for 30 years, it’s got to be an epic feat to finalize a set list. Luckily for the Peppers, a multi-show stint at the Garden offered the opportunity to share more than a collective six hours worth of their incredible catalogue.
Show date: February 15, 2016