Red Hot Chili Peppers Toyota Center October 20, 2012
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have stuck around long enough -- through drugs, overdoses, creative strife and changing musical tides -- to have 30 years of hits they can knock out into the nosebleeds at any given live show.
Saturday night's Toyota Center set, a makeup date for a canceled spring show, was overflowing with those hits, with some new material slotted in too. If Texas' RHCP fans had tried, they could have seen them twice this past week; after Iggy & the Stooges' scorched-earth ACL display two Sundays ago, it was left to the Chilis to close out the festival for the year.
Those Peppers are now on the frontline of classic alt-rock acts still chugging along, a formidable group that includes Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, whoever is playing with Billy Corgan now, and the now-hiatusing Foo Fighters. With that tag also comes a party bus full of fans, hopped up on nostalgia and the band's signature energy.
That's polite-speak for "some of these dudes are dicks, but they mean well."
Musically and onstage, the group has slowed since their early heyday, but that mellowing has just given a new patina to both their past and present material.
Live, replacement guitarist Josh Klinghoffer ably fills in for the legendary John Frusciante, but he cannot replace the parts where the exited guitarist soared; namely, his fragile backing falsetto and improvisational expanses. That being said, Klinghoffer still has a fire of his own, that is when he is not sitting down in a chair onstage. A foot injury will do that.
Likewise, drummer Chad "Will Ferrell" Smith and ever-youthful bassist Flea make for a startlingly fun rhythm section in a live setting. Flea is undoubtedly an influential bassman, even if most people who take to his instrument could never touch what he does.
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Lead singer Anthony Kiedis has long ago shorn his beautiful female-friendly long locks for a trendy Hitler hairdo, and now looks more like his father Blackie Dammett than ever. The sound mix at the venue, though, muddied his lines most of the night, but that didn't matter much to the crowd.
He's not a powerhouse vocalist live; the isolation of the studio has always been his friend.
The group -- save young gun Klinghoffer -- are all 50 years old or edging towards it. Kiedis turns 50 in just a few days. Consequently, the band doesn't show age as much as sturdiness. Flea and Smith are still acrobatic, and Smith throws out nearly as many drumsticks as Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen does guitar picks.
Kiedis is in there with his little kicks, doing what he can since the leg injury that sidelined him this past spring.
The Chilis' set was devoid of anything before 1991's Blood Sugar Sex Magik, unless you count the requisite Stevie Wonder "Higher Ground" cover from 1989's Mother's Milk. If you disliked the band's direction since they inducted Frusciante following Hillel Slovak's overdose, this wasn't your set list.
Sorry friendos, no "Party On Your Pussy" Saturday.
But if you like the group's radio staples, and haven't gotten sick of hearing "Under the Bridge" and the murder of hits from Californication, you were in heaven.
Personally, I like the new material from 2011's I'm With You -- including the new batch of tracks that have been trickling online -- so I was pacified.
The crowd quieted down for those tracks, and the six dudes in front of me stopped dancing during "Factory of Faith," and that is my real barometer of everything from Saturday night. I should send them some cupcakes or something.
All in all, the Chilis are ably romping and stomping into middle age, even if their fans would rather they stay somewhere in the '90s.
Personal Bias: This.
The Crowd: Radioheads, brahs, brahlettes, families, mommas, daddies, and this one dude in one of those visors with the fake hair on top.
Overseen In the Crowd: The fellas in the aisle in front of me got dancin' skills, straight outta Friendswood (or I think I overheard).
Random Notebook Dump: I still wish the band could do One Hot Minute material live, but I understand that's a black sheep in the Chilis family discography.
Monarchy of Roses Around the World Snow ((Hey Oh)) Can't Stop Scar Tissue Look Around Hard to Concentrate The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie I Like Dirt Universally Speaking Under the Bridge Factory of Faith Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover) Californication By the Way
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Chad & Mauro Jam Tell Me Baby I Could Have Lied Give It Away Final Jam