JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

August 14, 2012
Oracle Arena
Oakland, CA USA
Review by Susan Taylor
Photos by Suzi Roks

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Without a doubt, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are going to go down in the annals of music as the most improbable of groups to have survived long enough to actually become rock icons. And that's saying quite a bit for a band that's only been able to crank out ten albums in 27 years.

Let's face it, everything about the Chili Peppers flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Led by the maniacal tandem of singer Anthony Kiedis and the Energizer Bunny of bass players, Michael "Flea" Balzary, this California-based outfit has defied the incredible odds stacked against them to actually get better with age. And let me tell you, that is no small feat. For a band to have sold over 23 million albums worldwide the past ten years, amidst the music industry turmoil the Internet wrought havoc on, is truly a monumental achievement. It also goes to show the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year was no fluke.

Tonight's performance was the final act of a two-night stand at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Both shows were sell outs. Both concerts featured completely different set lists save for a handful of songs that crossed-over from the night before. The music performed for this galvanized audience spanned the last 20 years of RHCP albums except One Hot Minute, which featured the work of guitarist Dave Navarro. For some reason, the band refuses to play any music from that period of their recording career in a live setting.

Both nights started off with "Monarchy of Roses" from the band's latest recording, I'm With You. This really is a brilliant composition, especially performed live. But I swear, every time I hear the opening to that song, my mind races to U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." If you think about it for a minute, the similarities are there, but once the song kicks into gear, any comparison quickly disappears. It was a great way to start the show and this song is destined to go down as an RHCP classic.

As I alluded to earlier, it is extremely rare for a rock band's music to get better with age. Outside of the aforementioned U2, I don't know of another group, with at least a quarter of a century of music under its belt that continuously cranks out superior new music with every album they release. And when the Chili Peppers go on tour, they are very careful - no make that extremely smart - not to cram their new stuff down your throat. Instead, they introduce the new music in subtle ways. Tonight for instance, four songs from the new disc - "Monarchy", "Factory of Faith", "Ethiopia" and "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" - made their way onto the 19-song set list. The night before, the band played five tunes from the new disc with "Look Around", "Goodbye Hurray" and "Meet Me at the Corner" being performed along with "Monarchy" and "Rain Dance Maggie". Again, the Chili Peppers are simply brilliant when it comes to introducing their new album to the masses.

Interestingly enough, music from the Chili Peppers masterpiece, Blood Sugar Sex Magik dominated tonight's show followed by several selections from 2002's By The Way as well as the new record. The band reached back as far as 1989's Mother's Milk to perform their version of Stevie Wonder's hit, "Higher Ground," which they also performed during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies. For some reason though, they omitted "Me and My Friends" from '87's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan from their show. That song has been a concert staple on nearly every RHCP tour going back some 20 years, but apparently it has now been retired.

There was a great deal of curiosity as to how Josh Klinghoffer, the band's new guitarist, would fit into the Chili Pepper culture once John Frusciante called it quits - this time for good. As many Pepper fans know, the previous time the guitarist unexpectedly fled the scene, his replacement Dave Navarro, didn't quite work out so well. This time upon his friendly exit, Frusciante was very careful not to leave his band mates high and dry. He knew exactly who should step into his shoes, and it turned out to be the perfect choice.

Klinghoffer was the collaborator on several of the solo works recorded by Frusciante. On the Chili Pepper's last tour in 2007, he was asked to join the band in a support role on the final legs of their world tour supporting Stadium Arcadium. The multi-talented musician performed additional guitar duties, backing vocals and keyboard parts. When Frusciante finally decided to concentrate solely on his own music, it seemed a natural fit for Klinghoffer to step into his friend's role on stage. Anthony Kiedis and Flea agreed. They not only ended the group's self-imposed hiatus, but immediately got together with their new member and began writing there I'm With You album. The results, as this sold-out tour can attest to, have been magnificent. The 32-year old musician has been spot on with the Peppers' older material and breathed new life into the band.

I don't need to describe the stage design, the giant video screens or the antics performed on stage. This is the Red Hot Chili Peppers folks. You know Flea's going to be all over the place. Anthony Kiedis is going to be, well Anthony Kiedis. As usual, Chad Smith is going to be holding down the fort behind his drum kit while Josh Klinghoffer does his very best to stay out of the way. With that said, however, the guitarist broke his foot the night before when he became frustrated and kicked an object on stage. He performed this night sporting a walking boot. If you're a Red Hot Chili Pepper fan, or even casually acquainted with their music, this show is a must see. Again, the set list is a perfect balance of old and new. The energy onstage by the hyperactive Flea, and his equally combustible singing partner, is infectious to say the least.

If you are lucky enough to attend any of the Chili Pepper performances on this tour, don't plan on sitting down during any part of the show. Even Klinghoffer stood the entire night despite having a chair at his disposal on stage. Yeah, injuries are a part of the business when you're a Pepper. Even the start of this current tour was postponed while Anthony Kiedis recuperated from knee surgery brought on from his years of wild stage antics.

But RHCP's bumps, bruises and broken bones are all badges of honor for this group that proudly gives it all when they perform. When the lights go down, and the action heats up on stage, be prepared to sing loud and proud. And while you're at it, nod your head in silent tribute and say thank you to the musicians on stage. Tonight, this assembled crowd at the Oracle Arena witnessed what a truly great rock band is all about when all its parts are moving in perfect harmony. It was truly an incredible sight to behold.


Set List August 14
Monarchy of Roses
Around the World
Snow (Hey Oh)
Otherside
Look Around
Parallel Universe
Can't Stop
Wet Sand
Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
I Like Dirt
Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)
Under the Bridge
Goodbye Hooray
Californication
By the Way
Encore
Chad & Mauro & Josh Jam
Suck My Kiss
Meet Me at the Corner
Give it Away

Set List August 15
Monarchy of Roses
Dani California
Can't Stop
Scar Tissue
Factory of Faith
Throw Away Your Television
Universally Speaking
I Could Have Lied
Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Right on Time
Under the Bridge
Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)
Californication
By the Way
Encore
Chad & Mauro & Josh Jam
Sir Psycho Sexy
They're Red Hot (R. Johnson cover)
Ethiopia
Give it Away