Red Hot Chili Peppers at Target Center, 10/30/12
Photo By Stacy Schwartz
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Target Center, Minneapolis
October 30, 2012
The Red Hot Chili Peppers began their nearly 30-year music career by flouting '80s rock 'n' roll conventions, brazenly integrating styles and sounds that had no business being within the same three-minute pop song, and combining all of that into a potent and often quite crude live show that garnered them a dedicated following not only in their native L.A., but all across the United States -- and eventually the world.
Their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame earlier this year was a recognition of both that band, the wild one that caught everyone's attention in the first place, and the band that they have become, the tamer, more radio-friendly band that doesn't take many risks anymore. And the latter version of the Chili Peppers was on full display at the sold-out Target Center on Tuesday night, as the acclaimed quartet (flanked by two backing musicians) delivered a tepid 110-minute set that focused heavily on their mediocre recent material while neglecting most of the funky, feisty hits in their arsenal.
The evening got started with a protracted jam which found the always limber, pink-haired Flea completely bent over, playing bass with his head between his legs while locking into a groove with drummer Chad Smith, who was perched behind a simply massive kit. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who officially replaced John Frusciante in 2010, remained seated for much of the opening track (and half of the entire show itself), "Monarchy Of Roses," due to a broken foot he suffered back in August. And while his playing was serviceable and occasionally dynamic, he doesn't have the experimental inventiveness of Frusciante, and the few older tunes that the band did dust off on this evening suffered for it.
Photos By Stacy Schwartz
Frontman Anthony Kiedis took his time taking the stage at the start, and seemed restrained and quite passive throughout the show. He's never been all that talkative for a singer, and on this night the cursory, "Thank you Minny, thank you St. Paul" was the only between song banter we heard from him all evening, letting the focus remain on the music. And while songs like "Around the World" and "Otherside" sounded good in an arena setting, especially with 13,500 hardcore fans singing along, there wasn't a spark or any sense of creative unpredictability within the music, something which pulsed at the heart of this band for so many years.
Despite the fact that they only ended up playing four songs from their recent record, I'm With You, by the end of the insufferable "Ethiopia" late in the main set, we all had heard more than enough from that anemic album. And while the many massive high-definition screens behind the band often provided imaginative visual accompaniment to the Chili's songs, the weak material itself never truly took flight.
Forgettable songs like "Throw Away Your Television," "Emit Remmus" and "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie" just came across as colorless and flat, with Kiedis injecting no personality or fire into the lyrics. Which left much of the between song entertainment to Flea, who did his best in his charmingly childlike way. "Thank you Minnesota, we're very grateful to be here tonight. Thanks for having us. And thank you for the Replacements. Thank you for Hüsker Dü. Thank you for Prince. And thank you for Chad Smith. That's right, his hairy little fetus was born here 51 years ago." (Smith was born in St. Paul.)
Photos By Stacy Schwartz
But the most telling moment of the whole show came when the band decided to dig deep for once into their back catalog to play the explosive "Me & My Friends" from 1987's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan, the only track played from any of the band's first four records. Flea humorously introduced the track by saying, "Here's a song we wrote when we were just a bunch of youngsters. We were all just starting to grow pubes, and I think that both of my testicles had descended at that point, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it's got a good spirit and it warms my heart, and I hope it warms yours." You'd think, with an intro like that, that most fans would stick around to hear it, but a stream of folks headed up the aisle to get more beer or go to the bathroom, neglecting to listen to a fervent song from the band's early days in order to make it back in time to hear "Parallel Universe" instead.
You see, this is what most of the current Red Hot Chili Peppers fans have become. They have very little interest in who the band was or what Mother's Milk sounded like, they want the current hits, and the band caters to them specifically, despite the fact that it alienates longtime fans. And what you're left with are music lovers who don't know any better than to have the modern version of the Chili Peppers as their favorite band, even though they are mere shadows of their former selves. Granted, they are all still talented musicians and certainly stadium tested entertainers, but the songs they are churning out these days lacks the defiant attitude and inventiveness of their earlier work.
Even the anthemic "Under The Bridge" sounded listless, with Kiedis delivering a heartless run-through of the despairing ballad as the crowd delivered his vocal lines with more passion than he did. The illustrated blue waves that were rolling behind the band during the number were a nice touch, though, and looked a bit like the work of artist Stanley Donwood, who frequently does Radiohead's album art. The main set then shuffled to a close with "Californication," which serves as both a love-letter to L.A. and an condemnation of its seedy charms, and "By The Way," two stadium-sized rock songs that resonated with most of the crowd, but still sounded sluggish and tired, as did the band by this point.
Photos By Stacy Schwartz
The encore began with Smith swinging from the lights above his kit, a moment of supposed spontaneity that was quickly squelched by a lengthy jam session between him, the additional (and needless) percussionist Mauro Refosco, and Klinghoffer, with a long centerstage headstand by Flea the only exciting moment of the entire jam. Kiedis eventually joined the group, and while they teased the bass line to "Higher Ground" for a moment, they instead launched into "Suck My Kiss," which still has some venom in it, despite Klinghoffer's rather pedestrian guitar work on the track.
A country-punk version of Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" quickly followed, and it seemed like Kiedis couldn't wait for the track to be over, and thankfully it soon was. The obligatory "Give It Away" closed out the night, but it seemed that the band were playing it because it was required at this point, not that they truly wanted to, and the once-potent number lacked any of the flair or boundless energy that churns at its creative heart.
Kiedis then left the stage for good as the band launched into yet another interminable jam, before Flea took to the mic to deliver a heartfelt plea to, "Support live music. Even if it's a 7-year-old playing 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' on the piano, support it. This is our life's mission, so please support live music. It's the voice of the people, it brings everyone together. Support the music. I love you. Goodnight." Smith also took a moment to say, "This makes me proud to be born in Minnesota. It's an honor. Thank you for letting us do this." And while the sentiment was certainly genuine and sincere, the performance that proceeded these touching words sadly lacked that same conviction and passion.
Personal Bias: I had seen the Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza in 1992, and at the Target Center with Muse in 2000, and I'm truly left wondering where that band went.
The Crowd: Despite the relatively high ticket price, $50-and-up, the Target Center was sold-out with 13,500 dedicated and drunk Chili Peppers fans.
Overheard In The Crowd: "I wish I could dress as Flea for Halloween. Everybody else wouldn't, but I sure do."
Random Notebook Dump: I was shocked that we heard nothing from Mother's Milk, not even their spirited cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," which they teased in the encore but sadly never played.
Monarchy Of Roses
Around The World
Snow ((Hey Oh))
Throw Away Your Television
The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie
Me & My Friends
Under The Bridge
By The Way
Suck My Kiss (Encore)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Neil Young)(Encore)
Give It Away (Encore)
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