Wanna get away worse than a Southwest Airlines commercial? In a hyper-serious week of fear and mudslinging across America, a mindlessly funky show by the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- promoting, conveniently, 11th studio album The Getaway -- were just what the doctor ordered for a sold-out Target Center crowd Saturday night.
The country at large may be in an unpredictable period, but the band that makes clockwork of visiting town once a presidential term proved dependable as ever. Over 100 minutes and 18 songs, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers showed why they’re one of the most reliable tickets in the genre. They made a case for continued vitality with tracks from their latest LP, while taking fans down memory lane with rock-radio classics like “Scar Tissue,” “Californication,” and “Give It Away.”
After an opening jam by bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith (of St. Paul!) and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, singer Anthony Kiedis and his unfortunate mustache (clean-shaven and blonde in the late ‘90s was easily his best look) hopped up on stage with his left foot in a cast before directing the band into 2002’s “Can’t Stop.” Much too addicted to the shindig to let a bum appendage spoil the fun, the 54-year-old Kiedis and childhood friend/band co-founder Flea bounced around the stage with the punkish energy of musicians half their age all night.
Fellow No. 1 hit “Dani California” kept the mofos at the party uplifted. The entire arena cheered for the Land of 10,000 Lakes shoutout in that 2006 smash (“Never made it up to Minnesota / North Dakota man wasn’t gunnin’ for the quota” -- Kiedis needs to lend his celebrity name to a line of rhyming dictionaries) much more than for Klinghoffer's solo encore take on one of the best tunes by Minneapolis rock heroes the Replacements. His excellent rendition of “Answering Machine” was only met by scattered recognition and applause, suggesting that the iTunes libraries of those in attendance go from Red Hot Chili Peppers straight to the Rolling Stones, skipping over the ‘Mats entirely.
The 37-year-old Klinghoffer joined the band in 2009 after the most popular of its eight axemen over 34 years, John Frusciante, departed for the second time. While he provided inspired licks on songs recorded before his stint, he was visibly more excited to play on those he recorded with the band, bounding all over on new cuts like “Dark Necessities” and “Go Robot.” Smith didn’t have to worry much about that, considering only 1987’s “Me and My Friends” predated the timekeeper’s three-decade tenure.
An under-appreciated fact about Chili Peppers live shows is the variety of their setlists. Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam are rightfully recognized as the kings of this, but Kiedis & Co. are much more Boss than, say, Tom Petty when it comes to Hall of Famers.
The foursome’s previous three shows on their North American tour (Lincoln, Nebaska, St. Louis and Wichita, Kansas) featured a total of 21 songs not played Saturday (including solo covers of Blur’s “This is a Low” and the Stones’ “Sway” -- a man after my heart, indeed). The Minneapolis gig included two songs ("She’s Only 18” and “Me and My Friends") that recieved just their second airing this jaunt, and another (“Dreams of a Samurai”) that’s only been played three times.
Some may have left the Target Center disappointed having not heard “Under the Bridge” or “Around the World,” but I’ll roll the dice with a unique setlist that includes covers and deep cuts over a static one with nothing but Top 10 singles any day of the week.
See you in the Kanye regime, boys.
Critic's bias: I like to think of myself as a discerning Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, if that exists. It's just as much fun to blast "By the Way" as it is to make fun of any lyric on Stadium Arcadium with my friends, but there are at least a couple songs I enjoy from every new album they put out.
The crowd: Men, women, Trump supporters, Hillary supporters, kids who weren't yet born when Stadium Arcadium was released, adults who saw the band at First Avenue on the Freaky Styley tour, all united by one thing -- their RHCP logo T-shirt.
Random Notebook Dump: Just like at the Chili Peppers’ 2012 Target Center show, the entire floor was, unfortunately, seated. That’s not to say that anybody in that area sat down, but that orderly rows of folding chairs have no place at a concert by a band famous for performing live with nothing but socks on their dicks.
An audience that isn’t getting any younger, you say? Every Springsteen show I’ve ever attended has had a completely general-admission floor, so nice try. Save those seats for the Alan Jackson gig.
Check out more photos from the funky affair here.
She’s Only 18
Me and My Friends
Did I Let You Know
Dreams of a Samurai
Search and Destroy (Iggy & The Stooges)
The Longest Wave
Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)
By the Way
Answering Machine (The Replacements)
Give It Away