Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers celebrate L.A. at Staples Center
“Hello L.A., my beautiful home, my beautiful home!”
The words were heartfelt and unsurprising from Flea (nee Michael Balzary), spoken Sunday with intense passion by the acclaimed bassist at the second of two sold-out nights at Staples Center with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It is all part of the band’s life mission, which was never just musical, but also remains an endless celebration of the city and punk-rock scene that birthed them in the early 1980s.
FOR THE RECORD:
Red Hot Chili Peppers: In the Aug. 14 Calendar section, a review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ concert at Staples Center said that the band performed “My Friends.” The song was “Me and My Friends.” Additionally, the article said that the opening act on both nights of the Staples shows last weekend was Off! Thundercat opened on Saturday; Off! opened on Sunday.
The Chili Peppers catalog includes many lyrics and song titles about “Hollywood,” “L.A.” and “California,” and the same message was there onstage, down to the Lakers banner draped across Flea’s amplifiers and their opening act, Off! — homegrown punks chosen specially for the two Staples shows.
Fittingly, “By the Way” was delivered as an ode to the band’s earliest days on the Hollywood scene, as old fliers flashed on the big screens behind them, and singer Anthony Kiedis sang, “Standing in line to see the show …"
The two-hour set began with a hard, galloping beat from drummer Chad Smith and screeching guitar noises from newest member Josh Klinghoffer, as Kiedis bounced to the stage in black tails over a white T-shirt. The quartet dove into “Monarchy of Roses” with a sound dense and forceful.
There was clanging punk-funk and slippery bass grooves on “Suck My Kiss” and other distinctive hits, but many of the best moments came when the band dove deepest into an instrumental jam. As an improvisational rock unit, the Chili Peppers are operating at a higher level than they were even a decade ago, and that special prowess comes most to life onstage.
“Throw Away Your Television” began with an epic bass interlude and spontaneous scat singing from Flea, with Smith on thundering drumbeats and the flailing guitar of Klinghoffer. Kiedis was in great and biting form on “Californication.”
Flea dedicated the early anthem “My Friends” to his local comrades, his loved ones, everyone in the room, the city’s homeless and even his tormentors in high school (back when being a teenage punk was a revolutionary, sometimes dangerous choice). “I don’t have an enemy in this world,” he declared finally.
Now deep into their 40s, Flea and Kiedis remain excited and energetic performers, still able to live up to the band’s name. As Kiedis wailed and purred behind the microphone, his bandmates often hurled themselves around the stage.
The Chili Peppers owe much of their rebirth and long second act to guitarist John Frusciante, who joined after the 1988 death of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak, bringing a different flavor and instrumental finesse to the band’s punk-funk foundation. His final exit from the band a few years ago might have crippled them both as composers and performers, but Klinghoffer has filled the slot with genuine fire and inspiration, beginning with last year’s “I’m With You” album.
There were many wild guitar wind outs, weaving in and out of Flea’s intricate bass runs, colliding and interacting into an explosive flow. He ignited the prickly funk guitar of “Can’t Stop,” and sat calmly on the floor to pluck the evocative opening to “Under the Bridge,” as thousands of fans sang every word with Kiedis, with extra cheering at the lyric about “the City of Angels.”
For the encore, the Peppers invited former drummers Jack Irons and Cliff Martinez onstage to help pound through the signature song “Give It Away,” as Kiedis announced, “We wouldn’t be here without both of these guys.”
At the end, Flea gave a long goodbye sermon. “Support live music,” he implored. “It is the voice of the people, it is the voice of God!”
The city and scene that RHCP came out of is well represented by Off!, a four-piece band playing hard rock inspired by first-wave SoCal punk. Fronted by singer Keith Morris, longtime frontman for the Circle Jerks and a founding member of Black Flag, the band’s punk rock bona fides are unquestionable, but Off! is no nostalgic retread of past glories.
During the Chili Peppers set, Kiedis paused to tell the room, “The next time there is an Off! show at your local watering hole, all 11,000 of you in this room should show up … I need a solemn vow.”
Off! is a band at all times stripped down to the punk-rock essentials, each of them dressed in T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, raging on guitar, bass and drums. The foursome — also including guitarist Dimitri Coats, bassist Steven McDonald and drummer Mario Rubalcaba — erupted immediately with “Panic Attack,” as band members raged and hopped and banged their heads.
Bearded in ripped jeans and with long dreadlocks down his back, Morris barked with rage, humor and charisma, slapping his forehead or leering at the crowd. Songs were barely a minute in length, drawn from the band’s two collections, including its album “Off!”
There were no covers from their former bands. No Circle Jerks or Black Flag favorites, just new tunes to set the stage on fire.
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