Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters perform solid show
Scene Music Critic
"Let's play ball," exclaimed Anthony Kiedis through the microphone as the Red Hot Chili Peppers took the stage and jumped into a furious "Around the World" during their show with the Foo Fighters, April 8, in Bloomington, Ind.
Play ball is exactly what they did as the Peppers ripped through their one hour and 20 minute set with the intensity of a team of ball players in a championship game. The band's performance was nothing less than flawless, despite the fact the band has not toured in four years and has been plagued by more problems than a decrepit 90-year-old man with erectile dysfunction. With each band member "clean" and with the return of former guitarist — the highly underrated John Frusciante — the band is truly back at the level many critics felt was the Pepper's peak during the Blood Sugar Sex Magik Tour in 1991. With Kiedis, Flea on bass and a recently buzzed and shaved Frusciante on guitar, they looked like shirtless warriors in the image of Michaelangelo's David, standing triumphant after thriving in battle against the pitfalls that nearly brought their 16-year career to an end.
From the time the Peppers took the stage through the final note of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire," the band emitted an electricity that filled the sold-out arena. Performing songs mainly off 1991's masterpiece "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" and last year's introspectively brilliant "Californication," the band played with a perfection that was amiss during the 1995-96 One Hot Minute Tour. Songs like "Soul to Squeeze," a cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Me and My Friends" illustrated the brilliance that the Peppers are very capable of achieving. The rust present during their set at Woodstock '99 had been removed, leaving only a polished sparkle on the band's performance. At least as much a polish as a band of goofballs can have.
While the band has matured a great deal, their maturity did not come out in their stage performance. In between songs, Flea and Kiedis bantered back and forth trying to one-up the other like grade-school children in an argument over whose mother is prettier. The Pepper's maturity was, however, evident in their song selection. While many of the popular radio-friendly songs were played, like "Give It Away," "Scar Tissue" and "Other Side," the band also brought out treasures like "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," "If You Have to Ask" and "Right On Time." Where many bands with as much material to work from as the Chili Peppers (they have seven albums) try to put together a greatest hits performance, the Peppers found a happy medium between greatest hits and hidden gems. They all but voided out anything from earlier albums and completely ignored 1995's "One Hot Minute," recorded with former Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. While "One Hot Minute" and older albums were solid albums, they lacked the cohesiveness and brilliance of albums recorded with Frusciante.
Frusciante's performance epitomized what makes him such a phenomenal guitar player. He played with funk; he played with punk; and he played with passion. While many great players try to mimic the crazed showmanship of Eddie Van Halen, Frusciante displayed a very disciplined style. His solo during "I Could Have Lied" was brutally gentle as he picked each note with the same care a poet picks his words, while he completely let loose on "Suck My Kiss," attacking his guitar like a starving lion attacking a piece of meat. Mirroring Frusciante's movements and intensity was Flea, thrashing about like an epileptic on riddalin and speed and occasionally dancing like a crack-head, while Kiedis whipped about in a pair of black shorts like a hyper-active elementary schoolboy. Through all of this insanity at the front of the stage, in the back was Chad Smith, laying down the rhythm on the drums. One of the most underrated members of the Peppers, Smith kept the beat perfectly and drew little attention to himself save for a brief — but brilliant — drum solo.
The Chili Peppers were not the only spot of brilliance throughout the performance as the Foo Fighters opened the evening with a highly energetic set of their signature pop rock. While many bands of the genre tend to be one-hit wonders, the Foo Fighters have been able to successfully blend talent with catchy hooks to keep them at the front in the post-grunge era. This blend showed through during their performance.
Dressed in tight black pants, black shirt and white tie with a Beatlesque mop of hair, singer/guitarist Dave Grohl led the band — rasping and screaming into the microphone — through a powerful set of favorites and material from their new album, "There Is Nothing Left to Lose." The band started things off with an explosive "Monkeywrench" with Grohl convulsing about looking like an adrenaline overloaded version of John Lennon. From there the band picked up speed and intensity, slowing down only once for Grohl to perform a solo version of "Big Me." While many of the Foo Fighters' songs share the same formula of a slow start escalating into loud, distortion laden choruses, it is a formula that works for the band. Songs like "Everlong," "For All the Cows" and "This Is a Call" were given a new intensity separating them from the album versions.
One of the things that makes the Foo Fighters such a refreshing band is their lack of rock star ego. To them, playing music isn't a job; it's a pleasure, and it comes out during their performance. While many bands today simply get up on stage and play their songs, the Foo Fighters performed them. During "Breakout," Grohl jumped down into the audience and ran a lap around the main floor with a Cheshire grin while several overweight and out of shape security guards trailed behind before he climbed back on stage to finish the song.
In a world where many of the bands seem to blend in with one another, the performances by the Foo Fighters and the Chili Peppers were a much-needed breath of fresh air.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, April 18, 2000