The Red Hot Chili Peppers took a slightly different musical path to its May induction into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame than most of their fellow honorees. Yes, they have had a boatload of hits and sold tons of albums — precursors for Hall consideration — but they’ve done that with music that mixes more styles than most hit bands.
The RHCPs are all about rock … and funk … and hip-hop/rap (or at least what passes for hip-hop/rap for old white folks) … and punk … and metal. And they’ve always been about energy — frenzied energy — that is infectious and keeps its fans on their feet and into the music.
The 10,479 who attended the Peppers’ concert Thursday night at Verizon Arena were treated to a greatest-hits type show — it included almost all the big songs along with an up-tempo, thumping cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” and four of the best tracks from “I’m With You,” the album that debuted in August 2011 and the band’s first album in five years.
The record’s release spawned this epic, grueling tour that started Sept. 11, 2011, in Bogota, Colombia, and ends Feb. 5, 2013, in Cape Town, South Africa. It included only one extended break (three months) and made its way to six continents (all but Antarctica — unlucky penguins), including three European legs.
The Verizon concert was the 106th of 128 on the tour, which means the band was absolutely skin-tight. Practice makes perfect, which the Peppers proved in an 18-song, 105-minute set. RHCP may be the only band whose bass player is the undisputed leader. Flea (born Michael Peter Balzary) is the band’s musical and emotional spark plug, and nine days after turning 50 he was non-stop action — flitting to and fro across the stage, his trademark slap-bass style establishing the crucial bottom end to the band’s funk-filled hits.
Catalysts to the high-energy atmosphere were well-choreographed videos displayed on a number of smaller screens staggered at different depths relative to the front and back of the stage. Typically, they sometimes showed live concert footage, but many times cartoons and other images accentuated the songs’ themes.
And, oh the songs. After “Monarchy of Roses,” the first cut on “I’m With You” and the tour’s usual show-opener, the band moved through “Dani California” and “Scar Tissue.” Lead singer Anthony Kiedis, whose foot surgery postponed this show from March to October, showed off both his full-throated and more subdued styles, respectively, on these hits, two of the band’s three Billboard Top 10 singles.
The show never really lost momentum, but it picked up noticeable steam in the homestretch, a five-song closing set that kept the always-standing crowd at a fevered pitch: “Under the Bridge” (the third Top 10 hit), ” Factory of Faith” (one of the rockingest songs off the new album), “Higher Ground,” “Californication” and “By The Way,” another huge hit.
The three-song encore ended the way all RHCP shows do, with “Give It Away.” The band’s quintessential anthem, though not one of its biggest pop hits, revolves around its most famous line — “What I’ve got you’ve got to get it, put it in you” — and shows off almost all the musical themes that make up the Chili Peppers’ blended style.