RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS with the MARS VOLTA at the Air Canada Centre, September 25. Tickets: $43.75-$73.75. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have come a long way since their nudity-filled days of drugs, debauchery and speed-funk.
Over a 20-year career spanning three generations, from the psycho-sexual punk funk of the 80s and their 90s Give It Away breakthrough to their most recent forward-thinking Cali-obsessed pop, what's kept the Chilis in the rock game was displayed in full force Monday at a sold-out ACC : amazing band chemistry.
Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta might have it, but you couldn't judge by this show, because lead singer Bixler-Zavala never showed up. Volta fans got screwed, with no warning about or explanation for his absence.
They did get a jammy 45-minute guitar duel between Rodriguez-Lopez and Chili Pepper John Frusciante , which might have been amazing in a club, given Frusciante's prowess. This was an unequivocal disaster sound-wise, and a hard lesson for Rodriguez-Lopez that he's definitely no Santana.
The house lights dimmed, cueing a deafening roar from the crowd, and drummer Chad Smith began laying down a rock-steady beat to herald the arrival of Flea and Frusciante. Wearing a flowery, skin-tight body suit, Flea got right to work pelvic-thrusting his way to a groove, while the always dressed-down, whirling-haired Frusciante joined in the intro.
Then singer/shampoo ad candidate Anthony Kiedis came pouncing out like a pre-fight pugilist, and the stadium went ape as they tore into Can't Stop to set the night off.
Leaning heavily on Stadium Arcadium and the last two records, the funk-rock foursome knocked off radio hits Dani California and Scar Tissue before broadsiding the audience with the title track from Blood Sugar Sex Magik. They dipped only once into their 80s catalogue, which was probably for the best considering the young audience seemed mostly confused by the speedy slap-bass punk-funk of Nobody Weird Like Me from 1989's Mother's Milk.
There's a reason Frusciante and Flea are on the cover of Guitar Player magazine every month. For all their macho chicanery, these guys, along with Smith, have become truly masterful musicians in the way they intuitively interact musically and fill up huge spaces with just three instruments, creating a spartan dynamic.
It's something U2 perfected, which may be why, during the encore, Frusciante came out blazing the Sunday Bloody Sunday riff. He and Smith nailed a few stanzas along with a chopped Nirvana cover before bringing everything to halt with the opening chords to Under The Bridge.
It was nice to see good old-fashioned fire as the luminescence of choice. Sometimes cellphone neon just doesn't cut it.