Driving to Sheffield = always a nightmare. Even though the arena is only just off the motorway I still end up in 'Meadowhell' car park and a then a petrol station, followed by an industrial estate, scratching my head at how I can be lost when the destination I seek is little under a half a mile away. My lack of believing in a sat nav and the huge queue to park at the arena means I miss the start of Fool's Gold, described by my friend in attendance as "happy clappy".
They certainly have a fun sound, with the occasional vocals, encasing African beats into a pop framework. Horns, wooden blocks, swaying stuff. Some may say they have a little Vampire Weekend about them, but this group from Los Angeles have more fun with it. And the crowd down the front appear to be having fun too.
The blue lighting for Fool's Gold does nothing to prepare you for the blinding lighting show that the Chili's have planned for Sheffield. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers enter the stage surrounded by a dim green light to new song 'Monarchy of Roses', the first track from new album 'I'm With You'. No messing though as it's straight onto 'Dani California' (a track I like as you can guess) and then the lighting hits. Huge back screens are complimented by drop down shutter like screens that spin and hide further 'UFO' style lighting rigs. Add to that Chad Smith's impressive clear drum kit and even those at the back of the arena at the highest point can see everything as though it was daylight!
Now I'll be honest. I came to this show ready to write the band off. Having seen them at V in 2003 and again at Leeds Festival in 2007 I wasn't overly impressed. And I am a fan of their music. The singing, although I know they were never real singers, was out of tune, the words were forgotten, and the latter show had just too many mistakes for me. I left the former show early, it was that bad. Although I have always loved Flea and his bouncing bass playing. So tonight was make or break for me and the Chilis, if an expensive teat, at £62 a ticket! But what can I say after this show; the bastards have got me hooked again!
Obviously benefiting from the injection of young blood in the form of new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (apart from the noticeable gap of Frusciante's high backing vocals on 'Under The Bridge') the guys seem carefree again, and a hell of a lot better live in my opinion. And their set is amazing I went figuring it would be an 'I'm With You' heavy set as that is what they are touring, and was surprised to hear many tracks from my favourite album 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik', plus a couple of right oldies! Which is good for me because I really don't like the new album; since when did they start to sound like the Black Eyed Peas? This was a hit heavy set and the show was all the more better for it. I shall now call them (for my own benefit) Red-eemed Hot Chili Peppers.
There are the odd jokes between songs, but I cannot make them out unfortunately. Flea urges us all to "be nice to people, because it is nice'. Good, straight up advice. His bouncing about and playing has not calmed down as he approaches 50 years, like a funkier Angus Young. Chad Smith pounds that clear kit amazingly but I keep expecting something funny to happen because he reminds me of Will Farrell! Klingoffer, who has 20 extra years of youth compared to the rest of the band does his fair share of headbanging, contributing to backing vocals and looks a lot like the guy he replaced, the much missed up to this point John Frusciante. Kiedis, still sporting that X-rated moustache, has really improved his game, his vocals are strong and every word punches you in the gut. This is the band I have missed live before, and tonight they blow my socks off! Talking of socks, they like their socks like they like their tunes... funky!
To the songs, as mentioned before this is a real selection from across the board with something here for everyone. The early sounds of 'Breaking the Girl' are immense, and 'Under The Bridge' brings the roof down with the whole arena singing along. There are a couple of welcome covers, 'Fascist Groove Thang' by Heaven 17 and their excellent cover of Stevie Wonder's 'Higher Ground' from early album 'Mother's Milk'. Going even further back in their discography is the fast and punky 'Me And My Friends' from 'The Uplift Mofo Party Plan'. The first albums ('The Red Hot Chili Peppers' (1984) and 'Freaky Styley' (1985)) are left out, but that would really be pushing the boat out!
Of course the more mainstream albums, 'Californication', 'By The Way' and 'Stadium Arcadium' are well represented. My only gripe is that there is nothing from 'One Hot Minute', my guilty pleasure of Aeroplane' or 'My Friends' would have made my night! 'Californication' and 'By The Way' are huge sing a long tracks before the encore, as is 'Can't Stop' earlier in the night. The backing lighting and audio visuals throughout the set are mesmerising, especially the matrix style scrolling lettering flashing up what's wrong with Hollywood's way of life throughout 'Californication'.
Chad Smith and a guy called Mauro start the encore with a jam on drums and bongos before 'The Power Of Equality' riff rips out of it. Slower track 'Hard to Concentrate' gives them a break before slamming straight into ultimate RHCP funk song 'Give it Away'. Kiedis then leaves the stage to let the other jam to the end of the show.
Really, I can no way sign this band off now. They have improved their live show 100% in my opinion, the ticket price was a little steep but I guess they needed to pay the national grid extra fees to allow for all this lighting! Playing hits keeps the fans there, but playing them well like they have tonight and having fun with it puts the Chili's back at the top of their game. And after all the fights, addictions and sad deaths, this band look and sound stronger than a band half their age who live a life like the Jonas Brothers. Nevermind give it away, they have just give it back to this old fan.
Monarchy of Roses
Throw Away Your Television
The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Breaking The Girl
Me & My Friends
Fascist Groove Thang
Under the Bridge
By the Way
The Power Of Equality
Hard to Concentrate
Give It Away