Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Red Hot Evening as the Chili Peppers Rock Rosemont -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Red Hot Chili Peppers
w/ Little Dragon
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
May 28, 2012

Lest there be any doubt that the Red Hot Chili Peppers' recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was well-deserved, last night at the Allstate Arena the SoCal foursome provided forceful, often ferocious, evidence in their favor (and their own unique flavor).

Though original members and childhood friends Anthony Kiedis and Flea are turning 50 this year and longtime drummer Chad Smith already has, joined by new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer the band sounded great in running through 20+ years of punk/funk chestnuts with an energy that would put many younger acts to shame.

While last year's I'm With You album failed to generate much buzz, certainly compared to megahits like 2000's Californication and their 1991 commercial breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik, I find it to be pretty strong with setlist-included cuts like "Monarchy of Roses," "Look Around" and "The Adventure of Rain Dance Maggie" demonstrating rather impressive latter-day songcraft. Of course, as befits their legacy, the RHCP also reached back for their 1989 cover of "Higher Ground" and three great ones off Blood Sugar..., "Under the Bridge," "Suck My Kiss" and "Give It Away."

I don't know too much of their real early stuff all that well, but I would have preferred that they reached back even further, for "Me and My Friends"--which they've been playing elsewhere on tour--or "Fight Like a Brave," perhaps instead of a few songs with which I was unfamiliar from 2006's Stadium Arcadium double set ("Charlie," "Strip My Mind," "Hey").

You can see the full setlist on Setlist.fm. Quite heavy on songs from the past decade, it was a pretty satisfying selection; I like that we got "Otherside," likely in lieu of "Scar Tissue," and other than another oldie or two, I really only missed hearing "Parallel Universe."

Like a lot of people I imagine, I've been a Chili Peppers fan primarily since Blood Sugar Sex Magik, although the band's origins date back to 1983. Still rueing that--while living in L.A.--I didn't see them in late '91 with Nirvana and Pearl Jam as their opening acts, I caught the Peppers live for the first time in 2000 (in Madison, WI, with Foo Fighters and a then-unknown Muse as openers).

I've seen them three other times since, and while I can't cite specifics--especially in regard to Klinghoffer's playing (which sounded strong to me) vs. John Frusciante's--I can't recall the Red Hot Chili Peppers being any better than they were last night. They were particularly stronger than when I saw them at Lollapalooza in 2006, when they came off as somewhat boring (my being all the way across a field surely didn't help). By the way, which they did play last night, RHCP will be performing at Lollapalooza again this year, headlining on Saturday, August 4.

Hopefully by then--although I doubt I'll attend--Kiedis will work out with the roadies whatever technical issues (seemingly regarding his ear monitors) kept him agitated, and resultingly a bit disinterested, all night. He sounded fine when he sang, but though Flea is the one who more frequently interacts with the crowd, Kiedis seemed particularly detached from any kind of audience engagement.

I won't hold his bad haircut or mustache against him, nor that unlike Flea he's not quite the Tasmanian devil he once was onstage. But I suspect that whatever was irking him may have contributed to some minor pacing problems, as well as Chicago getting a couple fewer songs than played at most other tour stops.

Yet while this kept the show from quite being a full @@@@@ performance, it's a relatively minor quibble. Halfway through, the performance was perfect, and it remained powerful throughout even if it felt a trifle disjointed at times. And the soldout crowd--which was louder than any I readily recall--seem to love it, singing along with almost every lyric.

A band called Little Dragon, hailing from Sweden, opened the show. I don't anticipate them becoming as big as some of the Peppers' past openers--my friend Dave, who attended last night, had seen Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins with RHCP at the Aragon in '91--but they did their job sufficiently for about 45 minutes. Dave, and another friend, Paolo, who both loved the Peppers, pegged Little Dragon as being reminiscent of Bjork and various '90s electronica acts.

Nearly 30 years along in a career that has seen its share of turbulence--including the overdose death of founding member Hillel Slovak and Kiedis' own substance issues--the Red Hot Chili Peppers are deserving of being called legendary, but as proven last night, they're still very much of their time.

Smith was impressively thunderous on the drums all night and force-of-nature Flea remains a human pogo stick. Long a sports fanatic, he cited both the Cubs and White Sox and expressed sympathy for Derrick Rose's injury. And toward the end of the show, as shown above, he traipsed the stage while walking on his hands. Not to mention how his funky bass playing powered a tremendously enjoyable show as the Chili Peppers lived up to their compound adjective.

Here's a clip of "Otherside" I found on YouTube. Especially at the distance it was shot, you'd be hard pressed to tell that this isn't a band 20 years younger.

No comments: