Thursday, 22 November 2012
Red Hot Chili Peppers in Edmonton... or, a Frusciante too few.
People are going to start disbelieving my claim that the DH and I are homebodies. We went out last night for our second concert in less than a month, and took in the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Rexall Place.
And I have lots of things to say about it. And all of those things I have to preface with the fact that I saw RHCP when they came through in 2003 (I think it was '03) on the By The Way tour. I was, and still am, an absolutely monstrously huge fan of the group. But I have to admit all forthcoming statements, judgements, and general finickiness finds its roots in this first show. The '03 show was the first major act rock concert I ever went to. I was almost ten years younger than I am now (obviously), and full of very young person enthusiasm and found the whole concert experience left me overwhelmed, ecstatic and euphoric.
So ten years later I've been to lots of shows, seen lots of great acts, and the Peppers have gotten ten years older. And it's a big ten years. What remains to me as completely astounding about the '03 show was that they played for nearly THREE HOURS. This time the show was a more standard length, and the energy level, while still very high, was noticeably lower than the unadulterated hyperactivity that was present the first time I saw them.
But I'm doing exactly what I didn't want to do with this review, which is compare it strictly against the last time I saw them. So I'm going to stop doing that now and just try to judge it as is.
The biggest issue with this concert was the massive John Frusciante-shaped hole on stage. I've got no particular qualms with Josh Klinghoffer, but he is no Frusciante and he never will be. The nondescript guitar solos and Klinghoffer's downright painful imitation of Frusciante's amazing falsetto vocals made me want to cry. Particularly Klinghoffer's backup vocals on Can't Stop and his guitar work on Californication, both were a poor shade of what Frusciante brings to the table. And it made me pissed off that Frusciante is so mind-blowingly talented while being an obvious fickle bastard at the same time. Unfortunately, unlike the last two times he "quit the band", this time I don't think he will be back. RHCP are one of those bands that are not merely defined by their vocalist, it is really a team of talent that pulls it off. One of those big talents is gone, and we are just going to have to get used to how the band sounds without him.
Moving on. Anthony Kiedis. There were no worries about lip-synched songs at this concert as Kiedis regularly seemed to forget the order of the lyrics to his own songs. This has been a comment I've noticed in a good number of reviews from RHCP shows at other venues. Not sure if it's on purpose or not. At any rate, I found it distracting. Kiedis seemed relatively low-energy compared to the usual "squirrel on PCP" dancing and general performance of the Chili Peppers. Mind you, the guy IS FIFTY YEARS OLD and has been rocking for thirty years, so I think we can cut him some slack.
On the other hand, one would never believe that self-taught bass, trumpet and piano virtuoso Flea (who appears not to own any shirts) is also fifty years old. His royal rock god highness treated the crowd to his usual hijinks as well as an amazing walking handstand around the stage. I honestly could not believe that he is 50. Flea seems to be one of the only band members (I won't shit on Chad Smith, the guy is hard to read sitting back there on his drums) who really, legitimately LOVES what he does. Frusciante left, and Kiedis appears to be tired and just going through the motions. But Flea is in love with performing, and for that his craft and the audience both love him back.
Overall, I have to say it was a good experience, but I also have to say that I will be surprised to see the Chili Peppers come through again. Without Frusciante's trademark sound and with Kiedis slowing down I think that this might have been the last time I had the privilege to see the band live. It was great to hear a mix of the old and new music, and to be in the crowd with the (very) old and new fans of the band. While they may not be the same band they once were, the Chili Peppers have been rocking for nearly thirty years, may they continue to blow our minds and rock our socks. Amen.
*Sidenote rant: Rexall is an absolutely shitty excuse for a concert venue. The seats and sightlines are awful. The sooner the new arena gets built, the better. Step to it, city council.