34 years, 44 singles, and 11 studio albums later– The Red Hot Chili Peppers are still a dominating force in music as evident in their sold out dates and fervent fans who travel the world for a glimpse of their magic. This supernatural power has transcended generations of music lovers worldwide. On February 18th, Madison Square Garden was filled to the brim with thousands of people. Individuals all eager for music, eager for a getaway, eager for the Red Hot Chili Peppers but it wasn’t just filled with people. The garden was filled with excitement, cheer, nostalgia and energy which morphed into its own lifeform.
In support of their 11th studio album, The Getaway, the Chili Peppers embarked on a massive world tour supported by the likes of cult favorites Babymetal, IRONTOM, Deerhoof, and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. With 75 dates on the North American tour, the Peppers are surprisingly limber for their packed schedules, and their performance was nothing short of intoxicating and well because I have too– Freaky Styley.
Original drummer Jack Irons took the stage first, delving into an interesting experimental set of psychedelic beats set over his incredibly technical drumming. The cinematic accompaniment on-screen was the most interesting, with various photos and videos morphing into one another and changing color along with synchronized lights shining into the crowd.
Trombone Shorty took the stage afterward and began with the impressive instrumental track “Slippery Lips”. What followed was a barrage of infectious jazz tunes backed by a specially gifted band. Despite being the name and face of the group, Trombone Shorty, relies heavily on his bandmates which made for a beautiful positive atmosphere. I looked around and everyone was looking at me looking around at everyone dancing while I tried to contain from adjusting to the beat. The crowd erupted in applause as the band transitioned into instrumental covers of Green Day’s 1995 hit “Brainstew/Jaded” and Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade”. Their departure triggered a standing ovation from the audience which proved it was a fine choice made by the Red Hot Chili Peppers to have the 31 year old open up for them.
As the minutes passed, the buzz amongst the crowd became deafening until Chad Smith arrived on stage, followed by Flea and Josh Klinghoffer. The trio erupted into an intense jam session. My feet began to lift from the ground and the world around me went away. What are problems? What is anything? I am being transported to another universe or a decade ago. Flea and Josh’s onstage chemistry is reminiscent of John Frusciante’s time in the band. Anthony Kiedis soon followed, and Flea slowly built the band up to their 2002 hit “Can’t Stop” and that’s when I knew and we all knew we had landed to where they were taking us.
At 54, Kiedis sounded better than ever and was armed with the energy of a cheetah. His voice sounded rich accompanied by his bandmates, whose energy also illuminated the stage. Video footage of the band flashed on-screen in time with the music, and a digital chandelier overlooked the floor with colors flashing. During Californication it turned into a bright orange and blue, reminiscent of their hit 1999 album of the same name.\
The 17 song set clocked in at almost 2 hours long, provided very little deviation from the previous 2 nights at The Garden, except for the rarely played Don’t Forget Me from their 2003 album By the Way. There were also no songs played from their previous release I’m With You. Of Course it was filled with hits such as “Dani California”, “Under the Bridge”, and “Scar Tissue”. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer surprised the crowd with a gorgeous rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy In New York” as an ode to the bustling city before moving into The Getaway’s “Goodbye Angels”.
The band closed out the only way they knew how with an energetic five minute performance of their iconic 90s hit “Give It Away”. The band exited the stage one by one, with drummer Chad Smith lingering behind to express his gratitude for being able to sell out one of the largest venues in the country. The venue pulsated with love and life as the lights came on and the seats went up.
Despite what some may say, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still able to retain the magic and energy that have captivated audiences for over three decades. They aren’t even halfway done with their tour but this performance proved they have a lot left to say and do… but most of all…. They’ve barely begun.
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