Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapalooza 2012 | Photos and music review
My business card no longer says "Music editor," so I can confess something: I like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I grew up on Uplift Mofo Party Plan, Mother's Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magic. I once left the latter CD in the stereo of my parents' minivan, right on "Sir Psycho Sexy." I had some explaining to do the next day. As you might remember, these surf hippies want to party on your pussy.
But these days, nearing their 30th anniversary and on their umpteenth (eighth?) guitarist, the RHCP walk up the ramp to the stage holding the hands of their children and wives. Anthony Keidis and crew are dads and husbands, and a small industry. They've grown old. Well, not entirely.
Flea did not wear a shirt and did all the talking. "I love you motherfuckers. Peace and love will prevail. Be kind, be gentle, be nice. Fuck shit up. Fuck the one percent," the bassist said. "You are the one percent!" someone next to me shouted. Later, the string-slapper noted, "I'm smelling a lot of smelly butt cracks." He didn't do that when I saw him with Thom Yorke.
I think this band sees acting juvenile as a sort of zen philosophy. The Californians, despite their massive popularity, strive to put themselves into a position of being a sloppy, bratty band playing the bottom of some empty skate pool in the valley. When ace guitarist John Frusciante left the band, I think it somehow excited them. Why? Because Flea, Chad Smith and new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer spend way too much time slipping into little doodle jams between every song. There's a weird lull before "Look Around," and Flea kills time buy thumbing the fuck out of his bass like no one else can. He's showing off. It kills time. He's the star. Why not. But as the time-killing improvisations start to stack up, it's starts to feel as if they can't wait to get "Under the Bridge" over with so they can go write some Meters-go-Pink-Floyd opus. Without Keidis, that is.
Keidis is a bit of a mess. He comes in early on the second verse of "Otherside." Later, I think he fudges some lyrics. His voice isn't off (compared to the records, that is). He comes off as being detached from it all. Someone asks what happened to the singer. I suggest they read Scar Tissue.
Klinghoffer is a fascinating guitarist (who has played this same stage before as a member of Gnarls Barkley), but I'm not sure he's right for this band. He plays on top of the songs, rather than inside them. He slathers his androgynous harmonies over "Snow (Hey Oh)." He scuzzes up "Otherside" with fuzzy feedback. He can handle the chicken-shack funk stuff of "If You Have to Ask" (one of their best moments), but otherwise he is engaged in a futile struggle to pull these sparse (the RHCP's music is surprisingly sparse for an arena rock act) rump-shakers into art-rock territory.
It doesn't help that the set list contains "Throw Away Your Television," the worst song on one of their most underrated albums. And not one single person is thinking, "Tell me more about this Tugboat Shiela."
"Suck My Kiss" is welcome, though. In fact, the Blood Sugar material still towers above the other tunes. How about we let Keidis go do yoga in Big Sur or whatever, give Chickenfoot its drummer back and let Klinghoffer join Flea in Atoms for Peace.