The Sweet, Deafening Sound of Red Hot Chili Peppers
A review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on its “Unlimited Love” tour.
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It’s the middle of the work week, and people are flooding into Metlife Stadium for an incredibly energetic, dynamic, and exceptional show. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’s “Unlimited Love” tour follows the release of the band’s 12th album with the same name, in anticipation of its 13th coming out this fall. These albums aren’t the only reason behind the excitement for the band; legendary guitarist John Frusciante rejoined the band in late 2019, and to say that fans are happy would be an understatement.
The show began with two opening acts: Thundercat and The Strokes. Thundercat’s opener began earlier and in full daylight, prompting fewer people and visual effects. He did, however, have a massive cat head on stage, a unique touch to his set. Thundercat’s unique sound, which beautifully blends his feelings, emotions, and evocative musical techniques, was showcased in his more popular songs like “Them Changes” and “Dragonball Durag.” Following Thundercat, The Strokes’s set commanded a huge portion of the crowd out of the concourse and into their seats for an opening act filled with hits like “Reptilia” and “The Adults Are Talking.” While their set was impressive and the band was as stylish as ever, they were saddled with daylight and disinterest from the crowd in their anticipation for the main act. The band’s set lasted just under an hour and ended as the sun began to set.
Finally, nighttime came, and Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith—the bassist, guitarist, and drummer, respectively—came on stage for an impressive intro jam. Accompanied by a dynamic background of flashing lights that changed with every song, the music was matched by light ranging from cool-toned, flowy patterns to bright fiery colors. The opening instrumental was energetic, with a sound that combined well with the fast-paced rhythm of Flea’s bass and loud, powerful beat from Smith’s drum set. Similarly styled instrumentals were scattered throughout the show, and the looming prospect of another song created an exciting, suspenseful atmosphere. After the introduction, the band opened with “Can’t Stop,” off of their 2002 album “By The Way.” Singer Anthony Kiedis ran on stage and was met with an already pumped-up crowd that enthusiastically sang along and cheered all the way through.
Both sides of the stage were equipped with a screen projecting footage that frequently switched between members, making it clear that when the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform, you are not there to see any one member—you come to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Though we all wanted to watch the stage, our eyes were consistently drawn to the screens, where close-ups of each member were projected. Of course, their sound is impressive, but watching Flea feel the groove of the bassline, Frusciante’s hands skillfully move up and down the neck of his guitar, Smith bang on his drums with such coordination and fervor, and Kiedis embody the lyrics with his expressions was too tempting to resist. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are truly masters of their craft, and it can be clearly seen in the way they play live.
Despite the new release of “Unlimited Love,” the setlist consisted mostly of their earlier hits, with interludes of new songs. The new releases do have a slightly different sound, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers without the Californian influence: less mellow and more melancholy in some instances while rougher in others. Despite the shift, their new songs are still similarly stylized and definitely enjoyable. Even so, it was clear that the crowd favored the throwbacks—and the band knew it. The feeling of singing along with thousands of other people in the stadium was thrilling, and there was a shared excitement and joy within the crowd, fostered by the musical prowess of every member of the band.
Though all good things must come to an end, the Red Hot Chili Peppers ended with a bang. The last song in their set was the upbeat, funky, dynamic single “Give It Away” from their 1991 album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” which instantly changed the mood of the crowd following the more melancholy “Californication.” After the end of their set, the band came back for an encore with “Under the Bridge” (1991) and “By the Way” (2002), to which the entire crowd erupted into cheers and energetically sang along with.
Though the entire experience of this concert was more than noteworthy, one of the most notable moments came right at the end of the encore when a fan holding a sign saying “We love you John” was projected on the screen, producing the loudest noise from the crowd yet. The sign refers to the band’s guitarist, John Frusciante, who was recently welcomed back into the band for the second time following a ten-year break and solo-stint in which he released five records. Frusciante’s place in the band is complicated; he’s a legendary guitarist and excellent musician, but his stage presence isn’t as striking as the rest of the band. He doesn’t talk to the crowd, and his outfits aren’t as bold as the shirtless, skirt-wearing Flea or the neon mesh-clad Kiedis. Nevertheless, his instrumental skill makes up for that, and he is just as effortlessly cool as the rest of the band. Though he definitely differs from the group in many ways, he simultaneously blends in perfectly with their sound.
It’s an age-old question: was my favorite band as good live as on record? Well, it’s safe to say that the Red Hot Chili Peppers was, and might even be better. It was clear from the first moment that this is a band that gives a performance its all, and the crowd loved it, never losing that original burst of energy from the moment the band came on stage. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’s combination of excellent musical ability and over-the-top energy made for a truly unforgettable experience.