At Rogers Arena on Saturday, November 17
The years have been kind to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Despite the fact that the band’s three longest-running members are now in their 50s, they appear to be as athletic and youthful as ever, spending practically every moment of their two-hour Saturday set at Rogers Arena jumping, headbanging, and dancing like maniacs.
It was astounding that they didn’t injure themselves, and that they managed to do all this without missing a note was nothing less than a miracle of nature. Not bad for a bunch of middle-aged dads with (in the case of singer Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea) well-documented histories of drug abuse.
The energy was explosive from the get-go, as the Peppers began with a hard-hitting instrumental jam that segued into “Monarchy of Roses.” Mustachioed frontman Kiedis and Flea were curiously dressed in matching black pants with one leg cut off at the knee, and they bounced around the stage as if performing an improvised aerobic routine.
This opening number proved to be one of only a few cuts from last year’s underperforming I’m With You, and the group soon dipped into its back catalogue for “Around the World,” the bass intro of which inspired Flea to quite literally hump his amp stack. Behind the musicians, a massive wall of screens displayed an array of animations, natural images, and live footage.
The Chili Peppers were joined on-stage by auxiliary percussionist Mauro Refosco and keyboardist Chris Warren, although neither guest did much to improve the songs—the former because his contributions were too intrusive, and the latter because he was largely inaudible. Still, Refosco added a little extra muscle to the night’s many improvised jams, which filled the between-song breaks in lieu of any memorable banter.
The rambling instrumental passages proved the players’ virtuosic talent, but the true highlights were the sun-soaked choruses of the Peppers’ best-known radio hits. The enthusiastic audience remained standing throughout the night, and they sang along dutifully to “Snow ((Hey Oh))”, waved their lighters during the mega-ballad “Under the Bridge”, and completely lost their shit for the funky guitar licks of “Can’t Stop”.
A particular standout was the recent single “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie,” which held up admirably against past classics. On the other hand, even a trumpet cameo by a member of the opening act Rebirth Brass Band couldn’t give I’m With You’s “Did I Let You Know” much of a distinctive character.
This was the outfit’s first Vancouver appearance since the departure of long-time guitarist John Frusciante, and even though replacement Josh Klinghoffer lacks his predecessor’s stage presence and vocal chops, the newbie impressed with a series of scorching solos during “Scar Tissue”. He was peculiarly garbed in a plaid shirt and a gaudily mismatched pair of track pants, and this oddball outfit made him look right at home next to his bandmates, despite his being almost two decades younger.
During the encore, Klinghoffer showed off his talent behind the kit, as he and Refosco played a percussive jam while drummer Chad Smith, dressed entirely in red, swung wildly from a low-hanging bank of lights above his riser. Soon after that, it was Flea’s turn to impress, as he walked the length of the stage on his hands.
Following the sexed-up “Suck My Kiss” and the contemplative “Soul to Squeeze,” the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrapped up the night with “Give It Away,” which prompted Flea to climb on top of his amps before descending and leaping repeatedly in union with Kiedis. During this final song, the vocalist rapped, “Dancing down on life with agility.” More than 20 years since he wrote those words, they could scarcely be more appropriate.