After 36 years, the group is still, in a way, the ultimate underdog.
In the world of rock’n’roll, there are few poppies taller than the Hot red peppers.
They’re talented, successful, wealthy, and have a handsome frontman: there’s so much reason to hate the stalwarts of California alt-rock.
If you had asked me a few days ago, I probably would have added something about arrogance, distance and overt seriousness.
But, having seen the band play on their current Australian tour, I will concede that I would have been wrong. Because the Red Hot Chili Peppers aren’t trying to be a cool band. They never did. It is only by seeing them live that everything makes sense.
The band open their show with the first of a few impromptu jams, the kind of thing that would have gotten you beaten up in high school and avoided punk rock scenes around the world.
Chip bounces around the stage in his trademark pants, which look as ridiculous as they’ve ever looked. If you’ve seen someone dance like Anthony Kiedis in the wild, you would probably call the hospital. Brave, fun, a little silly? Yes. Cool? No.
The group has become one of the greatest in the world thanks in large part to their songs. You’d have to be terribly cold not to feel a shiver when the crowd loses its collective spirit at the intro to “Around The World” at the start of the show. Or feel nothing when everyone sings the chorus of ‘Dani California’. Or not recognizing the pop brilliance of ‘By The Way’.
But the group does not just play hits. Of the twenty or so songs they fit into their two-hour show, they find room for an excellent cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and a free-spirited rendition of “What Is Soul?” by Funkadelic.
Flea takes center stage for the silly and profane ‘Pea’, the only track released from 1995 A hot minuteand they play many album tracks while dropping some of their most monumental hits.
Sometimes it’s frustrating; we’d much rather hear an “Aeroplane” or “Breaking The Girl” than “Strip My Mind” or “Throw Away Your Television,” but you have to respect that the band isn’t here to flatter.
Maybe the fact that they broke through with heartfelt songs like ‘Under The Bridge’ and ‘Scar Tissue’ (neither of which are airing tonight) gave people like me the wrong impression of how this group approaches the music.
Because their show is the most oblivious celebration of not caring one would expect from a rock band their size.
Perhaps their least “cool” move? They try.
They work really, really hard up there.
The setlist for their first show in Brisbane bears little resemblance to their other shows on this tour. Night after night, the band churned out a whole new list of songs, guaranteeing energy and unpredictability to the live experience. You’d be surprised how rare it is.
They stand on their toes. They know superfans will be flocking to multiple shows on the tour. They are not resting on their laurels.
In fact, they don’t rest at all. Flea and Kiedis dance like crazy all night long. Chad Smith is absolutely perfect behind the kit, you can feel the drum nerds in the crowd salivating.
Even their choice of support tonight is indicative of their approach. It doesn’t make financial sense to bring a 17-piece funk band halfway around the world to back you up, especially when you’re having no trouble getting around on your own.
But the opportunity to share the stage with their heroes George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic remains invaluable. They’re not too cool to be fanboys.
The icing on the cake comes when Flea tells the crowd he’s going to take acid and go down to Kodak’s man-made beach on Brisbane’s south shore, before admitting he’s Actually go have a cup of tea and watch real detective.
Yes, I know they’ve sold over 80 million records.
Yeah, I know Anthony Kiedis’ rotting corpse will be sexier than me in my prime.
Yes, I know Flea and Chad Smith have more talent on the tip of their pubic hair than I could ever dream of possessing.
But that’s not the most endearing thing about the Chili Peppers tonight. What makes them refreshing is their utter refusal to bend to convention. Their apparent lack of desire to fit the mold that jealous people like me didn’t build for them.
They are always nerds, freaks, aliens; whatever you want to call them. And that’s why, despite hundreds of bands trying to replicate their style, there’s only one Chili Peppers.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are not a cool band. That’s the best thing about them.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers play the following shows. Tickets are on sale now.
Tuesday February 26 – Brisbane Entertainment Center
Thursday 28 February – Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Saturday March 2 – Mt Duneed Estate, Geelong
Sunday March 3 – Superloop Adelaide 500
Tuesday 5 March – NIB Stadium, Perth