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Red Hot Chili Peppers' live show didn't disappoint, but the classics were deeply missed

For their first Aussie tour in over a decade, RHCP electrified the crowd with their energy.

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Dylan Martin

Thursday February 28 saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers return to Melbourne for their first headline tour Down Under since 2007. As you’d imagine, the anticipation for this show was enormous ever since it was announced, with presale tickets selling out in mere seconds and general sales doing much the same.

By 9.00pm, Rod Laver Arena was swarming with excited fans. It was a totally mixed crowd, from middle-aged mums and dads all the way to fresh-faced teens, with plenty of mullet-sporting bogans in between. Pretty much everyone was wearing newly purchased RHCP merch, displaying the iconic red asterisk like a badge of pride.

As people shuffled to find their seats, the sound of what seemed like an oboe rang out in the air, signalling activity on the stage. The house lights dimmed, illuminating the unguarded instruments in blue, as bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer took their positions.

Everyone went wild as the musicians picked up their weapons of choice, launching straight into an increasingly frenzied jam session. They played their way into the intro for ‘Can’t Stop’ and then Anthony Kiedis burst onto the scene, skipping over to the microphone with childlike enthusiasm.

By this point, the crowd were ecstatic, with the moshpit surging and writhing like a wave. This frantic energy only increased as the band broke into their second track, ‘Scar Tissue’, which definitely had a few people tearing up (or maybe just me). Flea and Klinghoffer both took advantage of the long instrumental solos in this one, playing their respective tools with sheer mastery. At times it felt like Kiedis was left wayside, as they stood forehead to forehead, battling it out on the bass and guitar.

They followed it up with ‘Dani California’, which the audience sang back with vigour. It was about this point that Kiedis whipped off his shirt, and really started to ramp up his performance.

 
 
 
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For a band with an 11-album discography, they did a pretty good job of compiling the setlist, although it was a tad disappointing that hits like ‘Under the Bridge’, ‘Suck My Kiss’ and ‘Breaking the Girl’ didn’t make the cut. They also skipped out on the early, real psychedelic funk of their Freaky Styley days, which is what they were so renowned for. However, they still delivered a mixed bag of tracks from records like The Getaway, One Hot Minute and Stadium Arcadium, as well as a few covers, like ‘Higher Ground’.

‘Hump De Bump’ was a manic scene to witness, with Flea picking up the trumpet while his bass was still slung over his shoulder, showing off his mad musical chops. Klinghoffer was up on the drummer’s platform, shredding it out while Smith thrashed his kit. Kiedis managed to have a bash of the cymbals too.

This sense of madness ensued for ‘Go Robot’, where another bassist in a Lakers jersey and a cowboy hat joined them onstage. He and Flea were doing some sort of synchronised two-step, while each other individual musician was lost in his own world, totally wrapped up in their own part of the track.

Flea, who is actually from Melbourne, seemed absolutely thrilled throughout the entire performance, stealing the show on multiple occasions. At one point he even paused to have a dig at Gladys Berejiklian and New South Wales’ live music laws. “Live music is the lifeblood of humanity,” he proclaimed, to which everyone cheered in agreement.

The California rockers smashed their way through a riotous rendition of ‘By the Way’, before saying their goodbyes and disappearing offstage. No one was fooled though, and it was clear that the old planned encore trick has lost its appeal.

Klinghoffer was first to return, playing a dark and moody cover of ‘Push the Sky Away’, before everyone rejoined him for ‘Dreams of a Samurai’. With so many songs left unplayed, everyone was waiting with anticipation to see what the final track would be. Smith’s drumming intensified, the entire arena seeming to quake with every beat of his worn-out drum kit, until bass and guitar kicked in, and the opening chords to ‘Give It Away’ rung out. All four members attacked the song with a final burst of frenetic energy, joined by their opening act, George Clinton, and an assortment of dancers. It was a true madhouse, finishing off their set with disorganised chaos in the most RHCP way.

There’s no denying that musically, the RHCP are still damn talented artists. Klinghoffer, Smith and Flea were relentless in their playing, captivating the crowd with each riff, lick and funk-fuelled bassline, while Kiedis’ signature vocals have been perfected over time. While they managed to pull off a playful, manic stage show with that who-gives-a-shit-attitude, I couldn’t help but wish I’d gotten to see them in their heyday.

Highlight: Flea’s bass playing. Legendary.

Lowlight: No ‘Suck My Kiss’ or ‘Under the Bridge’.

Crowd favourite: ‘Californication’.