London rocks to LA’s most virile exponents of funk

What an exhausting experience it is to be a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. There you are, mere hours after finishing a long, hard day at work, getting comfortable in your allocated space within the dark and cavernous o2 and ready to enjoy an evening of muscular funk rock entertainment, when all of a sudden, a searing maelstrom of unrelenting energy appears on stage and for the next two hours will proceed to rage and burn, inviting you to do the same, which proves impossible to decline, and in turn makes you realise how pathetically unfit you are.

Given the combined age of LA’s foremost party starters, it’s all the more impressive (and daunting) to see Clash’s latest cover stars still so irrepressible and agile, so in love with what they do, which coalesces into one massive ball of irresistible energy.

At 37, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is the youngest member of the group (and newest, replacing John Frusciante in 2009), which may explain why his constant motion and possessed convulsions feel like the epicenter of this uncontainable force. Not to say that the others are any less intense - Chad Smith is an invincible fire-breathing monster behind those drums, a man absolutely driven by rhythm; Flea pumps his leg and contorts his body around his bass like it was a part of him - a notion not entirely implausible; Anthony Kiedis bounces lithely across the stage like a prized fighter defending his ring - but there’s just something so incredibly exhilarating about watching Josh become as excited by the music being played as we in the audience so clearly are.

It’s evident from the first seconds of them being on stage - the three musicians conspire on a propulsive jam while Anthony waits in the wings, and Josh is flailing his baggy trousers in gleefully wild abandon, like he can’t believe he’s playing with Chad and Flea.

Anthony’s appearance signals time to segue into songs proper. He swaggers on stage and grasps the microphone, awaiting his cue. In a nod to their location, he’s wearing a Du Blonde T-shirt - the latest guise of British singer-songwriter Beth Jeans Houghton, who is, incidentally, Anthony’s ex-girlfriend, and creator of the band’s latest video.

Then, it’s with one deep, resounding bass note that we’re introduced to their opening gambit - ‘Around The World’, the first track on 1999’s ‘Californication’ - of a set that pleased fans new and not-so-new by drawing from the last 25 years’ worth of material.

Tracks from the new album ‘The Getaway’ lost none of the record’s subtle dynamics in their execution - ‘Dark Necessities’ and ‘Goodbye Angels’ proved suitably deft, while ‘Go Robot’ required a second bassist to deliver the requisite level of funk, and ‘Sick Love’ was exactly the amount of sweet profundity it needed to be.

Other favourite cuts from ‘Californication’ and ‘By The Way’ buffered the night’s only low point (why anyone, when confronted with a robust discography going back 32 years, would choose the temperate tones of ‘Hey’ from 2006’s ‘Stadium Arcadium’ is beyond me), but there was a cool surprise in the shape of ‘Aeroplane’ - rarely performed since the tours for 1995’s ‘One Hot Minute’ album and the dissolution of that line-up, which featured ex-guitarist, Dave Navarro - whose playful, childlike chorus was just as uninhibited as ever.

The furthest they’d reach back would be to 1991, dipping into the classic ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ LP to play a hard-hitting ‘Suck My Kiss’, the beautifully tender ‘I Could Have Lied’ - which, personally, left me feeling rather disappointed by the crowd, who largely seemed either unexcited by this impulsive choice, or were perhaps unaware of the ballad - and climaxing the night with an explosive rendition of ‘Give It Away’.

Above us all hovered a grid of a thousand free-hanging lights, who - much like everyone else in attendance - moved and flowed in time with the music, creating a subtle yet spectacular visual accompaniment to the main attraction, impossible as they are to remove your gaze from.

Exhausting though they may be, the Chili Peppers exist on an extra-sensory level, where instinct prevails, and their true strength can be found in that cosmic, intangible spirit that propels them. Their songs are just the beginning of one particular adventure - each song’s ending extends into an improvised jam, becoming a fluid step that connects the unpredictable with the predetermined, keeping everything exciting and impulsive. And, really, aren’t life’s best adventures always like that?

Set list:
‘Around The World’
‘Snow (Hey Oh)’
‘Scar Tissue’
‘Dark Necessities’
‘Look Around’
‘Go Robot’
‘Parallel Universe’
‘Sick Love’
‘Goodbye Angels’
‘Suck My Kiss’
‘I Could Have Lied’
‘By The Way’
‘Dreams Of A Samurai’
‘Give It Away’

Words: Simon Harper
Photography: Paul Harries
Anthony Kiedis is the cover star of Clash Magazine Issue 102, which can be bought from our online store.



Follow Clash: