How do ya like that ? I was so busy talking about George Clinton that I nearly forgot to mention that I went to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers the following night… duuuuuuuuuuuuh…
It's a weird experience – going to a gig for a band you've been a fan of for 15 years, and yet having been told by almost everyone you know who can walk upright that the band particularly suck to see play live. I rationalised that even if that were the case, it would be my first visit to the place known as Earl's Court. Though it has a reputation of being the area of London with the highest concentration of Australians, I can honestly say I've never met one who lived there, and in fact the only ones I know of were Barry Humphries, Clive James and Bruce Beresford – and I can't profess to know any of them particularly well either. Irrespective of its antipodean ties however, the chief attraction to me was that Earl's Court was the site of Pink Floyd's “Pulse” tour back in 1995.
Fortuitously, the gig didn't suck either !
Earls Court is a bit of an aircraft hangar of a venue, and somehow I'd managed to get almost the very back row (despite having booked months in advance – Shaun the smug bastard booked the week before and got a seat 2/3 of the way up the venue !!). It was a bit like Live8, in that you could just vaguely make out figures on the stage, although the video projection system made up for it, and you could certainly hear ok. Chad & Flea took stage first, followed by John F, and then with diva-like timing, Kiedis arrived. Not sure what that was all about, really. And given that I'm writing this up a few weeks after the gig, I can't remember the bloody set list either.
There was a good mix of old & new stuff (from the new albummy-walbummy, Stadium Arcadium). Try as I might to get into the new album, there's just nothing on it that really grabs me – it all feels like “playing safe”. It was readily apparent at the gig that Blood Sugar Sex Magick is still their best album to date, and their set reflected this by peoples reactions, and the fact that 2 of the 3 encore songs were from it.
What really impressed me: Flea's bass playing. That man's a machine. From the second he stepped out on stage he was intense and going for it. Every time he flashed up on the video screen you could see his fingers were going 19 to the dozen, and he kept it up for the entire gig. At one point Kiedis started jumping up and down whilst singing, and Flea slotted in next to him matching the jumping, and didn't skip a single beat.
I had a brief moment of comedic recognition when the lights all went down, and in the shoulder-packed throng in the downstairs standing area you could see all these twinkling lights. In days gone by they would be little yellow Bic & Zippo flames, but not now – it was the ambient glow of hundreds of LCD screens as people held their phones aloft to capture the moment for posterity.
The set list included Scar Tissue, Californication, Around The World, Parallel Universe, Zephyr Song, Otherside, as well as all the new stuff. They had a guest appearance from Patti Smith, who I found particularly underwhelming – but then I had pretty much no idea who she was. At one point Frusciante took control of proceedings and led the crowd off in a few bars of the 1962 tune, Duke of Earl.
Once the lights were up it became a mad scramble & crush for the tube station as the hefty venue disgorged its contents out onto the unsuspecting pavement & roadway (much to the chagrin of motorists who'd elected to take Warwick Road).
So a pretty good gig, all up – certainly better than what I was anticipating, although next time I might be a bit more judicious about which seat I get… assuming their next album's better than this one.