Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Red Hot Chili Peppers - Ageless Funk Unit Remain Gloriously Outlandish - Manchester Arena, Manchester, 14.12.16

“I was just about to play the wrong song,” announces Michael Balzary, or Flea as he is better known, to raucous laughter. “The one thing you do if you’ve been in the Red Hot Chili Peppers for thirty-five years is consistently embarrass yourself,” he adds as singer Anthony Kiedis chuckles at him. “You get used to it.” Behind them, large screens depict band members being decapitated in cartoon form as well as fetishized imagery of female buttocks. It’s shamelessly juvenile and gloriously outlandish, snuff in technicolour that aims to titillate, rudely and crudely.
Red Hot Chili Peppers performing live in Birmingham
in 2016. (Credit to Andy Shaw.)
The ageless LA funk unit, mercifully bereft of cock-socks, are not known for their deeper insights. Indeed, their odes to sex and drugs border on the fantastically dumb on occasions – but their absurdity and audacity has always worked thanks to an urgent high-spiritedness and their superb musical credentials. Their first stop of two in Manchester on their UK tour is in support of eleventh album The Getaway; and after a summer of festivals, it gives them a chance to dig deep and showcase their skills.

Flea, hair dyed cornflower yellow, is the cornerstone of RHCP’s sound, a genuine bass virtuoso. Dressed like a Jackson Pollock painting viewed on acid, he gurns and slaps hard through muscular versions of Around the World and The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie. When matched with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith, the three are thrilling, from the feedback-drenched finale of Don’t Forget Me to the thrilling punk racket of Nobody Weird Like Me, on which support act Babymetal make a fleeting cameo. “Who were those mystical Japanese girls who came up here flying out of control?” the bassist quips with a manic smile, clearly having a ball.

He’s matched in the crowd-pleasing stakes by singer Kiedis, clad in biker shorts, snapback and porno-tache, whose way with a lyric is amusingly filthy. When describing a sexual act on the propulsive disco-tinged Go Robot, there’s a dirty grin stretched across his face, like a schoolboy discovering a swearword for the first time. On the hard-rocking Higher Ground, he throbs with a primal energy, prowling and spinning across the stage like a lecherous pterodactyl. Yet when he slows it down for the heart-to-heart cries of Otherside, he is equally watchable, an enthralling presence with near-impeccable vocals and an undefined magnetic charisma.
Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers performing live
in Birmingham in 2016. (Credit to Birmingham Mail.)
Aided by a spectacular light-show that utilises Chinese Lantern-style strips on wires, it is a slick, tight performance, a sharp cry from the pedestrian nature of their Reading and Leeds slots in August. From the gorgeous Snow ((Hey Oh)) to the riotous By the Way, RHCP look once more like they’re having a good time. Though they skip over several of their biggest hits, no-one feels short-changed; and by the time Smith hurls his drumsticks into the crowd after a visceral Give It Away, the Chilis have confidently reasserted their live credentials. As Flea handstands his way across the stage, he raises his feet in triumph. Fortune faded? Thankfully, not quite yet.

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