‘Ddue to unforeseen circumstances, [support act] A$AP Rocky will now play immediately after the Red Hot Chili Peppers,” digital screens around the stadium read, shocking the audience. Still, the Chilis hit the ground running. A searing opener from Joy Division’s Shadowplay well acknowledges the Manchester band’s influence and thrills the regional crowd of 50,000. There’s barely a pause before the Chilis’ own anthems – Around the World, Dani California and the rarely performed Universally Speaking – hit the air.
Flea, funky drummer Chad Smith, uncompromising vocalist Anthony Kiedis and guitarist John Frusciante have been playing together since the 80s and, with the latter touring with them for the first time in 15 years, their chemistry is evident. Frusciante seems to inspire their best work and on this year’s more thoughtful album, Unlimited Love, made them sound both softer and heavier. In 2022, it’s rare to see guitar solos met with such enthusiastic applause, and it’s gently subversive that a band whose unmistakable sound incorporates Jimi Hendrix, Gang of Four, freeform jams and hardcore punk plays in such huge halls.
“Everyone is beautiful. I could go out and kiss every one of you,” Flea (yellow-haired, in a man’s skirt, walking on her hands) said in Manchester as she introduced I Like Dirt, “a song performed for the first time in my garage.” On the other hand, a crowded stadium might not be the best environment for a long run of new and lesser-known gear, and there’s a lull halfway through. Still, 2006’s Snow (Hey Oh) becomes an epic song and the improvisations turn into a great new environmental anthem Black Summer and fan-favorite Californication Soul to Squeeze is beautifully soulful.
Rap-rock classic Give It Away and a powerfully insistent By the Way are rapturously received, but there’s no The Zephyr Song, Scar Tissue, Under the Bridge, Can’t Stop, etc. The musicianship is phenomenal at times and the energy remarkable for men in their 50s and 60s, but a few bigger anthems wouldn’t have gone wrong.
At London Stadium, London (June 25 and 26), Marlay Park, Dublin (June 29) and Bellahouston Park, Glasgow (July 1). Details: redhotchilipeppers.com.