Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered the best setlist of their current tour in Perth on Tuesday. The closing night of their Australian run felt like a party as the Chilis, who are known to change up setlists considerably from night to night, delivered four tracks from 1991 opus Blood Sugar Sex Magik, punctuating a greatest hits onslaught as colourful as their eye popping stage design.
It didn’t hurt that they brought along former producer and inspiration George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic in support. We lost count of exactly how many freaky styley uplift mofo party people were on stage but it peaked at around 15-16. Most were dressed in different colours, dancing and removing outfits and generally putting on a loud, cacophonous display, that was at times shambolic, but always entertaining. Peaking on the six-minute guitar solo of Maggot Brain, it was an epic moment for any fan of the classics.
What made this Red Hot Chili Peppers show perhaps their best to date in our town was the way in which they combined the biggest, brightest and prettiest of stadium trickery with the intimacy of a band who looked like they could be jamming in their lounge room.
Set against a series of circular video screens laid out somewhat like a drum kit above and behind the band, the vision moved between close up onstage footage and psychedelic animations. And yet the show started, seemingly incredulous of that, with just Flea, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith jamming it out on stage. The sound was loud and perfect, as they built to a fantastic peak before frontman Anthony Kiedis finally emerged for Around the World, kicking off a series of mega-hits to begin the night.
Flea was the glue that held it together, whether with his six or seven little bass solos in-between and at the beginning of tracks, his banter (“Hello motherfuckers!” he called out two songs in, adding “I don’t want to hear any profanity tonight, either”), or the walking on his hands to exit the stage at the end of the night. It’s worth remembering kids – all that yoga does pay off.
While his incredible playing needs no introduction, it was his partner in crime Klinghoffer (complete with a Funkadelic t-shirt) who really impressed, not only filling the John Frusciante-shaped void left by the Chili’s best known guitarist, but really making it his own as he meticulously shredded every solo. Early highlights like Dani California stood apart from their recorded versions with extended outros allowing the band to jam it out, just as you imagine they might in a rehearsal room.
Right throughout, the Chili Peppers gave it their all, jumping about the stage in a way that belied men in their mid 50s. If you could level any criticism at all (well… other than Kiedis’ dirty moustache, that is), then it’s that they should by now be a minimum two hour, two encore outfit (the show had one riotous encore and went for just over 100 minutes). But when a band puts in 110% like this, it’s easy to overlook such minor complaints.
All of which meant it went by very quickly. Time goes fast when you’re having fun, they say, and like the Chilis defy their ages, this whirlwind affair felt as if we entered a time warp; time stood still and then we suddenly popped out the otherside, nearly two hours later.
Sure there was the odd down moment, but even new songs like their most ridiculous single to date Dark Necessities (which pits dark-ish, faux goth lyrics over typically funky and fresh Chilis beats, as if Robert Smith was fronting the Monkees) was accompanied by equally happy and ridiculous animated visuals hurled towards us from the big screen.
Unexpected highlights came by way of 1989 punk oddity Nobody Weird Like Me, and Sir Psycho Sexy, the eight minute epic given its first airing of the Oz tour. Kiedis may have forgotten some of the obscenity laden words at one point, but the crowd’s joy at hearing this deep cut amongst deep cuts was palpable.
Things really went into overdrive following a wonderful bass and guitar jam that led into Californication. Their signature singalong ballad was then followed by Suck My Kiss, and then the moment none of us were sure if we’d get, Under The Bridge. Phones lit up the newly named HBF Park and the audience provided the choir for the song’s electric peak – the sad tale of a druggy wasteland resurrected into a stadium anthem and undoubtedly the biggest moment of the night.
But they weren’t done there and By The Way kept the energy on high, returning to an onslaught of lighting and visuals that didn’t need any pyros to be amongst the most spectacular and flashy displays seen in these parts.
An encore saw Klinghoffer show off a little local knowledge with a brief solo cover of the Triffids’ Red Pony before the remainder of the night lived up to everything that preceded it. Goodbye Angels was the best of the new songs, building to some fine peaks as Klinghoffer’s guitar and Flea’s bass crashed against one another, creating a huge sound.
Then, as if to declare “this is the end so dance NOW!” George Clinton brought his Parliament Funkadelic cohorts back on stage to dance, sing and play along to Give It Away. It was a wild party befitting of Hollywood’s biggest export as animations coloured the screens and colourful characters lit up the stage in a finale for the ages.
All that was left was for Flea to walk off on his hands, before the freaky styley circus returned to its own parallel universe. Until next time.
Photos by Karen Lowe