Red Hot Chili Peppers review – still cooking in late middle age

Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester
The hits, delivered with astonishing energy by a band in their 50s and 60s, thrill the huge crowd, and even the guitar solos win rapturous applause

‘Due to unforeseen circumstances, [support act] A$AP Rocky will now play immediately after Red Hot Chili Peppers,” read digital screens around the stadium, causing some audience bewilderment. Still, the Chilis hit the ground running. A blistering opening instrumental of Joy Division’s Shadowplay nicely acknowledges the Manchester band’s influence and thrills the 50,000-strong regional crowd. There’s barely a pause before the Chilis’ own anthems – Around the World, Dani California and the rarely played Universally Speaking – get hands in the air.

Flea, funky drummer Chad Smith, uncompromisingly ’tached singer Anthony Kiedis and guitarist John Frusciante have played together since the 80s and, with the latter touring with them for the first time in 15 years, their chemistry is obvious. Frusciante seems to inspire their best work and on this year’s more reflective album, Unlimited Love, has made them sound both gentler and heavier. In 2022, it’s rare to see guitar solos met with such rapturous applause, and it is softly subversive that a band whose unmistakable sound incorporates Jimi Hendrix, Gang of Four, freeform jams and hardcore punk is playing such enormous venues.

Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers in Manchester.
Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers in Manchester. Photograph: Aaron Parsons Photography/The Guardian

“Everyone looks beautiful. I could walk out and French kiss every one of you,” Flea (yellow-haired, man-skirted, handstand-walking) tells Manchester as he introduces I Like Dirt, “a song first played in my garage”. On the other hand, a packed stadium isn’t perhaps the best environment for a lengthy run of new and lesser-known material, and there is a mid-set lull. Still, 2006’s Snow (Hey Oh) becomes an epic sing-song and improvisations segue into excellent new environmental anthem Black Summer and fan favourite Californication. Soul to Squeeze is beautifully melancholy.

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 couple more big-hitter anthems wouldn’t have gone amiss.

  • At London Stadium, London (25 and 26 June), Marlay Park, Dublin (29 June) and Bellahouston Park, Glasgow (July 1). Details: redhotchilipeppers.com.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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