If you have cable (or an internet connection), you’ve probably heard that the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren’t playing their instruments during their Super Bowl performance of “Give It Away” with Bruno Mars last weekend. While Anthony Kiedis was actually singing live on-stage, his bandmates (guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith) were all miming to a backing track, as Flea admitted yesterday on the band’s website. Of course, ever since, self-righteous douchebags across the country (most likely sweaty middle-aged bachelors who think REAL ROCK IS DEAD) have been venting about this atrocity, pegging the band as a funk-rock Milli Vanilli or claiming they’ve “sold out” by agreeing to this whole Super Bowl ordeal in the first place.
Those people are idiots. Regardless of your opinion on their music, Red Hot Chili Peppers are a fucking institution: They’ve been touring (in amplified form!) for over three decades, and they’ve continued to evolve and make music on their own terms — from their early days blending Funkadelic and punk and hip-hop to their more recent days as L.A. psychedelic-rock craftsmen. Do you realize how many times these guys have played their instruments for people?
As Flea says in his open-letter, the band recorded a musical backing track for the gig because the NFL demanded it. If you’ve attended a concert of any kind, you might realize how long and complicated it is setting up a band’s equipment — a live rock show is as unpredictable as a Jackson nipple, so they made the understandable decision to not tempt fate. Sure, Flea looked a little silly playing an unplugged bass guitar — but then again, this is a guy who used to play live with a sock on his dick. Plus, he also looked like he was having a blast up there. “I spoke with many musician friends for whom I have the utmost respect,” the bassist writes, “and they all said they would do it if asked, that it was a wild trippy thing to do, what the hell.”
It’s a cliche, but put yourself in Flea’s (likely very smelly) shoes. If someone asked you to jump around a stage in front of millions people and get paid a truckload of cash, would your anti-miming principles still hold up?