If there is one stop on the Red Hot Chili Peppers new tour you needed to go to it was this past Tuesday night in New Orleans at the Smoothie King Center. Why? Because when they did their encore of “Give It Away,” nothing came close to when they brought out local musicians George Porter Jr, Ivan Neville, Trombone Shorty and the Rebirth Brass Band and unleashed the funk full force.
It’s common knowledge that the Chili Peppers love New Orleans and it’s vibrant music. For many years they have basted in the funky rhythms that the city’s melting pot jazz sauce has turned out. So when it was time to finale up their show in one of their favorite places, they brought out some hometown friends to help bring the house down.
And that they did. Almost no song prior to “Give It Away” compared to the energy voodoo’d up by those horns and that beat. It was on fire, especially for Flea, who ate up his bass duet with “my teacher,” former Meter George Porter Jr, like a kid in a candy store. Whereas during the Peppers’ regular set he was jumping around and hitting each end of the stage, for the encore he remained in the center of the funk, one with the music. And it could only happen in New Orleans.
Okay, so the couple of shows in Texas that kicked off the tour supporting their latest album, The Getaway, variously heard the band perform “Under The Bridge,” “Scar Tissue” and “Higher Ground.” But we heard them do those already, at last year’s performance at Jazz Fest and at their 2012 visit to this same arena. What we got on Tuesday night was special, a gift to the local fans who love their music and the people who make it. If the horns had played the entire show, I think we would have died and gone to music heaven (hint: hey Flea, make it happen next time).
I was a little surprised they didn’t include “The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie” since it has that meaty gravy bass line that oozes funk. But the Chili Peppers had some other beignets in store for the what looked to be sold out crowd, Josh Klinghoffer being one of them.
This skinny little guitar player was a Tasmanian Devil all night, spinning, jumping, crouching low, yet never spiraling too far out of control. His solo on the new “Go Robot” was like an electrocution while “I Could Have Lied” gave you a glimpse into a more bluesy side hiding underneath the layers of subatomic riffage. And in honor of the great Allen Toussaint, who passed away in 2015 and was a local icon, Klinghoffer settled down to sing the piano player’s “Southern Nights,” which Toussaint wrote and subsequently released in 1975 [Glen Campbell would make it a national hit in 1977].
Four songs from their current album made it onto the night’s setlist: “Go Robot,” “Dark Necessities,” “Goodbye Angels” and “Sick Love.” Fan favorites “Californication,” “By The Way” and “Dani California” were met with loud cheers. Prior to the encore, the callback noise was deafening, accompanied by the “lights” from cell phones. All Chad Smith had to do was walk back out onto the stage to cause the volume to increase. Smith, one of the most badass drummers in music today, pounded out a short solo before the band launched into “Goodbye Angels.” Flea walked out on his hands. And Anthony Kiedis was bouncing around all night like a firecracker, something he continued into the encore.
RHCP original drummer Jack Irons played a short instrumental set prior to Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, who pumped up the audience with “Slippery Lips,” “Craziest Things” and “Sistamamalover.” However, seven songs were just not enough for this hot band – which featured Pete Murano on guitar, Joey Peebles on drums, Mike Ballard on bass and on horns, Dan Oestreicher and BK Jackson. Many folks around town remember Troy Andrews, aka Trombone Shorty, as a four year old playing with his older brother, James Andrews, another New Orleans star horn player. What he brings to the party is a fun funk-rock-jazz hybrid of music that turns you on to the last drip of sweat drops off your body.
So America, if you missed the New Orleans show, you missed a cool ride on a funky mothership with some cats you won’t find in your city’s upcoming encores. I’m very sad about that. But at least you have Trombone Shorty and his band for the next twenty-plus dates. Go and get your funk on & hope they come out at the end for the encore.