There are few bands that can throw a full-on arena spectacle, charge a day’s paycheck for a ticket and leave their fans begging for more. Count U2, Green Day, Radiohead, The Beastie Boys and The Rolling Stones amongst those heavyweights. The Red Hot Chili Peppers who tour once every three or four years, have the big budget to throw a hockey shed spectacle amongst the best of the pre-mentioned acts. Their show amongst the early stages of the Stadium Arcadium tour at the Glendale Arena, proved this Southern California four piece have matured from their early cock sock days.
Openers the Mars Volta, who previously opened for the Chili Peppers three years ago, were back for Round 2 in getting the young crowd roaring. In fact the relationship between the two bands runs extensive, as bassist Flea appeared on 9 of 10 tracks of the Mars Volta debut- Deloused in the Comatorium and guitarist John Frusicante recently contributed to the Mars Volta’s third album – Amputechture – set for release September 12th.
Playing in the American southwest, the band’s Latin influences were full on as they mixed the spicy side with their full force chaotic prog rock. Lead singer Cedric Bixler did his best Freddie Mercury on acid, while twin fro’d guitarist Omar Rodriquez-Lopez roamed the stage with his frantic guitar leads. Reviewing a Mars Volta performance or album is a daunting task for even the biggest music geeks, so we’ll keep things simple. The band left much of the audience speechless for their hour set, either because the audience simply didn’t get it, or it was too early in the evening to embrace songs with the curious names of “Haruspex,” “Cicatriz” and “Take The Veil Cerpin Taxt.”
As for the main event, Frusciante, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith started things off with an instrumental funk jam, before lead singer Anthony Kiedis made his “Rocky Balboa” appearance throwing jabs, much to the near-sold out crowd’s excitement. Much has been said about the Frusciante’s recent contributions to the band, following his past battles with heroin addiction. On the opener “Don’t Stop”, Frusciante’s falsetto harmonies and fiery guitar leads made the opener a big bout of celebration. As for Flea, he is simply Pete Townshend meets Boosty Collins on bass, laying the low-end with reckless abandon, as his energy never diminished throughout.
Fans of the lavish stage show will appreciate the Chili Peppers’ pricey light and multi-media extravaganza, complete with four video screens with black-and-white footage of the band next to a giant wall of lights lining the back of the stage, and of course a another wall of horizontal lights that protrude from the top of the stage and extending to middle of the arena.
Paying tribute to the present, a majority of the songs played were featured on the Chili Peppers’ past three albums – Californication, By the Way and this year’s double album Stadium Arcadium. It was the new one of course that garnered the most attention as the band ramped through the slinky funk of “Dani California, beachy harmonies of ”Snow ((Hey Oh)," pop rock of “Tell Me Baby,” and the mystic balladry of “Stadium Arcadium.”
Although many of the band’s early 90’s classics were missing, they did bust out “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” and “Soul To Squeeze.” However it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers knack at hitting home the power ballad, as “deep” compositions “Scar Tissue” and “Under The Bridge” had the crowd singing in unison with Kiedis. Following “Give It Away” during the second song of the encore, Kieidis left the stage leaving Smith, Frusciante and Flea to engage in another funk jam. Later would exit, leaving the guitarist and bassist to lay the building blocks for the next chapter of reinvention.