The band’s big surprise was a searing cover of The Stooges’ “Search And Destroy,” but from outward appearances, it might as well have been bread chunks cast on a pond. <>Flea and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs to a sold-out crowd on October 16, 2017 during its Getaway tour stop at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. Then again, RHCP has never been your average band. Or, at least part of an equation: Count Flea’s solo spasms, multiple that by the decibel of screams, divide that by the total number of selfies…
For some memorable shows, like a handful on the band’s 1999 Californication tour, Flea made the band’s enthusiasm more obvious: He’d strip naked and rock out with his, uh, pants off — something drummer Chad Smith alluded to on Twitter in the hours ahead of their show on Monday. And for the closer, “Give It Away,” the audience did just that, albeit in its own restrained way. “The Lakers are going to whip the Nuggets this year,” Flea cajoled in an side to the crowd after the cover. Sandwiching two of its biggest hits off the bat between two jam sessions, the band clearly no regard for the rules of the rock concert. (One nearby gaggle of teenage girls nearby Snapchatting the concert doubled as a reminder: RHCP has been around long enough that they are comfortably in “dad’s favorite band” territory.)
In their mid-50s, neither Kiedis nor Flea are as spry as they once were. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)
The question lingered throughout the evening: Was Flea going to run around in his birthday suit for his birthday? Seven months after its show was initially scheduled to hit Denver, the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to torch the souls of its fellow early nineties misfits. You know, the ones that state the best songs must come last, and jamming should be shuffled in around the third quarter of the show, with all the new songs and wound-licking ballads that give the band a chance to catch its breath. A round of boos came; finally, some emotion. Watching Flea is as close to a visual barometer for how a band’s show is going as an applause meter. For how packed the Pepsi Center was, the crowd of RHCP’s peers was in repose throughout the night, content to nod along to the songs that presumably once set their 20s on fire. An export of the City of Angels, the outfit’s songs have always been appropriately outré genre abominations of jazz, punk, funk and hip-hop. They put on a convincing facsimile on Monday, though, especially on highlights from the band’s new album that they had yet to play to a pulp, like “Dark Necessities.”
As it was when they were kids, Flea was the engine on Monday, bent typically over his bass like he’d just been socked in the solar plexus, swinging his elbows akimbo. They tended to a little pre-show jam that queued Kiedis, feeding into “Can’t Stop,” the night’s starting pistol. It hollered along to Klinghoffer’s solo cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “OD’d In Denver,” the band’s first of three encores. But that’s not entirely fair: In the band’s infancy, they were the equivalent of rock Super Balls, bouncing off each other with hair-dyed abandon and juicing the room in the process. Flea immediately ran out to one of two smaller flanking stages, which appeared to be solely there for his cat-walking pleasure, to demonstrate a fit of dance moves before popping the strings to the song’s jazzy bass line. Whether it was the long wait or the impending work week, the Peppers’ peers didn’t have the same glow on Monday. The last bit certainly went down, though; “The Getaway,” the band’s latest, isn’t nearly as bad as it’s made out to be, but, circling around Kiedis’ recent breakup, it’s heavy on melodrama. Monday not only marked the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ make-up show in Denver (they were originally slated to play the Pepsi Center in March, but a bout of bronchitis kept frontman Anthony Kiedis at home), but also the 55th birthday of the band’s famously wild bassist. Under an undulating wave of what looked like illuminated paper towel rolls, nearly all of Monday night’s hair-whippers, like “Suck My Kiss” — where Kiedis, not Flea, shed his shirt — had their relative noodle-scratchers like “Scar Tissue” and “Hard To Concentrate.” This knotty yin has kept the four-piece from succumbing entirely to its party rock yang, an especially essential part of the band as it zeroes in on its 35th year. As the night beat on, the arena did loosen up some. Sporting a pair that could only be described as Technicolored Dream Pants, Flea flew in from stage left to meet Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. But, for better or worse, it did not get — nor deserve — naked Flea. But the band didn’t have much help. The band relented into another jam, a drum solo this time, and Flea prowled behind spotlight, waiting to spring into “Dani California” like a chimpanzee casing a Chiquita banana factory.