The first four songs at Red Hot Chili Peppers' Saturday night concert at the Prudential Center, dedicated to MCA but what isn't, was the best opening of a concert I have seen this year. "Monarchy Of Roses" is a pretty good opening number and we are used to it, but moving "Dani California" to the # 2 spot was pure genius and following it with "Scar Tissue", first airing this tour, was a finger in the face of setlist watchers everywhere and then the quartet of smashes concluded with "Can't Wait" -a first rate sing along.
A deep album track off Stadium Arcadium.
It took six songs for the set to get back on track.
RHCP's are similar to REM -both bands had a creative zenith which they never quite followed up. For RHCP it was the turn of the millennium Californication and 2002's By The Way. Back to back masterpieces that brought Kiedis and Flea into adulthood; a drug release, OD, sobering up, LA dream postponed. Four years later there was a misjudged double and last year a disappointing single album. I'm With You. Not bad, but really nothing much either.
Saturday night none of the new material works well and only "Dani California" saves Stadium Arcadium.
Nothing saves the six song stretch till they jimmy open "Suck My Kiss" a sizzling sex off from way back when and it is followed by their best lick, played alone on guitar just in case we missed the point, the continuing dreaming "Under The Bridge".
The band is looking their age, Anthony, in skin tight jeans, is getting a belly, and he can still move, a sort of round the roses, stomping twirl, though not quite as energetic. Flea is an hysterical, self deprecating guy and his solo during the encore was the best purely musical moment of the evening. Drummer Chad Smith, with the band since 1988, receives the "hard as rock" accolade by Flea, and he is a mighty performer. But John Frusciante is missed -there is no getting away from it. once you've said that though, Josh Klinghoffer, a ridiculously young 32 years of age, nails both of the solos he takes.
And I have seen many, many bands in arena's and it very easy to suck. RHCPs manage the dynamic very well; in a terrific performance they cut right across the distance, and even in the mid set sludge, they are worth watching. They are rock stars but somewhat frail at the same time, pros but not a polished Arena act. The band is the missing link between LA hardcore and hip hop and funk. Andy Gill of Gang Of Four produced their first album. And they still let this mash determine their temperature, in their closeted, self-amazed world of drugs and rock and roll in the same world Warren Zevon reveled in.
The Californicators penultimate song was Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", played straight, it was played straight and reminded us that RHCP are a great band not because they are Californicators but because they are a great band.