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Red Hot Chili Peppers

Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON April 27

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Anthony Kiedis turned up at the ACC in an "OFF!"-emblazoned baseball cap, a pair of pant/short hybrids (one long leg, one short leg) and a knee-high sock, while a shirtless Flea sported similar footwear. Later this year, they will both turn 50.

Three decades in and Red Hot Chili Peppers still exist somewhere outside of time (read: they can wear whatever they like). Peppering West Coast punk/funk fusion with pop hooks and rock tropes, their sound has never been trendy -- even at its Blood Sugar Sex Magik peak -- but their earnestness and youthful exuberance continues to grant them a hard-to-impeach, goofy charisma, and their harrowing back story gives them gravitas. It's a compelling combo.

On the first of two sold-out nights at the ACC, the band churned out a handful of hits and old favourites, albeit without using nostalgia as a crutch, à la certain peers (I'm looking at you, Jane's Addiction). Meanwhile, new cuts seldom felt out of place, often outshining dustier counterparts.

Leadoff and recent single "Monarchy of Roses" let Kiedis eat up the stage and drummer Chad Smith ease into a virtuoso performance (take that, Neil Peart). Similarly, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" gave newly acquired six-stringer Josh Klinghoffer -- a dead ringer for Wedding Crasher's Todd -- an opportunity to deliver a scorching guitar.

Nevertheless, with Smith hammering away behind the kit and a charged atom for a bass player, the rhythm section was the real draw. "Dani California" featured a sonorous Smith solo, and "Can't Stop" was all nuanced pacing and funky breakdowns.

Oddly -- or perhaps fittingly -- some of the Chili Peppers' biggest hits are their least interesting musical concoctions. Without the lighters and sing-along accompaniment, "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" could have been staid, straight-ahead radio rock. Conversely, "Give it Away" was hugely rousing, thanks to its sheer vigour. Also, "Right on Time" was a massive, balls-out success. And "By the Way" was a highlight thanks to a relentless breakdown and deft Flea/Klinghoffer interplay.

Endlessly affable and utterly buoyant, it was a deservedly big show on an appropriately gigantic stage. Oh, and Flea made an Amir Johnson reference, which was nice.

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