Published Jul 16, 2016Red Hot Chili Peppers have been very good to Ottawa, visiting the nation's capital for every world tour dating back to the one in support of 2002's By the Way. So, on the second Friday evening (July 15) of the sprawling nine-day Bluesfest, Ottawa returned the favour by filling the immense LeBreton Flats and partaking in a rare festival sell-out.
Joined on stage by touring members Nate Wolcott (of Bright Eyes) and Chris Warren on keys and electronics, regulars Chad Smith, Flea and Josh Klinghoffer greeted the crowd and performed an opening jam that found Klinghoffer sounding looser, more exploratory and confident than he has on previous tours.
Frontman Anthony Kiedis took the stage moments later, looking impossibly fit and youthful for a man of 53, leading his band into a tempered but rapturously-received version of By the Way's "Can't Stop." Moving into a set that included "Dani California," "Scar Tissue," "Dark Necessities" and "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," the band struggled with severe sound issues that found Kiedis' vocals pushed back behind the sounds of Smith's lumbering drums.
Whether it was due to the aforementioned technical difficulties or the fact that Kiedis was battling a cold (clutching his throat and popping lozenges into his mouth), the band languished through singles like "Otherside," "Tell Me Baby" and "Californication," as well as new tracks "The Getaway," "Go Robot" and "Detroit," and truncated versions of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control" and "Atmosphere" (in honour of what would have been Ian Curtis' 60th birthday).
Kiedis provided the crowd with little to no banter, but occasionally attempted to add some stage presence with his chest-pumping dance style. Returning to the stage for a two-song encore that included Blood Sugar Sex Magik-era singles "Soul to Squeeze" and "Give it Away", he mustered one last shot at matching Klinghoffer and Flea's unbridled energy, removing his shirt and flailing around the large stage.
The band admirably tried to give the monumental crowd a good show, but ultimately delivered a lukewarm performance. Even the best bands have off evenings, and for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Friday was clearly one of those nights.