For a band that used to be known for prancing around with tube socks on their dicks, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have aged remarkably gracefully. Their latest Vancouver appearance still bore some traces of their wild, funky roots, but for the most part, it was a meticulously executed arena rock spectacle.
As with any Chili Peppers show, there was ample improvised jamming, and the set began with a hard-hitting instrumental vamp from bassist Flea, guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith. Eventually, singer Anthony Kiedis sauntered out and the jam gave way to a string of back catalogue hits including "Can't Stop," "Dani California" and "Scar Tissue."
Flea was his usual freaky self, as he popped and slapped his bass while engaged in a full-blown cardio workout. Kiedis was more subdued than usual, which was understandable; he tore a tendon in his ankle earlier in the tour, and even ended up donning a walking cast partway through last night's show.
At first glance, the veteran rockers looked hilariously mismatched—Flea's garish ensemble appeared to have been stitched together like a haphazard quilt, Klinghoffer was dressed in all-black skater chic, Smith looked like a bro with his sleeveless shirt and backwards cap, and Kiedis' leggings resembled practical athletic gear. Despite their clashing fashion sense, though, they were perfectly in sync musically: Klinghoffer's fretwork wasn't quite as inventive as that of classic-era guitarist John Frusciante, but he nevertheless gelled perfectly with Flea, and the axeman's wildly unhinged solo on "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" was one of the night's highlights.
It was pleasantly surprising to see that the band have significantly upgraded their visual show since the last time they came to town. A large bank of dangling lights on retractable ropes provided a stunning synchronized display that looked a bit like gigantic Windows Media Player visualization come to life.
The setlist relied heavily on classic material, with radio singles interspersed with the odd deep cut like the Flea-sung "Pea" and the early-catalogue throwback "Me and My Friends." There were also a number of cuts from last year's The Getaway, which held up nicely against the better-known hits. To help the four-piece recreate the recent LP's textured arrangements, they were joined at times by two auxiliary keyboardists, and an additional bassist helped out on the slinky "Go Robot" (making for an impressive total of seven musicians on stage).
At other points in the almost two-hour set, the Chili Peppers also paid tribute to rock 'n' roll pioneer Chuck Berry, who had died earlier in the day. This included an abridged, punked-up rendition of "Johnny B. Goode," which Klinghoffer knocked out of the park.
Unsurprisingly, the band opted to forego their old socks-on-cocks encore stunt. Instead, they finished off the night with a fully clothed rendition of "Give It Away." It was an explosive, crowd-pleasing finale, proving that maturity and horned-up funk-rap can go hand in hand.