Red Hot Chili Peppers Burned Hotter Than Ever in Toronto Rogers Centre, August 21

With the Strokes, Thundercat
Red Hot Chili Peppers Burned Hotter Than Ever in Toronto Rogers Centre, August 21
Photo: Matt Forsythe
A late-2019 announcement that beloved guitarist John Frusciante would once again join Red Hot Chili Peppers, coupled with their first Billboard No. 1 album in a decade and a half, set the stage for the aging California icons to do what once seemed unimaginable: launch a global stadium tour. After a six-week European leg, the quartet brought Unlimited Love (and unlimited love) to Toronto's 54,000-person capacity Rogers Centre, arguably at the top of their game and inarguably at the height of their popularity.

As the quartet has been known to bring trendy and hip artists along for the ride, their 2022 tour found Red Hot Chili Peppers joined by an eclectic mix of musicians (other stops on the tour have featured Anderson .Paak, HAIM, King Princess and others).

Opening the evening festivities while a steady stream of fans filled the voluminous ballpark, Thundercat and his two-piece backing band dove in headfirst, tearing through a 30-minute set that saw him extending 90-second songs into beefy six-minute jams. Performing in front of a 20-foot-tall cat head, Thundercat absolutely shredded his six-string bass, closing his set off with "Them Changes," which found younger fans pulling out their phones to capture video of the viral hit.

Entering the stage to an enormous response, the Strokes looked invigorated and ready to deliver. Other than the fact that he stumbled (vocally and physically) through the opening number, "Bad Decisions," lead singer Julian Casablancas put to bed rumours of health issues, producing a near-perfect 45-minute opening performance. Packing their show with a greatest hits set that included "Juicebox," "Last Nite" and "Reptilia", Casablancas locked in with his bandmates, flailing around the stage and highlighting each song's sleek energy. Coming off lucid and jovial, Julian joked with the crowd about how much cooler of a name "Skydome" is before wonderfully growling through fan-favourite "Take It or Leave It".

Kicking RHCP's performance off with their customary opening jam, Frusciante and bassist Flea locked in with drummer Chad Smith, immediately reminding the crowd of the stark difference between Frusciante's unbridled guitar playing and former guitarist Josh Klinghoffer's more languid style. Singer Anthony Kiedis, sporting a goth-y mesh shirt, joined the trio on stage for "Can't Stop," marking the first time the foursome have played Toronto in 16 years.

Moving into "Dani California," Frusciante leaped into a fierce solo outro, continuing his guitar heroics for the near-sold-out crowd. Delivering a number of deep cuts, the quartet ­­— joined by longtime touring keyboardist Chris Warren — wowed die-hard fans with renditions of "I Like Dirt," "Throw Away Your Television" (a last-minute substitute for "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," apparently) and Mother's Milk's "Nobody Weird Like Me," with the last showing the band riding a feedback-heavy psychedelic outro anchored by Flea's ground-shaking bassline.

Debuting a quartet of songs from their latest LP, Unlimited Love, Kiedis was playful, doing the pony across the stage for "Here Ever After," while Flea ran in circles around the massive area during "These Are the Ways." Iconic singles like "Snow (Hey Oh)," "Otherside" and "Californication" found a majority of the 50,000 attendees singing along to every word, echoing their adoration across the stadium.

Peppering in a number of jams throughout the evening, including one built off Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and resurrecting their popular live version of Funkadelic's "What Is Soul" (a cover that reaches back to their very early days), along with Flea's classic between-song banter ("Imagine seeing Neil Young and Rick James getting their start here?"), the classic lineup created a timeless Chili Peppers performance.

But hearing the crowd erupt and groove along to "Soul to Squeeze," "Give It Away," and encore selections "Under the Bridge" and "By the Way" proved that the once sophomoric and frat-boyish Red Hot Chili Peppers have more than earned their spot on top of the rock world.