Red Hot Chili Peppers at the 3Arena, Dublin, 21 September 2017
Due to Anthony Kiedis’ illness last December, it has now been over five years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers kicked off a show in Ireland, the last outing being Croke Park in 2012. There was lot of space left to fill at that last show, but tonight at their second show in Dublin’s 3Arena, there is hardly enough room to breathe.
Arena shows can be warm at the best of times, but support acts rarely do much to turn up the temperature by any meaningful degree. However, opening the show with a DJ set comprising classics of hip hop and beyond is an effective tool in actually warming up a crowd. It’s only after 8pm and the heat is unbearable.
Once Lady Leshurr finishes up (having had varying degrees of success with the audience), the surge forward begins. A jazzy clarinet solo accompanies the dimming lights and one by one Chad, Flea and Josh take their positions for the opening jam. Josh leads with a deceptively simple and mellow guitar piece before Flea kicks things off and steers the band into a deafening demonstration of the bands’ chemistry.
This seamlessly slips into the intense build-up of Can’t Stop, a song that has served the Chili Peppers well as an opener, and for very good reason. If you weren’t sweating before, you certainly were now. The air circulating the arena even at this early stage is intoxicating. The hits continue with Dani California and Scar Tissue. The singles fans are well pleased.
The band are, however, much more than the sum of their hits. They don’t just regurgitate the songs ad nauseum when performing them live. Each song has space for creative revision. Solos are rarely the same as the album version. Songs often end with a spontaneous jam. Chad Smith plays by feel not by memory. This is exciting for the casual fan, as well as the veteran who has heard these songs to the point of indifference.
Dark Necessities is at least as well as received as other, more recognisable classics, which highlights the quality of their latest work, ‘The Getaway’. The band extend the intro by a few bars to give it more teeth, and Josh further demonstrates his deserving place as Frusciante’s replacement with another exciting solo.
The Chili Peppers have always represented an amalgamation of different genres and have always navigated them effortlessly in their music. Their cover of The Stooges I Wanna Be Your Dog reminds the audience of how formidable they are as a rock band. Later the band dig out the title track of what is considered by many their magnum opus, 1991’s ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, the chorus of which is so much heavier than the album mix would suggest.
At this point Anthony discards his top, and a number of condom balloons are launched by the crowd. Just in time for Go Robot, a disco-funk tune which features Flea doing some synchronised dance moves with an additional bass player. Up next is a brief jam between Flea and Josh before Californication, a song that has surely never failed to get people off their seats.
Anthony forgets the lyrics mid-way through Get On Top, but quickly compensates with some of his sexy dance moves…before forgetting again and misreading his cue. The song was never truly salvaged but it was quickly forgotten about when the band moves on to the likes of Higher Ground, before finishing the main set with By The Way.
Considering their back catalogue of hits, it seemed risky to include Goodbye Angels in the encore. But when it slowly dawns on you that the song is mostly crescendo, and that it features some pretty intense moments between vocal passages, its placement is merited and is received very well. Anthony mounts the amps for the shows finale, Give It Away, as the audience patiently awaits the leap. He hops down instead, perhaps accepting that the bones beneath those muscles may not be as sturdy as they were before.
To equate age with the band’s performance though is a misnomer. The durability of their creative edge, both live and in the studio, and their sincere passion for what they do has ensured that they continue to sell out venues and maintain their place as an essential bucket list band to see live. For many fans surrounding this reviewer, with their tops off and their hair stuck to their face, they can leave knowing they have now seen one of the best in a great venue.