There’s no better time to see the LA punk rock quartet.
Live at Rod Laver Arena, 28 February 2019.
There was a time before Spotify.
Before YouTube. A time when it was rather important to know that the ‘chili’ in Red Hot Chili Peppers was spelt with one ‘l’, not two. Because with two, Napster or Limewire couldn’t guarantee I wasn’t going to download a virus instead of the bars of unparalleled velvet guitar plucks my 12-year-old self craved.
The Chili Peppers pervaded my iTunes playlists deep into my university years. They floated through countless morning commutes, colouring the barren wastelands and industrial backdrops of Greater Melbourne along the Pakenham/Cranbourne line circa late-2000s. Californication translated neo-punk into a digestible track, transporting my pre-teen identity to a lyrical realm of self-aware Hollywood realities. Scar Tissue, in particular, tapped into that angsty post-high school self-discovery, “With the birds I’ll share this lonely viewin'”, as my train zoomed past graffiti-laden fences. And nobody could deny Anthony Kiedis’ silk-toned punk vocals, melting into the drums and guitars, taking me to dimensions filled with leaking colours and fractals.
For their uniqueness, they appealed to a broad spectrum of my ilk, who identified moreso with the obscure yet influential. The kind of folk who adorned Nike Air Max 90s before 90% of the population even knew the shoes had a name. Writers like myself found endless poetry in their lyrics; Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography Scar Tissue could only ever elevate my intrigue. Their tracks defined the anthem to the emerging fashionistas mixing long white tees with Timberlands and Tsubi Jeans who had to flex in public and get their likes from real-world compliments in lieu of comments on Instagram. Society was such that we did most things in person. We shared new music face-to-face, sometimes between headphones, more often at each other’s apartments, and more often than not, it was RHCP.
Their “sonic stew” as Kiedis describes it, carries that rare immutable persistence of penetrating appeal. It exudes the necessary nostalgia for long-time fans, while distinct enough to resonate with emerging demographics.
Now in 2019, decades after their first album, the Chili Peppers are out to prove their longevity. I moshed it up in their Melbourne visit to Rod Laver Arena and the experience was nothing short of the successful compression of my formative years into two hours of blood, sugar, sex, and magic.
As close to 7:30pm as possible, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic tear onto the stage, ripping open time and space with their presence. Clinton is adorned in pastoral robes alongside an array of non-conforming band members, each exuding their disparate yet harmonised identities. Their sound is iconically frenetic, saturated with clashing vocals and melodies. It’s the perfect introduction for the night.
Half an hour after the opening act fades off stage, a roaring crowd is triggered as Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh Klinghoffer (the band’s newest guitarist) stroll casually into view with a welcomed extended musical introduction. And as the crowd erupts, Anthony Kiedis arrives to meet the aural glory he’s been readily drinking for the last 30 years. In as little as this, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have entranced their audience into what will be the quickest 2 hours of their lives.
It isn’t long before Kiedis is shirtless, prancing chaotically across the stage, conducting the flow of the band as it rises through institutional staples. His presence drenches the arena. Gaps between songs are coloured with occasional Flea banter, dotting the spaces with his dry humour. Rarely is a second wasted. Chad Smith is insane across the drums, never missing a beat, always pushing harder through every song. And Josh Klinghoffer proves that Chili Pepper blood flows through his veins as he commands his side of the stage, inhaling and exhaling all the crowd’s favourite riffs.
This is a musical performance decades in the making. It’s a culmination of the band’s success. It cements the Chili Peppers alongside the greatest. And it proves they’ve got at least another decade of ensuring their fans are ‘standing in line, to see the show tonight.’
Photography by Frankey Chung on his Google Pixel 3.