Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Ritz, New York
Tickets: $15, $13.50
Even considering it was Halloween, there was an inordinate amount of zaniness on stage when two of L.A.’s wildest exports came to Manhattan on Oct. 31. The ska-punk of Fishbone and the punk-funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers made an explosive double bill. Judging by the way members of both bands eagerly plunged into the slam dancing crowd, it was tough to say who was enjoying the show more, the audience or the performers.
The Chili Peppers took the stage in fluorescent war paint and minimal clothing and tore through songs from both their debut album and their current EMI America re-lease, “Freaky Styley.” Bassist Michael Balzary (a/k/a “Flea”) and drummer Cliff Martinez provided solid rhythmic support, by turns hard and driving or cool and funky. Hillel Slovak’s guitar lines and Anthony Kiedis’ vocals took off in a thousand directions from the rhythmic base, but the Red Hots know how to hold it all together.
This surprising tightness in the face of the chaos of many of the band’s songs helps explain how George Clinton came to be chosen to produce the white funksters’ latest album. Though they dabble more than convincingly with rap and funk, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, like Clinton, know how to get to the moon and back without taking their feet off the ground.
There was plenty of raunch to go along with the music. As the set wore on, Kiedis and Balzary sweated off most of the body paint and shed most of their clothes, leaving on only a pair of jockey shorts in Balzary’s case, and a red jock strap in Kiedis’. The effect of this costuming, combined with Kiedis hand-stands and speaker and balcony climbing, was amazing and, in some parts of the country, would be literally show stopping. Amazing, too, was the band’s command to “suck your own” while tuning.
Still, there’s no denying the professionalism the band brings to its show. Where opening act Fishbone, recently reviewed in these pages, is often content to let the music slide into cacophony for the sake of theatrics, the Red Hot Chili Peppers know that without the licks, it’s not worth beans.
The Red Hots have been performing together long enough to know just how far they can push their music and antics without compromising themselves or the audience. While it certainly isn’t suitable for general audiences, it is refreshing for those who like it in the “freaky styley.”
Many thanks to Hamish at RHCP Sessions