1988/05 NME

Chili Peppers: shiver and shake




SO WHAT can I tell you? That compared to their last London show (the Clarendon) the Chilis were a whole lotta happening? They were. That they had the exquisite taste to conclude the evening with a gouging version of Hendrix’s ‘Crosstown Traffic”? They had.  That guitarist Hillel saw fit to expose his surprisingly large scrotum to the assembled public? He did. That they didn’t perform their new ‘Hors D’Ouevres‘ family jewels protruding (sans sock) through a paper plate? They did not.

No, I must at this point be uninhibitedly frank and confess that I have in recent years, spilled my journalistic seed often enough on this particular soil. You either know about the Red Hot Chili Peppers [in which case you don’t need me to tell you), or you don’t (in which case it’s double quick down the local vinyl emporium for you, and stop hovering over that music paper!).

The band’s excellence tonight must’ve been a reaffirmation of faith for your average Chili fan. But to me the most heartwarming aspect of the evening was that the Peppers (and all they stand for) were in town and happening in the same week and venue as Public Enemy. From the NME to Night Network, the poisonous rhetoric of the decade’s most depressing band seemed inescapable, which made the Peppers’ colorblinf humanism all the more appealing.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers defy Public Enemy’s notion of white puritanism by practising every kind of cultural cross-fertilisation. They refuse (passionately) to even acknowledge racial barriers and are thus streets ahead of Chuck D. Integration can be the only way forward for a world that is already irreversibly multi-racial; inter-racial contact (sexual or not) is the best way of spreading knowledge and respect and of eroding the ignorance that fuels the NF and Public Enemy alike. In their hearts and in their music, the Chili Peppers carry this torch of hope.

Musically The Red Hot Chili Peppers trod boldly tonight in the cultural-fusionist footsteps of Hendrix, Beefheart, Funkadelic, Pere Ubu and The Gang Of Four. This may make them the living nightmare of marketing divisions around the world but, in a decade where most bands either can’t play or just strive to recreate their records on stage, it also makes them one of the few live acts worth leaving home to see.

Simon Witter