1992 February Rock Power

THEY’RE RED HOT

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

SMASHING PUMPKINS

PEARL JAM

Roselands Ballroom, New York City.

Report: Trish Jaega

It’s the fourth and final night of the Chili Peppers shows in New York. All four are complete sell-outs (no mean feat considering the size of Roselands), and even as Pearl Jam take to the stage the hall is well over three quarters full and charged with an air of expectancy.

Pearl Jam don’t disappoint. A myriad of street urchin characters who intricately weave magic between them, building a wall of sound that pulls you in, physically and mentally. Behind the cyclone effect, a lullaby of melody that pulses with a strong heartbeat. Stone Gossard and Mike McCready create magnificent structures with their guitars, before gleefully knocking them down into glorious mayhem, as with the timeless quality of ‘Even Flow’ and the ebb and pull of ‘Oceans’.

Great bands have often fallen for lack of a convincing frontman, which is why Eddie Vedder is the jewel in Pearl Jam’s crown. At once both ethereal dreamer and nihilistic madman, his easy demeanour wins over the crowd, while his energy exhilarates them. He huskily croons the sublime ‘Alive’, with a passion and emotion that defies you to believe he does this every night, Jeff Ament’s bass and Dave Abbruzzeze’s drums creating the necessary backdrop of building and falling moody rhythm.

As they finish with ‘Release’, Eddie takes a flying leap offstage to be carried aloft by a highly appreciative audience, hailing their new messiah by passing him along over-head, allowing him to swim out to the back of the hall and back to the stage. Pearl Jam were third on the bill, but they got the reaction of a headliner. The future is now.

The Smashing Pumpkins fare less well, although they too have their share of popularity. The problem with the Pumpkins is basically a case of being stuck in the middle of a bill of two high intensity bands, when they favour a slower more moody dischordant approach. ‘I Am One’, ‘Fever and ‘Crushed’, seemed to be the stage-divers favourites, being considerable more uplifting than the other numbers, but the real difference lies in the approach. Whereas Vedder invites the crowd to join his mood, Billy Corgan gets absorbed by the music he plays, seemingly oblivious of the surrounds. On any other bill, this wouldn’t have mattered so much. Tonight it sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

As the time for the Chili Peppers to hit the stage approaches, the atmosphere hots up by several degrees. Even the celebs are out en-force with Matt Dillon and Sean Lennon skulking around in the shadows, the former hiding in the safety of the VIP area, the latter choosing to stay out front and mix with the crowd. They are soon forgotten however, as the house light’s dim in anticipation of the band’s arrival.

The roar goes up as drummer Chad Smith starts to kick in with his pedals, intensifies as bassist Flea and guitarist John Frusciante saunter on, reaching a peak as vocalist Anthony Kiedis strolls to the front of the stage. Dressed in black shorts with silver trim and silver hand reaching over his crotch, topped off by Raiders woolly hat and shades, he pulls a face, goes into his trade-mark contorted body movements before finally breaking into the psycho-funk of ‘Suck My Kiss’.

There’s nobody like the Chili Peppers live. The pretenders to their throne might be able to get the funk beat, get the vocal depth, maybe even come halfway to being as brilliant a bass player as Flea, but they’ll never match up to the performance skills that these four very individual, yet closely knit characters put out. Tonight the Chili Peppers are an unbeatable force, settling now for dominating New York, tomorrow the world.

Flea’s fingers burn up the fret-board of his bass and Frusciante exorcises some demons with some psychedelic Hendrix-style guitar work through the a set comprising of new and old material, while Smith just pounds away, hell for leather, on his kit. The infuriatingly infectious groove of ‘Give It Away’ reaches down to shake up your vertebrae, building to a crescendo which explodes with Kiedis losing hat and glasses in one swift frenzied movement, his mane of long hair fanning out as he throws himself around the stage in a series of wild, yet graceful gyrations.

But the Chili Peppers find it impossible to stick to the rigidity of merely playing a set of songs. Some mad, but inspired improvised jamming takes place as Flea, with a manic gleam silences the audience with a breath-taking bass solo, for which Kiedis stands on his hands for the entire duration. Then it’s back to the business of pulling out some more favourites as they pound out older material like ‘Special Secret Song Inside’ and ‘Subway To Venus’. Most of the set, however, they save for material from the new album, with the title track ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’, giving Kiedis a chance to enthrall the women in the audience with the sight of his grinding sexual thrusts, and probably leaving the men green with envy. On a roll, the sexual funkotronics carry on coming with ‘Funky Monks’, ‘Naked In The Rain’ and ‘My Lovely Man’. It’s almost a relief when the verbal orgy ends as Flea goes into a humourous vocal harmony of the Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK’. But the audience. who have been rocking out in style up to now. craziest when Flea pumps out the opening bass line for their cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, a flurry of funkrockedelic heaven.

Finishing on their second encore with a triumphant ‘They’re Red Hot’, the end has come all too soon, leaving an appetite for more.  If all the shows are like this, world domination can’t far away. Tonight, the Chili Peppers prove once and for all that they are the funk master race. I, for one, will pledge my allegiance to that.

 

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