1996 July NME

THE WONDER BUFF

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

London Wembley Arena

NEVER COULD stand the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Too much clumsy sexual innuendo (if you can call it that); too much (s)punk-funk machismo, just, well, too much. Yet tonight, on the last night of their world tour (and, so it’s whispered, perhaps their last gig ever), they are, at times, quite amazing.

Jeezus. Let’s take this slowly. From the top then: the band appear on stage at 9.30pm prompt, lit only by the pink’n’rouge glow of 20 lampshades. Flea models what can only be described as a gold nappy; Anthony Kiedis is, as ever, bare chested, and guitarist Dave Navarro bounds into view swathed in a silk crimson boxing gown. Cool. They then rip into ‘Give It Away’ with sufficient gonzoid enthusiasm (Flea must be the only man alive who can play funk-bass whilst performing multiple forward rolls) to have the crowd adopting that sort of manic hyper-pogo that you just know is gonna last for the next hour-and-a-half.

Just look at them, 20 minutes later, still throbbing away en masse to the Peppers’ spunk-funk ordinaire as if they could play a Stevie Wonder cover and still no-one would notice. They do of course, throwing away ‘Higher Ground’ like it was some half-assed B-side, but by now Flea’s derobed to the point where his Y-fronts dangle precariously from one buttock and things are getting more than slightly warped. They play that too, all rubber-back bass and stoopid cupid sentimentality (“So much love/So rare to dare/Afraid of ever being there”) but, they only really hit pay dirt with ‘Aeroplane’.

Suddenly the stage is covered with glitter, Flea’s stark naked and the appeal of the Chili Peppers as dumbo surfers obsessed with the quest for the perfect wave begins to make perfect sense. After all, having prospered through years of muddle-headed chest beating you can’t really knock them for the odd burst of soppy power balladeering once in a while.

‘Under The Bridge’ is better still, what with Anthony silhouetted against a shimmering backdrop whilst Flea’s up on the screen behind him, swimming beatifically through the seven seas, and from there on in -if it isn’t already – the night lapses into sheer cabaret.

Flea returns to the stage for the encores swamped in towels, intent on causing as much havoc as possible. Before anyone can stop him he lunges into an impromptu solo ‘Anarchy In The UK’, and not content with that, then says the most outrageous thing he can think of (something to do with providing a sexual service for the Queen). Far out.

The crowd, dizzy from their 90-minute pogo, cheer giddily, but are forced back into action when the band, realising that the tour is finally over, burst into a gleeful thrash at Hendrix’s ‘The Stars That Play With Laughing Sam’s Dice’.

Whilst the feedback’s still roaring through the speakers, it feels as though the only thing left to do would be for the band to return to the stage one final time and trash every last thing there.

Which, naturally enough, they do in spectacular fashion, culminating with Flea, utterly naked, amidst a shrieking tonne of instrumental debris, bass drum above his head. Somewhere, in a far off universe, all tours end like this.

Quite unforgettable.

Paul Moody

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