1999 June Kerrang! (756)

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS

Camden Palace, London Friday, June 11 5/5

THIS FEELS very special. It’s not every day that you get the chance to see a band of the status of the Red Hot Chili Peppers in a venue as small as this. That’s not to say that Camden Palace is tiny — it holds at least 800 people — but for the Chills this is like playing in someone’s front room.

The atmosphere for this one-off `secret’ gig befits the occasion. Ten minutes before the band are due onstage, people are already lining the balconies and cramming into the main hall, craning their necks for a view of the stage and climbing up the Hercules-type statues which line the walls in order to get a good view, or any view at all. The excitement is so infectious, you can almost taste it.

Then the lights dim, a cheer which could shatter windows goes up, four figures saunter onstage, and the sturdy, funk-rock groove of ‘Emit Remmus’ begins to fill the room.

A number of things are immediately apparent. Anthony Kiedis is sporting the most ridiculous bleach-blond sub-Beckham haircut and a shirt-and-tie combination. Bassist Flea is bare-chested and also suffering in the barnet department with a daft curly white-man afro affair. Newly re-instated guitarist John Frusciante resembles Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay with his unkempt beard and long, lank hair, and drummer Chad Smith looks, well, like a drummer, sporting a red baseball cap and his familiar sleeveless shirt. One other thing is also apparent: they sound fantastic, ‘Emit…’s `London in the summertime…’ chorus, being a particularly apt choice for an opening gambit.

Then it happens. They finish the song and, wholly unexpectedly, the first chords of `Give It Away’ peel out. The place goes ballistic. It is one of those moments that makes you realise why you love live rock music so much. Flea spasms as if his veins are filled not with blood but with electricity. Meanwhile, Kiedis leans back, mike in hand, fixing his eyes on a point somewhere in the middle distance, seemingly lost in the moment. Both crowd and band alike are loving every second.

Choosing to completely ignore the `One Hot Minute’ album (the only one on which Frusciante didn’t play), it is as if previous guitarist Dave Navarro had never existed. Frusciante looks less-than-glowing, his well documented drug habits having seemingly taken their toll, but he also looks thoroughly at home in the band again. He slouches around to Kiedis’ left in his bright red shirt and flared jeans, rolling out the fluid, funky guitar flourishes one after the other.

Current single ‘Scar Tissue’ sounds every inch a Chilis classic with its subtle, lilting guitars and Kiedis’ voice cutting through, warm and emotive. `If You Have To Ask’ sees Flea pogoing in time with Kiedis before joining Frusciante at the other side of the stage for a bit of frantic fretboard jousting. There’s a blissful run through the soothing ‘Californication’, and a rampant, sweat-soaked `Bloodsugarsexmagik’ —which bizarrely segues into a section of ‘Show Of Strength’ by Echo And The Bunnymen. By now Kiedis has ditched the shirt and is preening around the stage showing off his tanned, tatt-laden torso.

`Under The Bridge’ is tossed in towards the end of the set as if it were ‘just another song’, but it is played immaculately and beautifully, and, predictably enough, receives the biggest cheer of the night. Then Kiedis introduces ‘Me And My Friends’ with an anti-racism spiel, which sadly falls on deaf ears due to a muffled mike, but the song sees the full-blown return of the amazing ‘bendy-arm’ dance which is his trademark.

They may be one of the biggest bands on Planet Rock, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers are far more suited to a place this size —reaching out to every corner of the venue with their taut, muscular grooves and shimmying balladry. An encore of ‘Sir Psycho Sexy’, `Power Of Equality’ and a cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Search And Destroy’ is enough to leave the ecstatic crowd exhausted and thrilled.

On record they may be toning things down, but live the Red Hot Chili Peppers still know how to rock the party in fine style. If only every gig could feel like this. ASHLEY BIRD ,

HIGH POINT:

Those first chords of ‘Give It Away.’ Neck  bristling stuff.

LOW POINT:

No ‘My Friends’ from the ‘ One Hot Minute’ LP.

BEST ONSTAGE QUOTE:

Er, um, couldn’t tell- sorry.

VERDICT:

The shit. And no mistake.

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