RHCP Hyde Park: Classic Rock review


No place to Hyde 

With style over content, the Chilis’ first live album shows that they still haven’t mastered the art of playing to an audience.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

‘Live At Hyde Park’

(Warner Bros)

TIME WAS WHEN A LIVE ALBUM’S SLEEVE photos of the band’s dressing room might include some rock’n’roll iconography: a half-cocked bottle of Jack Daniel’s, perhaps, or some suspect-looking ‘band aid. in fishnets. Flick through the booklet that accompanies ‘Live At Hyde Park’, though, and you find a telling photo of an oxygen canister and a bottle of mineral water. And while one is of course glad that the Chills seem to have put their heroin years behind them, you can’t help but be puzzled by the rock’n’roll credentials of a band fronted by a man who now makes his own milk from ground cashew nuts.

From Warner Records’ point of view though, all this clean living by the Chills is excellent news: yoga + tofu = productivity. And few, if any, bands are currently as productive or successful as thiso ne. With a new studio album scheduled for spring 2005, and guitarist John Frusciante releasing solo records every few months, the RHCP brand is more ubiquitous than ever.

This two-CD set taken from the group’s three mammoth shows at Hyde Park in June will further handsomely swell the coffers of a band who need more money about as much as Heidi Klum needs more beauty sleep.

Celebrities among the estimated 300,000 people who saw the Hyde Park gigs included Daniel ‘Harry Potter’ Radcliffe and David Blaine. Be that as it may, there are times when the Chilis sound neither wizard nor magical. Frusciante is undoubtedly a superb guitarist, but he riffs and chicken-scratches better than he solos, hence the jammed-out endings on songs such as ‘Easily’ and the otherwise fine ‘Give It Away’ soon wear thin. ‘L.A.H.P.’ is far better, with the band concentrating on taut funk ‘drops’ such as ‘Get On Top’ and ‘Right On Time’, or out-and-out songs such as ‘Scar Tissue’, ‘Universally Speaking’ and ‘Californication: The latter’s awful punning tide, though, is a joke that’s worn thin.

Two of the album, songs that are covers — ‘Brandy’ by 70s pop-rockers Looking Glass, and Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ — are great fun, the latter benefiting from Flea’s hyperactive bass playing and Frusciante’s strong falsetto vocals. But on this, the Chilis’ first ever live album, the inclusion of these (and Chad Smith’s ‘Drum Homage Medley) at the expense of choice material from ‘Blood Sugar Sex Magik’ seems questionable at least. And as for the parp-fest that is ‘Flea’s Trumpet Treated By John’… well, let’s just say that Miles DaHs, crown is safe.

On the must-play ‘Under The Bridge’, there’s a sense of a band battling with a ‘difficult to play live’ epic, with singer Anthony Kiedis deferring to Frusciante’s vocals for the song’s climax. You sense, too, that because the Chills have been unable to write anything as strong as 1991’s ‘… Bridge’ since, that album has become something of an albatross around there necks. And while the two newies on Live In Hyde Park’, ‘Rolling Sly Stone’ and ‘Leverage Of Space’, are decent enough, the band’s search for another career-defining song clearly continues.

“I’ve figured out a way to break into Buckingham Palace, Anthony Keidis announces at one point. “I don’t want to get anybody into trouble, but I figured it out” Like many of his on-stage asides, his pronouncement is met with only mild interest from the audience. Perfectly sculpted and the rock-rapper of his generation he may be, but Kiedis is not a natural frontman. Add to that the fact that the Chilis live can often appear (or are) self-indulgent ultimately makes ‘Live At Hyde Park’ one for completists and/or those who were there. Next time out, let’s have less narcissism and more ‘…Sex Magik’.
James Halbert

IN A NUTSHELL Live, the Chills need to be seen and heard. If you must have a recording of their Hyde Park shows, wait for the DVD

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