Stadium Arcadium

The Red Hot Chili Peppers take down San Antonio's AT&T Center

Facing off, less than a foot separating them, Frusciante and Flea noodled exploratory, looking down at their steel strings, then at each other, and back at Smith, who’d begun rumbling some made-up rhythm. The guitarists fell in, funk meeting nascent Kraut-rock, loping skank touching down cautiously. Toehold attained, off blasted the trio at full arena volume. San Antonio bled its vocal chords.

Ten minutes later, Kiedis executed some crazy/slippery moonwalk across the band’s blacktop expanse, “Can’t Stop” coming into focus. “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” just loosening up – stretching – a couple easy warm-up laps. On Stadium Arcadium’s “Charlie,” Frusciante finally stepped away from his footboard, clicking off his instrument’s safety switch. Red Hot Chili Peppers, armed.

First kill: “Havana Affair,” the opening and most inspired rearrangement off 2003’s We’re a Happy Family – A Tribute to the Ramones, and like the Greatest Hits-only “Fortune Faded,” pulled from Smith’s ballcap at Lollapalooza last summer, a stone-cold ambush. (Frusciante’s hidden Family closer anyone?) Stadium Arcadium’s “21st Century” prepped an impromptu bass solo, Frusciante loosening his wrists meanwhile. “Throw Away Your Television” brought the firestorm. Frusciante’s napalm bath, Smith’s Bonham bash, and Flea’s Black Hawk Down: apocalypse always. Kiedis sat placidly on an amp throughout, smiling. “Snow ((Hey Oh))” afterwards, more prep work.

“Texas,” announced Kiedis, “this song was inspired by ZZ Top in the Eighties.” Iron Maiden couldn’t have produced Mother’s Milk in the guise of “Nobody Weird Like Me.” Metallic K.O. The Clash’s “London Calling” became “Right On Time,” a punk clamp down in effect on Frusciante’s flamethrowing “C’mon Girl,” whose extended midsection brought guitarist and bassist back together while the former interpolated Led Zeppelin into his solo. Other than seeing Jimmy Page absolutely shatter the Hammer of the Gods on his only solo tour, 1989, Long Island – “In My Time of Dying” – I'll surely never witness a more volcanic shredder live.

“Californication” and Roman sing-along “By the Way” cleaned up the collateral damage. Five minutes of blind roar followed. Will Ferrell will surely play Chad Smith in the movie, but the encore’s opening drum shakedown will require a stand-in for the cinematic re-creation. Call (King) Kong’s agent.

A last dose of Blood Sugar Sex Magik gunned the maniacal throng, Kiedis encoring by bounding down the stage ramp, being bundled up in a red robe, and whisked out an exit. That left Flea, Frusciante, and Smith onstage just as they’d begun the evening. Only this time, their 10-minute free jam eradicated everything that had come before it. Two hours of penultimate stadium arcadium (this tour leg ends tonight in Houston) all but erased by a trio absolutely hellbent on atomizing the AT&T Center in one final nuclear blaze of glory. We barely escaped with our lives.

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