ACL Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Flea and company kill it

You’d figure after 30 years and 11 studio albums, that legendary L.A. funk-rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers would give in a little. “Let’s just run down the hits, collect the bag, and go home.” Not so fast. A raucous crowd at the American Express stage Saturday night witnessed a blindingly brilliant performance turned in by a grateful band in full mastery.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Beginning promptly at 8:15pm, they spun a horn solo into a garage-rock interlude into a bulldozing thrash metal moment, then launched into a dominating turn of “Can’t Stop.” Immediately after, likely in light of the terror attack in Las Vegas and all things Trump, bassist Flea told Austin that we live in a “great big bubble” and that by loving nature and each other we’ll “rise above.”

Flea (Michael Balzary) would say many things, including that no one had ever made better music than Ice Cube in his prime. Later, singer Anthony Kiedis remembered the recently passed Tom Petty with, “You did not die in vain, brother.”

You wouldn’t think it to hear the song being played as it was last night, but “Dani California” has become a sing-along fan favorite. Someone should’ve told the band, because they ran it down with an incredible, almost teenaged fervor. In fact, each song following it, including “The Zephyr Song” and “Californication,” was attacked in this mindset rather than being taken for granted.

Most of the night, they played directly into song origins and influences, showcasing heavy hip-hop and funk in “The Getaway” and “Give It Away.” Flea finished the former with a deep Jaco Pastorius-inflected bass flourish. “Dark Necessities” surfaced as a contemporary R&B/Marvin Gaye hybrid.

The Peppers’ compelling synergy and efficiency was a sight to behold, and their cosmic mutations are second to none. They switched between speed funk and gorgeous Afro-beat/disco compounds as if they belonged together.

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More Red Hot Chili Peppers
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Red Hot Chili Peppers, ACL Fest 2017, Anthony Kiedis, Michael Balzary, Flea, Tom Petty, Jaco Pastorius

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