Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Frank Erwin Center, May 2

Live Shots

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters

Frank Erwin Center, May 2

Shut my mouth and call me Marcel Marceau -- "alternative" music is alive and well at the arena level, though the principal reason is hardly cutting-edge. People love ballads. They love to sing along, they positively can't avoid flicking those lighters any time the lights go down, and they think shouting out "Free Bird"! is still hilarious. Considering the headlining Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Otherside" has been No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock chart for a staggering 12 weeks and counting, they were in the right place Tuesday. The 14,000-strong crowd was willing to tolerate as much punk rock and hard funk as the Chilis dished out, so long as the band obliged them with a slow, familiar one every three or four songs. It worked perfectly, as the Laker-loving quartet drew almost exclusively from last year's Grammy-winning Californication and their age-defining 1991 breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik. For example, after "Give It Away" tore the roof off, guitarist John Frusciante segued straight into the ringing "Scar Tissue" intro, prompting innumerable shrieks of delight, a pattern repeated later with the new, lightning-quick "I Like Dirt" and "Under the Bridge." In between, the Peppers attacked their repertoire with a youthful vigor belying the fact that all four are now pushing 40. The surging "Suck My Kiss" was tremendous, and the cutting contest between Frusciante and basslord Flea on "If You Have to Ask" was flat-out nasty. The New Order-like bass tremolo of Californication's "Parallel Universe" opened up into a canyon-sized chorus with Anthony Kiedis' booming vocals as rock-god as they come, and Frusciante kept his axe as bold as love for a Hendrixy "I Could Have Lied" solo. Drummer Chad Smith made the show-closing "Power of Equality" tighter than Israeli airport security, proving the funky monks can still bring it like a house on fire even if it's numbers like the preceding "Soul to Squeeze" that got them here. A similar calculus applies to the Foo Fighters, who walked a fine line between the 9:30 Club shredding of "Breakout" and "Alone + Easy Target" and the radio pop of "Everlong" (complete with fog machine) and the Jeff Buckley-esque "Next Year." For the scathing "Stacked Actors," Dave Grohl surfed into the arena's upper reaches while drummer Taylor Hawkins pounded out a show of his own. Kurt himself would have been proud of the way Grohl had the audience screaming "I don't owe you anything!" during "I'll Stick Around," but even so, strumming the first few sugarcoated chords of "Big Me," he was right in remarking "a bunch of people just wet their pants." No, he wasn't talking about the long bathroom lines.

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