Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers Deliver In Cleveland
Words by Andy Gerkin
Published May, 16, 2017
“You got one hell of a basketball team,” exclaimed Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith as he exited the stage after the band’s encore Saturday night, May 13 at the Cleveland Cavaliers’ home, Quicken Loans Arena; known to area locals as “The Q.”
The show took place as the Cav’s are waiting to move on to the next round of the NBA playoffs. Smith also made note of the nearby Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, of which he and his band were inducted in 2012. The three-song encore started with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer offering a solo rendition of Rock Hall of Famer Randy Newman’s 1972 ode to the Cuyahoga River, “Burn On.” “Goodnight Angels,” off of the Chili Pepper’s newest album, 2016’s The Getaway, followed and finally their Blood Sugar Sex Magik mega-hit, “Give it Away.”
The Chili Peppers have been playing their new material from The Getaway for well over a year. The album was produced by the award-winning Dangermouse and is kind of a departure from their funk trifecta of bass, guitar, and drum, as it features more synth and keyboards, creating a bigger overall sound (Sir Elton John adds piano on one of the tracks, “Sick Love”).
Saturday night was my second time seeing them on this 2016-2017 world tour. The first show at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center in February featured a bit more of the new material, as opposed to this past weekend in Cleveland where they only played three other Getaway songs besides the encore — “Dark Necessities,” the livetronica influenced, “Go Robot” (which if the Disco Biscuits ever chose to cover, could stretch quite a distance), and “Sick Love.”
The rest of the show featured songs from chunks of their 30-plus year career. After a Flea, Josh and Chad intro jam, singer Anthony Kiedis made his big entrance and started into “Around the World” alongside the band’s impressive stage and light show. Besides their onstage energy, the Chili Peppers are utilizing what is called the “largest, automated, kinetic light installation in concert touring history.” According to TAIT, the lighting company behind it, the kinetic display uses over 1000 TAIT Nano Winches to deploy the connected LED light fixture which hangs above the crowd, traveling 60 feet perpendicular to the stage. The light fixtures moved 10 feet per second, horizontally, vertically, in and out of unison, into shapes and the band’s asterisk logo, while changing colors from all over spectrum of the RGB color grid. It is really quite cool.
In Buffalo, I was up in the rafters and viewed it from high and outside. In Cleveland, much closer, practically under it, which to me, not only gave a 3-D effect mixed with the screens behind the stage but also made the show feel more intimate for an arena show. As the lights dropped, it made it feel like the ceiling was much, much lower. (It also made me imagine how this lighting rig would work with other bands as well…Kuroda, looking at you)
The hits kept on coming that night, because, after all, the Chili Peppers have been cranking out popular tunes since MTV featured their music in the early 80s. They followed up with “Dani California,” the first single off of Stadium Arcadium and “The Zephyr Song” from 2002’s By The Way. Peppered in with the new songs were “She’s Only 18,” “Look Around,” and “Californication” before the familiar opening riff of “Power of Equality.” Throughout all the songs, they did not stop running, bouncing and prowling about the stage. I noticed after the second opening band, L.A.’s very theatrical, IRONTOM, the crew was sweeping the stage over and over again. It is obvious with all the movement on stage, if they hit a pebble or something of the like, they could get really hurt. No wonder Flea and Kiedis are in such great shape, it’s a hardcore work out every gig! (And yes, they were shirtless for a period of time.)
The first opener was Flea’s childhood friend and founding Chili Pepper member, Jack Irons, performing solo on drums. Set to a psychedelic nature video, Irons had a Merl Saunders’ “Blues from the Rainforest” vibe before he was joined by a singer to do Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
The final third of the show featured the bass riff of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” (Stevie is also a Rock Hall of Famer- I am sensing a theme), which they recorded for their 1989 album, Mother’s Milk. They thumped this one out and the full house at “The Q” loved it. Then came the other Blood Sugar mega-hit, “Under the Bridge,” finally finishing their set with 2002’s “By the Way.”
Leaving the arena, I noted that for such a world-renowned band, The Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered such a different show compared to the one I saw only a couple of months ago and it was good to see some changes in their setlists. The show was high energy throughout and as noted, the stage/light show is phenomenal to see up close and in person.
Coming up, the Chili Peppers own a headlining spot at Bonnaroo next month and are wrapping up in Chicago on June 30th and July 1st before heading back abroad. They will also be headlining Austin City Limits Festival in the fall. Be sure to check them out this year if you get the chance.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH (5/13/17)
Openers: Jack Irons, IRONTOM
Around the World
The Zephyr Song
She’s Only 18
The Power of Equality
Under the Bridge
By the Way
Give It Away