Live Music Reviews

Red Hot Chili Peppers @ KOKO, London

1 September 2011

KOKO’s entrance was blocked and the streets of Camden were thronged; Red Hot Chili Peppers were in town. The LA funk-rockers’ first concert in the UK for four years had brought out people young and old, a good share of them wearing the band’s logo on their T-shirts.

When the band finally arrived, the dancing – and in some cases flailing – began, along to the electrifying opening Monarchy Of Roses. The song was played with a sincere energy that surpassed even slight sound difficulties. This jubilant introduction was followed by the crowd favourite Can’t Stop, and when the opening guitar began and people immediately recognized one of RHCP’s most famous anthems, the crowd responded with levels of noise and excitement that lasted the rest of the 90-minute set. From then on it never stopped.

Never once did Anthony Kiedis or Josh Klinghoffer stand still, with Kiedis cutting his hands through the air in motions both amusing and absurd, yet absolutely in tune with the music. At one point Kiedis, in throes of musical passion whilst jumping on the drums, managed to both knock down the microphone stand, almost losing the microphone to the audience, and then catch it before an unknowing fan in the front row became the new singer. Klinghoffer’s movements onstage, while slightly reminiscent of the band’s former guitarist John Frusciante, were equally energetic, with ecstatic bowing of the legs and hair-swishing. And Flea’s usual awe-inspiring stage movements weren’t forgotten either, but at one point in the set Flea halted movement, crouched down and played an entire song without moving a muscle except for strumming.

They played seven songs from their new album, which had only been out for four days; its songs were likely still new to fans. From the band’s point of view the most energy and excitement was devoted to those seven, the band obviously excited to showcase their new music. Flea also spoke to the crowd at one point, stating that he was “playing around with this Neil Young song, and now we’re gonna play it so there you have it” and began playing Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere right after their Stadium Arcadium hit Throw Away Your Television. According to Anthony Kiedis, “scientifically speaking it was pretty amazing” and the audience roared in agreement.

The main performance ended with a rhythmic and emotional rendition of one of their most celebrated songs By The Way. The band departed, and then suddenly, and much to the crowd’s delight, there on stage was Chad Smith. He began a powerful drum solo that was later joined by Flea and eventually Klinghoffer in an instrumental that made the walls shake. Finally Kiedis returned and they began again with She’s Only 18 from Stadium Arcadium, and ended with – inevitably – Give It Away, which had the whole club dancing along to the funky bass. And then it was over, the audience spilling out in a daze, having witnessed the Red Hot Chili Peppers at perhaps their most intimate, and certainly their best.

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