Detroit,Michigan (August 14,2022)-It’s kind of fitting that this year’s biggest summer rock tour is led by the band most synonymous with the state of California since the iconic Beach Boys.The Red Hot Chili Peppers were a little-known L.A. based band in spring 1985 when they moved to the Motor City for a couple of months, striving to plug into the spirit of recording genius George Clinton. Freaky Styley, was rehearsed in Ferndale and recorded with the iconic funk maestro at Detroit’s United Sound, thus becoming the group’s second album. Largely overlooked by most , little did anyone know what was in store for this funny named band from the westcoast and subsequent career that would firmly entrench them as rock and roll legends and Hall of Famers.
Sunday night, nearly four decades later, the group played the biggest Motor City date of their illustrious career, taking over Comerica Park for the band’s first-ever stadium concert in the city. An estimated 39,000 fans filed into the MLB Detroit Tigers home field for the nearly two-hour show, which brought Michigan born vocalist Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea, Bloomfield Hills raised drummer Chad Smith, who coincidently brandishes an olde English D on his bass drum head, along with guitarist John Frusciante to town for the band’s first tour stop here in over five long years. For the fans in crowd that did not know the band members lineage, Flea filled them in early: “Thank you, Michigan! Thank you for Chad and Anthony.”
The band kicked off Sunday with a savage five-minute jam that acted as a ramp-up to high-octane opener “Around the World.” Without words, the band spun into “Dani California” and the soaring “Universally Speaking,” all songs culled from the height of Frusciante’s second tenure with the group. With a European warmup swing already behind them, the quartet looked and sounded relaxed, well, as relaxed as a band employing the ever-intense Flea can get. Frontman Anthony Kiedis and the wild man bassist joked and jammed between some of the band’s most recognizable hits and choice album cuts, including a handful of newbies from this spring’s “Unlimited Love.” Kiedis, who somehow turns 60 later this year, darted around the stage in a blue mesh T-shirt, black shorts with blue Nike socks pulled up to his calves. Sporting a Tom Selleck mustache and a haircut like some slapstick comedian from 75 years ago, the iconic frontman managed to pull it off with the help of his well kept California physique and enough energy that guys half his age could only wish for.
After the high octane start with some of the Red Hot Chili Peppers more familiar cuts, the band dipped into the new album for a funky new one, “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” which lacked the punch of the original recording’s New Orleans-style featured horn section. Fortunately Kiedis and company segued into one of their staple easygoing rock anthems, “Snow (Hey Oh),” off 2006’s “Stadium Arcadium.” The song’s familiar warmth brought the crowd back into the fold with Frusciante’s mesmerizing riffs, re-establsihing some lost momentum. Of all the Chilis Peppers soul-easing classics throughout the night, none brought a collective sense of comfort quite like this one.
The tight knit foursome gathered around Smith’s drums throughout the course of the night, playing facing one other, jamming, rather than out toward the crowd. The Chili Peppers sound is and has always been about vibes and feelings and the music they create together is born out of these moments where they find a groove, build it up and ride it until it cant go any farther. Like tonight, at times hard and fast, at times melodic and mesmerizing. It sometimes derailed, but when it did the live show veterans picked up the pieces and built a foundation for the next hit on the playlist.
Speaking of the hits, did they play the hits that permeate throughout the bands library? Yes they did and then some. Staples that included the likes of “Californication,” (marred by Frusciante’s malfunctioning guitar extending the intro jam until he was given another,) “Give it Away” and “Under the Bridge,” the latter of which hasn’t been played very often on the Chili Peppers’ current stadium tour. More strikingly however, the band explored its album tracks, including four selections from April’s “Unlimited Love,” along with a reach-back to “Nobody Weird Like Me” from 1989’s Mother’s Milk and catalog excursions such as “I Like Dirt,” “Universally Speaking” and “Hard to Concentrate.” Unfortunately, the band did not preview any of the material off its upcoming 13th album, which is reportedly called “Return of the Dream Canteen” and due out this fall.
The eclectic variety of the nights cuts or playing in front of Kiedis and Chad Smith’s home town fans along with parents and friends seemed to energize the Chili Peppers. Playing in front of a giant screen that wrapped above and behind the stage that carried psychedelic images throughout the show, the group occasionally added Chris Warren on keyboards and percussion and tore through the set with visibly renewed energy. Kiedis and Flea, who dedicated “Tell Me Baby” to the late Tigers Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, jumped, skipped and twirled around the stage like they were 29 rather than soon to be seniors. Frusciante held serve, mixing rhythmic leads with fierce solos on songs like “Dont Forget Me,” and “The Heavy Wing.”
As the evening wound down, RHCP segued Unlimited Love lead single “Black Summer” into a closing run of some of their biggest hits. While some of the newer stuff drew mixed reactions from the crowd, the plight of any legacy band, especially one whose later years are more defined by its enduring and inescapable singles than albums. Fortuneatly, the soothing jam fits comfortably among the best of the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers’ time-tested melodic rockers and given time, has the chance on becoming a setlist regular.
Following the closing “By the Way,” with the stadium’s lights up for the final curtain call, drummer Chad Smith thanked the fans for attending, saying that, “it means the world to us that you’ve supported us all these years, and it means the world to a little kid growing up not too far from here to come play this amazing stadium. I can’t f***ing believe it. It’s a dream come true, really is.”
Smith, whose whole family attended the show, then noted that his mother, Joan, was sitting on the side of the stage, saluting her as “a 95-year-old all-time f***ing rocker! (Kiedis’ mom Peggy, “another all-time f***ing rocker” according to Smith, was also there.) The drummer then wheeled his mother out onto the stage to receive a massive ovation herself.
All of that, meanwhile, only added to a musical performance that was equally special.
None of this, of course, was a real surprise for any Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. But it was impressive nonetheless and in spots jaw-dropping to see and hear the group’s musical heritage come together in real time, precise but not polished, all in a good way. You can, rightfully so, debate that the alchemy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has only gotten better with age. When Smith promised that “we’ll see you again” at the end of the night he could rest assured that a return can’t come too soon for the thousands at Comerica on Sunday.
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