Red Hot Chili Peppers, O2 Arena, London — ‘Intense’

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the O2 Arena © Steve Gillett/Livepix

Even in the throes of their various drug problems, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ core duo of Anthony Kiedis and Michael “Flea” Balzary managed to radiate a really Californian athleticism. Now clean and approaching their mid-fifties, the pair appear preposterously buff, like ageing Hollywood action heroes cranking out sequels in a hit franchise.

The final time I saw them play, in a small venue debuting their mediocre 2011 album I’m with You, they seemed to be going through the motions. But the 1st of 3 shows at the O2 Arena brought a transformation. The energy on display was unsurprising: like a Tom Cruise film, any Chili Peppers performance requires a lot of operating around. The distinction was the staging’s verve and imagination.

It opened with bassist Flea on stage with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and drummer Chad Smith. The trio struck up a wild jam, joined midway via by singer Kiedis. Then the lithe guitar intro to “Can’t Stop” cut by way of the noise and an immense grid of glowing lights descended over the stage and audience. Composed of 800 free of charge-hanging lights, it proceeded to rise up and down, undulate and kind various colours and patterns in time to the music, a coup de théâtre made by the arena-spectacle organization Tait.

Four new tracks have been played from their newest release The Getaway, a decent album filleted for its greatest moments. Outbreaks of jamming recurred between songs, a tribute to the option culture from which the band emerged in the 1980s. Then a familiar anthem would begin up, the likes of “Under the Bridge” or “Californication”, testament to their transformation into massive beasts of US arena rock.

It was an intense, skilful overall performance. Flea’s bass-playing was a blur of fingers and slapping thumb, a muscular rhythmic counterpart to Kiedis’s crisp vocals. Smith was a powerhouse drummer, hurling sticks into the audience in between beats. Klinghoffer played guitar as even though in an electric storm, the heroics of an axe wizard fighting for mastery more than the elemental forces at his fingertips.

A neat interpolation of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” into “Give It Away” showed the manage that underlay the high-voltage showmanship. Flea’s acrobatic handstand stroll back to his spot for the encore summed up an evening of upended expectations. Gravity, like time, is just yet another obstacle to overcome for California’s immortals.

Section: Arts