Saturday, September 16, 2006

maybe a bit more than you really want to hear about the Chili Peppers' concert

I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Thursday in Vancouver with my friend Vicky. She's the one who introduced me to this band while I was doing my big "listening to music" project a couple of years ago. I now have a pretty good CD collection that tickles my happy-music-self with strong lyrics, mostly acoustic sound, some kind of sense of humour/quirkiness and all kinds of styles/genres/eras. I keep asking to borrow my friends' music, and now I have some I can loan back, so it's fun. I'm listening to the radio less, and to music of my own choice more.

So when the Chili Peppers announced their concert tour I was over the moon. Tickets sold out in less than an hour, but I got a couple of seats up in a section where I can verify, those guys still have all of their own hair. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After a salad and a glass of wine in Burnaby, Vic and I began our concert experience with a Skytrain ride downtown. Neither of us has been to a concert in a while (well, I saw Jann Arden a couple of years ago at the Queen E but this is something different altogether). Neither of us has gone to the earsplitting/stadium filling/rock-music/maybe see our friends' kids there and wish we didn't kind of show. The skytrain was packed with 20-somethings including a young couple smash-face-smooching about 2 inches from my face all the way from Broadway station. Now that was funny. When they came up for air we talked with them about the concert. They seemed like nice kids.

The crowd at the stadium was pretty young. Not so many buying beer. Lots smoking pot in their seats. By the midway through the show, the air was blue and thick and we were dying for water. The nice young man beside me offered to share his marijuana with us. Vic and I are the only ones our age left in the world who have never smoked pot, ever, not even a little bit, so we grinned and declined. We probably smoked a fair bit just breathing up there.

But the show. Well, first on was The Mars Volta, which was hard for me to understand and enjoy because I have never heard of them or heard their music. The were a big group - maybe 8 or 9 on stage. High energy, but they were squished into the front quarter of the stage by their equipment setup. They played about 4 exceedingly long songs in one hour and I couldn't hear what they were saying or singing. I think that the backup band must have limitations put on what they are allowed to do and how good their technical support is, so it's not fair to judge by this performance. If found out some encouraging stuff when I looked them up later. Their new CD is produced by Rick Rubin, who has produced a few of the Chili Peppers albums, including Stadium Arcadium. Also, Flea and John Frusciante, the bass and guitar players for the Peppers have mentored The Mars Volta, played with them, and have toured with them before. So I think they're worth a listen again. And I got a peek at some of their talent at the end of the show, but more about that later. I read on the band's website about the sources for their songs and concept albums, and noticed they had this cloth screen backdrop with sci-fi type images projected during their show, so I don't know if I'll get the references when I do listen. Oh well.

After about an hour of opening act and another half hour of setting up the stage the Chili Peppers came on. Everyone went wild. We were on our feet enjoying the music and singing along for most of the show. The sound was good, and they played a ton of favourites, about half from their new CD Stadium Arcadium and half from previous albums. The did sing "Can't Stop," "Scar Tissue," "Dani California" and "Californication." They didn't sing the Zephyr Song or Under the Bridge (the latter of which I missed more). I really wished they sang their version of Higher Ground. But they didn't. Flea was flamboyant and exuberant. He ended the show by walking off the stage on his hands. I couldn't figure out what he was wearing. Some skin-tight pants and shirt combo with big sneakers with red laces. The outfit was all-over patterned so it looked like he was dipped in a comic book page and came up coated with primary colour images and scribbles. I kept wondering if the shirt was a tattoo but I'm pretty sure it was a shirt. Anthony Keidis, the lead singer was clear and engaging, and he has very shiny hair. He seemed to enjoy the crowd's response, but he didn't chat much between songs. I wondered about his costume choice - sweatshirt capris and a long tank-top that stopped in the wrong place and made him look hippy - which I've never seen on a guy. He looked like I do when I put put on slouchy old clothes to clean the house. John Frusciante, on the other hand, was elegant in a slate blue velvet pants and jacket. And boy can he play the guitar. That was probably the best thing about the concert for me, hearing him play. Chad Smith, the drummer had his usual bandana-band and an aqua button-shirt. I thought about what I would wear if I was an aging rock star. Hmmm, maybe manpris and a comic book shirt, but probably the velvet suit. It was kind of retro. The lights and effects were very cool. Just before the show, 4 camera operators climbed up to a catwalk over the stage and tethered themselves there for the whole show. Amazing closeup images of faces and fingers were projected in a shifting image montage. That was good.

Enough about their clothes. The playing and singing was good, but I was really bugged by one thing, and I'm not sure if this is just what musicians do at concerts or if it was them. Leading into songs, Flea and John did a bit of jamming with their guitar and bass. It was nice sometimes, especially when it sounded like they were having a conversation with their instruments, but it got out of hand (I think) during the encore. For the encore they sang "Give it Away," then they want into an extended wank-jam that lasted for about 20 minutes. They were joined by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the guitarist from The Mars Volta, and he was very good. For about 5 minutes it was fun to watch. Then it kept going, and going and going. Vic said "Let's leave" but I was hopeful that they'd wind up with something that might indicate communication with the audience. Instead they all huddled up in front of the drumset and played for each other. I guess if I was an aspiring young musician I might have enjoyed fantasizing that this would be what it's like to jam with them. Or if I had a finer-tuned appreciating for guitar and bass playing I would have found it a privilege to witness the creative process. But it got boring, then they wound up and finished boom-boom-twang. Then they left (except Flea stayed and walked on his hands for a minute). That was disappointing.

After the show we smashed back into the Skytrain. We were deaf for a little while and we definitely smelled a lot like marijuana, and also Axe body spray, which was the second prevalent scent during the show. We agreed that it was a good concert on the whole, and a boggling experience of something we've been missing for a while.

So that was the concert.

question: what would you wear for a show if you were an aging rock star?

mompoet - logging off to clean my bathrooms (but not in a blue velvet suit)

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