March 15th I was at Moda Center watching the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their Getaway Tour.
In some ways the show was a testament to the band's longevity. Performing about two songs per album - so performing many favorites but leaving many favorites unheard - reminded us that this is a band with eleven studio albums covering 34 years. That's time to build a lot of fans, and even up in the cheap seats the arena was packed.
Despite that level of history, nothing felt old or nostalgic about the show. The band was vibrant, the crowd was energetic, and the venue was alive.
The funny thing about me being there is that I have never been a fan. I haven't been against them either; I think it was mainly an issue of timing and exposure. However, my friend Karen is a lifelong fan who had never seen them before. (This is also how I ended up at Gogol Bordello.) I had become fond of bass player Flea since seeing The Other F-Word, but otherwise I knew two songs and not much else. (And no points for guessing those two were "Give It Away" and "Under the Bridge".)
So speaking as someone who did not have much familiarity but was sitting next to someone who really needed to be there, the show worked on multiple levels. For me, they served up good rock. Having been exposed, I like them.
(And not that kind of exposure. Singer Anthony Kiedis did remove his shirt at one point, but everyone was pretty clothed.)
For a long-time fan, it was much more. Yes, there were some songs missing that she would have liked to hear, but there were also really important points touched. She did not know how much she needed to hear "Scar Tissue" until she heard it played. I know that feeling.
There are two other things I want to mention. One was the sense of camaraderie. Yes, Kiedis and Flea have been together for decades, and drummer Chad Smith came not long after, but there have been many line-up changes.
Even those show loyalty. Chris Warren has only been touring keyboardist since 2007, but he has been a drum technician for them since the '90s. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer toured with them in 2007, then became part of the band in 2009. Watching Kiedis introduce all of them, and others, it was easy to believe that the band takes good care of their crew and is well cared for in return. There was an easy affection going around. The sweetest moment of that may have been when Flea and Klinghoffer walked toward each other and Klinghoffer briefly rested his head on Flea's shoulder, but there seemed to be general good feelings all around.
(I can't explain why, but Klinghoffer's playing style really appealed to me.)
I also need to mention the show design. In addition to good use of video and live footage, there was an amazing light set-up, described as "history's largest touring kinetic light structure" at http://livedesignonline.com/concerts/picture-perfect-shots-chili-peppers-getaway-tour.
In arena shows it is hard to maintain intimacy. Leif Dixon's video meant that the audience could get close-ups while still balancing with visual material chosen to enhance specific songs. That was important, but I was fascinated with Scott Holthaus' light structure.
With the lights being able to change their color and intensity, as well as being able to go up and down, there was incredible versatility. The lights could create a frame for the stage and floor seating, defining the space. The could create an arching roof like an awning you might see at an outdoor show. They could represent undulating waves or rotating geometric patterns, and they did all of those things and more. I can only imagine some of the technical difficulties of setup and take-down and transportation, but it feels like it's worth it.
I do not doubt in any way that just the four members in a small venue would still have that energy and fun, but all of these elements combined makes a team effort that I can really appreciate.
Congratulations all around!