July 19, 2004
Red Hot Chili Peppers : Edinburgh Murrayfield Stadium
Not the greatest stadium gig then...
Rock'n'roll is a game. A big, stupid, sometimes hilarious, often seemingly pointless, occasionally even deadly game. But a game, none the less. And if you're going to play the game then, like it or not, you either follow the few moronically simple rules, or you risk pissing off a fair proportion of the people who've coughed up actual money to watch you jig about like excited children. Red Hot Chili Peppers, 20 years into a journey closer to a Shakespearean tragedy than a career, rather obviously disagree. That they disagree despite their willingness to play an alcohol-free, all-ages show at Scotland's biggest sports stadium with no new album to promote is probably a stance that constitutes playing the game so hard you stand a real risk of getting impregnated by it.
The Chili Peppers are, of course, one of the biggest, most spectacular bands in the world: I know this because I've heard all their records and seen the sales figures. If, however, I'd simply turned up to Murrayfield expecting to be entertained to within an inch of my life (for my £35), I'd have been sorely disappointed, because those four attractive, tanned millionaires
up there patently feel there's somewhere else they'd rather be. Perhaps back home stroking the lizard
by the pool? Perhaps sucking down a mocktail somewhere on a luxurious and well-deserved holiday? Who knows? Wherever they want to be, it certainly isn't here in front of another adoring crowd, smiling and screaming, waiting patiently for 'Give It Away'
and freaking out to 'The Zephyr Song'.
It isn't, by any means, all their fault. Shows in daylight strip any gig of atmosphere and magic
and the mix leaves them sounding tinny, with John Frusciante's guitar lost when he isn't soloing (which,
to be honest, isn't often). 'Can't Stop', 'Around The World' and 'Scar Tissue' are stunning opening tracks, but 20 minutes has slipped by before Anthony Kiedis acknowledges our presence, and that's only to mention how tired he is.
Flea gurns like a teenage E-fiend and John spanks his plank to the point of insanity, but 'By The Way' is held up by a backs-turned chat, evidently some of it hysterically funny but, you know, there's 70,000 of us here (almost £2.5m in ticket sales) and we're keen to get on with things. Even the cover of Looking Glass' 1972 radio-smash 'Brandy' and its properly fruity vibes eventually, and inevitably, gets buried under all the soloing and anvil-on-the-testicles face-pulling.
Before 'I Like Dirt' John announces he's going to call a sick friend from his mobile so we can tell him we "love" him. A beautiful gesture, but it means we stand there staring at our nails for five long minutes while he waits for an answer. Then someone else picks up and he has to fetch John's mate. Then Kiedis decides he wants to have a private word. Then, some significant time later, I think after Flea finishes an email to his accountant, but I might be wrong, we get another song. Like, wow! Thanks!
'Californication' and 'Parallel Universe' are truly brilliant, moving moments, but do we really need to suffer a ten-minute trumpet solo before a limp jazz version of 'Under The Bridge'? No. Does anyone really believe Kiedis when he mumbles through some horrible anecdote about wanting to move to Scotland, "when I'm, like, 652"? No. Is 45 Grave's 'Black Cross' the cover of the night? No, that's John's startling falsetto croon through Donna Summer's 'Love To Love You Baby'. Are Red Hot Chili Peppers uncomfortable with the hyper-inflated level of their own success? Quite probably, and their desire to keep things interesting is admirable. But, really, this isn't the way to do it.
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