Red Hot Chili Peppers are a band people love to hate, and with new album ‘The Getaway’ receiving mixed reviews, you might wonder if this headline set is what Reading needs in 2016. But judging by the crowd – the biggest of the weekend by miles – it seems Reading can’t get enough of the divisive funk-rockers.
Tonight found the four-piece on fine form, their new tracks slotted in nicely alongside old favourites. ‘Dark Necessities’’ anthemic chorus seemed tailor made for the green fields of St John’s Farm, while the futuristic disco vibes of ‘Go Robot’ were a refreshing change from funk-rock familiarity.
That’s not to say the classics didn’t go down well. Opener ‘Can’t Stop’ sent the crowd into a sudden frenzy, and standout track ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ received one of the biggest cheers of the weekend. However, some songs, like setlist mainstays ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Parallel Universe’, sounded stale by comparison. Kiedis’ usually sharp delivery seemed slack, and the band seemed like they were just going through the motions.
The band’s most recent member, Josh Klinghoffer has really come into his own recently, and tonight’s set was no different. His tortured backing vocals are more Kurt Cobain than John Frusciante, but it’s great to see him finally stamping his own mark on the Chilis’ sound. Even the trademark squealing solos weren’t a cheap Frusciante imitation – as has been the case in the past.
Klinghoffer wasn’t the one taking centre stage tonight though. That honour went to Anthony Kiedis, now in his 33rd year as frontman. Occasionally louche and disinterested onstage, Kiedis can have his off days, but at Reading he was a revelation. His snarling, spitting performance enraptured the crowd, evoking images of the well-loved Slane Castle shows in 2003. Even during slower, melancholic tunes ‘Under The Bridge’ and ‘Goodbye Angels’ he sang with a ringing conviction that’s been missing on recent tours.
This focus ultimately resulted in less onstage verbal sparring than normal, but it was worth it. Of course, Flea still had time to announce his intention to visit the funfair and “vomit on everyone”. While in even saltier banter, Kiedis asked his goofball bass player when he last “shit his pants”. Delightful.
In the end though, Reading was where it all came together for a band that’s been on the comeback trail since Frusciante quit in 2009. Two albums, several hundred shows and one health scare later and they’re finally back where they belong. On the main stage at Reading, performing to 60,000 adoring fans.