Red Hot Chili Peppers: Earls Court, London, Saturday, July 1

The spicy stadium rockers may have bitten off more than they can chew

Tonight, London,” whoops Anthony Kiedis, “We’re going to play our seminal, week-long, masterpiece double-album, ‘Stadium Arcadium’ for you, in its entirety!”

OK, he doesn’t say that and they don’t do it. That would be ridiculous. It just feels like they are, and it isn’t all the Chili Peppers’ fault. You’re always battling against man-made elements at shows this size: appalling sound, surly venue security and boneheaded boozehounds seemingly competing to see who can ruin your evening more. It can all be made OK with a career-making show that properly connects – like the Green Day outdoor extravaganzas last year, or indeed, RHCP’s ones the year before. But tonight it’s like somebody’s wired the speakers so only a weevil could hear anything, and the band’s response is to phone in a show, making their Californian superstar rude boys look even more distant than ever. It’s a double shame, because this really is a a golden age for the Chilis; their aggro-funk having swelled and mellowed into something properly soulful on new tracks such as ‘Charlie’ and ‘Snow’; the spirit of ‘Give It Away’ living on in ‘Tell Me Baby’; and John Frusciante finally taking the reigns of the band by firing off some proper guitar heroics to compete with Flea’s daft bass soloing.

We only know this because a week ago to the very minute, NME was battling far worse elements (torrential rain, Buckfast wine) at T In The Park and witnessed this very same band play one of the more rousing, impressive festival shows we’ve ever seen – one where they connected with the audience rather than just flexed their riffs in front of them. It was fucking empire, but tonight it didn’t happen. The Chili Peppers used to be unreliable because they were too busy being naked and injecting their eyeballs with ecstasy pipes. But it seems that their latest curiosity – the vagaries of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ energy – was working against them here too.

Dan Martin