Return of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Part 1

Back in action.

ATN Philadelphia correspondent Chris Nelson

reports: The

Red Hot Chili Peppers brought the delayed debut of their North American Tour to

the Spectrum in Philadelphia on Tuesday (Feb. 6). This leg of their show, in

support of One Hot Minute*, has been on hold since November, when

drummer Chad Smith broke his wrist playing softball.

While the human light

bulb suits from Woodstock '94 were nowhere in sight, Tuesday's 15-song set

nonetheless provided plenty of evidence that the Chili Peppers are dead set on

creating an old-fashioned Show with a capital S. For starters, and this is no

small feat for an arena concert, they ensured that the sound was top-notch.

That's very important for a band whose music dictates that the individual

players need not only blend properly in the mix, but also to come through

distinctively.

Moreover, all four of the Chili Peppers were invested

physically, as well as sonically, in the show. That's a given for stage

stompers such as bassist Flea and singer Anthony Kiedis, but newish guitarist

Dave Navarro (this is his second American show since joining the band) was also

in on the act.

Most importantly, the band was making music for themselves

as well as the audience, which was plain from the interaction between both Flea

and Kiedis, and Flea and Navarro. It's really no wonder the others feed off of

Flea, what with his infectious half dance-half seizure antics. During

"Walkabout," he gave the audience an extended mooning, which appeared at first

to be just the latest in a long line of semi-lewd rock star antics in the

tradition of folks such as AC/DC's Angus Young. What we learned minutes later

is that Flea's pants would have come down anyway, as his jumping dance with

Kiedis forced him to finish the song with what's known affectionately in these

parts as "plumber's butt."

"Walkabout" and other songs from the band's

latest record were certainly the musical highlights from the show. The band

modified its set list to bump a guaranteed crowd-pleaser like "Give It Away" up

to the second song slot, but it was the third song, "Aeroplane" from One Hot

Minute, that really got the crowd moving. "Coffee Shop" kept the funk to a

minimum, but highlighted band's chops as a rock outfit to great effect. That

song and "Deep Kick" showed the benefit of bringing an avowed anti-funkster

like Navarro on board.

Despite the fact that "Deep Kick" is an

autobiographical number about Flea and Kiedis' days growing up, it's Navarro

that truly shines in the song (especially on record), with his guitar egging

the listener on through the boys' adventures. When the song at last devolves

into Flea's lyrical homage to the Butthole Surfers, Navarro dishes out twisted,

strangled notes that turn out to be among the most organic, unchoreographed

moments of the new material.

Among all the entertainment on Tuesday, there

was only one element about the set that seemed missing from what would be a

proper show with a capital S, and that was duration. The Chili Peppers were

on-stage for less than an hour and a half. Of course, a short set may have been

necessary for Smith's still recovering wrist. On the other hand, the band may

have limited the length of its own show because the audience had already

witnessed two better-than-opening-band sets before the Chilies hit the

stage.

Silverchair continued its campaign of self-deprecation with a 45

minute show that contained several new songs. Singer and guitarist Daniel Johns

introduced the best of those, a very Nirvanaish (surprised?) song called

"Freak" with the off-handed remark that, "This is another new song. It sucks as

well." For their part, the teenage girls in the Spectrum continued their

campaign of screaming at most everything Johns said.

Before Silverchair

came on, the Rentals rocked out with best set by an opening band I've seen a

good while. The band's juxtaposition of bass/guitar/drums distorto-thud with

Cars-like keyboards and melodic backing vocals grabbed many of those wise

enough to show up early for the show. Much to the Rentals' credit, their three

synthesizers were by no means easy '80's kitsch, but rather legit ingredients

in catchy pop songs. Gimme

more.