Chili Peppers Play 1,300 Feet Up

Funk-rockers perform new single and other songs in show atop World Trade Center.

NEW YORK — It's doubtful anyone's ever pogoed higher than the Red Hot Chili Peppers fans gathered Tuesday night on the observation deck of the World Trade Center, 1,310 feet above the streets of Manhattan.

About 300 contest winners saw the Los Angeles funk-rock band play a show organized by WXRK-FM and billed as an Around the World Trade Center Concert.

The band obligingly opened with "Around the World" — the second single from Californication (1999) — with New Jersey behind them and New York City far below. Singer Anthony Kiedis, his hair still platinum but beginning to show its dark roots, jumped high enough to nearly hit the ceiling, and about a third of the fans in front pogoed with him.

Because of the low ceiling, the stage was barely a foot off the floor.

"It was pretty loud," said Manhattan resident Hector Caminero, who stood mere feet away from the stage-right speaker stack for the whole show. "It's the best spot to feel the music and to see it up close," he said. "But I'll probably regret it in 20 years."

After brief hellos, bassist Flea and guitarist John Frusciante launched

into the hard-funk intro of "Give It Away" (RealAudio excerpt) — one of several tracks they played from Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991) — and the ranks of pogoers swelled. They say the World Trade Center, the world's third-tallest building, sways in the wind. Tuesday night, it shook.

Bassist Flea (born Michael Balzary) started without a shirt, and by the

third song Kiedis had his off, too. Between them, Flea, in baby-blue satin pants and magenta hair, Kiedis in his indigo satin pants and guitarist John Frusciante with his all-red two-piece and long hair, looked like the swim team from some off-world university.

During "Scar Tissue" (RealAudio excerpt), giant fluorescent lights that looked like castoffs from a tanning salon came to life, bathing everyone in their sickly bug-light glow. "Turn off those lights," Kiedis commanded during "My Lovely Man." "I feel like I'm getting a f---ing suntan."

Between songs, Frusciante and Flea threw together little riffs, some of them recognizable: a bit of Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" and the first few notes of the Clash anthem "London Calling." The latter served as a fake intro to "Right on Time," another track from Californication (1999).

During the quiet part of the ballad "I Could Have Lied," a woman decked out in black from head to toe whipped out her cell phone, apparently to check her voice mail. The fast staccato rap of "Blackeyed Blonde," from 1985's Freaky Styley, made it impossible for her to continue, even with a finger in her ear. She stormed off.

After a sing-along version of "Under the Bridge," Kiedis announced that he'd been out of key for the whole song and Flea's bass had been out of tune.

All night, the low ceiling was a target for drummer Chad Smith, who found a way to harpoon the tiles with his drumsticks. For the encore, "The Power of Equality," Smith tossed the rest of his stockpile to the audience. Afterward, a roadie rescued the one stick still stuck in the ceiling.

Toward the end of the show, some crowd-surfing began, causing some of

the security guards to get worked up, but overall the fans seemed well behaved. Nary a wisp of smoke was noticeable all night — from cigarettes or otherwise — in keeping with a no-smoking policy in the building.

"I saw them at Woodstock," Dennis Fleming of Merrick, N.Y., said. "Here, you could move around a lot easier."

The Chili Peppers closed the July 23-25 festival in Rome, N.Y., with a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Fire" as bonfires burned out of control on the concert grounds. At this show, Fleming said, security guards manning metal detectors on the building's main floor confiscated concert-goers' matches and lighters.

"Don't want to give anybody any ideas," he commented.

The Chili Peppers are expected to tour the U.S. early next year.