Foo Fighters Tough Act To Follow For Chili Peppers

Pop-rock openers play tight set, but energetic punk-funk headliners ragged on first weekend of U.S. tour.

MADISON, Wis. — Funk-rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers were ragged but energetic Saturday, during the second show of their 54-date North American tour, while openers Foo Fighters offered a tight, powerful hour of melodic rock for nearly 10,000 fans.

If the mosh pit was any indication, the Chili Peppers might want to think about trading spots with the Foo Fighters. The crowd on the floor of the sold-out Dane County Expo Center ebbed and flowed in front of the stage for the duration of Foo Fighters' set, but it took the Chili Peppers a few songs and some crowd-baiting to get a mosh pit of their own going.

After the Chili Peppers opened with "Around the World" from their 1999 double-platinum album, Californication, and "Give It Away," from their 1991 pop breakthrough, Bloodsugarsexmagik, bassist Flea (born Michael Balzary) chanted "I'm a Badger, he's a Badger, she's a Badger, wouldn't you like to be a Badger, too?"

It was the band's second reference to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers' defeat of Purdue University in the NCAA men's basketball tournament earlier that evening. After "Around the World," lead singer Anthony Kiedis asked the crowd, "Is there a Badger in the house?"

With that, the band launched into its recent radio hit "Scar Tissue" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Suck My Kiss" (RealAudio excerpt), which got the crowd moving a little too intensely for Flea. The shirtless bassist said he saw a man in the crowd grope a woman who was crowd surfing. He suggested the man "stop buying our records and stop coming to our concerts. That's lame, that's cowardly and I'm embarrassed to be a part of it."

The comment recalled the Chili Peppers' closing set at Woodstock '99, a three-day festival that was marred by reports of sexual assaults. At that show, Flea said, "Hey, you know, just because a girl out there wants to feel free and take her shirt off doesn't mean a bunch of ya have to go grabbin' her t-ts and stuff."

Chili Peppers Energetic, But Sloppy

During the Chili Peppers' 80-minute set, Kiedis, wearing the same red-and-black Chili Peppers basketball jersey and shorts that were for sale at the merchandise stands in the lobby, anchored himself with the mic stand as he moved around center-stage. Flea and guitarist John Frusciante hopped and ran around each other during many songs.

While the Chili Peppers' energy couldn't be denied, they occasionally sounded sloppy. Frusciante's guitar solos were sometimes out of tune, and his singing was frequently flat, which seemed to throw Kiedis off when the two were singing in unison, as on "Scar Tissue."

"Flea seemed like the only one who was really on tonight," fan Carmen Wolfe, 24, of Madison said. "The Chili Peppers were kind of lame, but the Foo Fighters really rocked."

Grohl And Co. Steal The Show

Foo Fighters opened with "Monkey Wrench," from their 1997 album, The Colour and the Shape. The song got the crowd moshing so furiously that lead singer/guitarist Dave Grohl asked everyone to "stand still" after the band's second song, its recent hit "Learn to Fly."

"My Hero" began with Grohl, the former Nirvana drummer, banging on a floor-tom before playing the song's opening guitar riff. Wearing tight black jeans, a bright red shirt and a skinny white tie, Grohl looked like an early '80s new-waver, and ran back and forth across the stage when he wasn't singing.

Grohl told the crowd he was going to do a "mellow number for all the people getting their asses kicked" in front of the stage, before beginning "Everlong." After "Stacked Actors" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Aurora," from the 1999 album There Is Nothing Left to Lose, Grohl began picking out the guitar riff to hard-rock band Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' Bout Love."

After claiming "we really don't know any Van Halen songs," Grohl and Foo Fighters ended their set with "This Is a Call," from the band's 1995 self-titled debut album.

Faced with the unenviable chore of opening for two arena-size acts, the three-piece English band Muse got the crowd moshing from its first crashing guitar chord. Frontman Matthew Bellamy mixed the vocal range and power of late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley with manic punk energy, while the band emphasized the latter part of the Radiohead-meets-Nirvana sound of its debut album, Showbiz (1999).

"I had never heard of them," Danny Klingbeil, of Madison said. "But they really kick ass."