• Live Reviews

Bonnaroo 2012 – Red Hot Chili Peppers

written by: on June 13, 2012

Red Hot Chili Peppers ( WHAT STAGE – 10PM )

I now understand the phrase ignorance is bliss. I feel like how Dorothy must have felt, looking behind the curtain to find her beloved wizard was just a goofy little twerp. I have spent the better part of the 90’s and 2000’s respecting and admiring the work of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I loved Californication, and defended tracks off of By The Way, Stadium Arcadium, and I’m With You. But now I’ve looked behind the curtain, and there’s no going back.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst live band I have ever seen. I’ve seen bad bands, with singers that can’t sing, musicians that spend more time on outfits and hairstyles than crafting their shows. These are mostly at the local level. But never have I seen a band so respected by the masses be so bad. So I’ll say it again.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the worst live band I have ever seen.

The place was packed. Hundreds of people waited for over 10 hours in the hot sun, thousands waited through a few performances. This was going to be a huge show. I was a fan, and I was really excited, having wormed my way to the front of the crowd in one of the rare spots where someone could see both the stage and the monitors with ease. There was so much energy harnessed in the crowd, waiting to be unleashed. Then the place went dark and Anthony Keidis, Flea, Josh Klinghoffer, and Chad Smith took the stage, the lights flooded on, and people went nuts. The light show was incredible, so I was deceived for a few precious moments. Then Anthony Keidis started to sing, and the wizards curtain came crashing down.

Nothing seemed to fit right. Sure, there seemed to be some technical flaws with the WHAT STAGE this evening as the crowd called for a better mix. But there is no denying how off the vocals were regardless.

Keidis has never been accused of being a good singer, but his one-of-a-kind style of rapping and singing has made him instantly recognizable, for better or worse.

Yet the newer material that they led the show with, songs like “Look Around”, feature Keidis singing in the chorus, and rapping lazily in the verse. It translated terribly, the vocals consistently flat, made worse by the harmonies sputtered out by newcomer, Josh Klinghoffer.

Klinghoffer had his own problems, unable to nail any of the harmonies and seeming uncomfortable on stage, disguising it as energy and running around awkwardly. Klinghoffer’s performance reminded me of the gimmick that Green Day utilizes in their shows, bringing a kid from the crowd on stage to try playing a song. The audience is always enamored at Green Day’s respect for their fans, and cheers for the kid for just “trying their darndest”. But even when the audience member is great and knows the song, people would rather watch the friggin’ band just play the song. That’s how Klinghoffer seems on stage, like an excited kid getting the chance to play with his favorite band, over-compensating and acting a fool.

Speaking of gimmicks, how about a drum solo 3 minutes into the show?

I just can’t understand how a band with such an extensive catalog, songs that could appeal to everyone, could get so caught up in gimmicks and ridiculous behavior. I looked back at the incredible crowd and couldn’t believe this was the same stage The Roots and Radiohead brought their music to the masses while still respecting their legacy.

I waited song after song, hoping the band would find a comfortable groove or something. It didn’t happen. Half way into the set, I decided I had seen enough.

The Wizard wouldn’t fool me anymore. I turned and left, and I wish I never went so I could ever listen to one of their songs again.

Right before I left, I shared a moment with Anthony Keidis that solidified my decision. I had walked through tens of thousands of people to get to the entrance to the WHAT STAGE field. Just as I reached the entrance, the first few notes of “Under the Bridge”, the quintessential RHCP song, rang out. I turned and watched a shirtless Keidis standing in his “rock-star” pose at the front of the stage, trying to remember the art and reasons behind such touching lyrics like “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner / sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in”. As he continued posturing, I turned and left, listening to thousands of still blissfully ignorant people sing along.

Read about Bonnaroo’s other headliner:


Read about Bonnaroo’s other dates:

Sunday, June 10

Saturday, June 9

Friday, June 8

Thursday, June 7