Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Red Hot Chilli Peppers 11/12/16

I love the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and have done since I first heard "Fight Like a Brave" on the BBC way back in the eighties.  A couple of years later they released "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" and became the global superstars they remain today.  I got a chance of four tickets and i didn't have to think about it, has to be done!  So on a damp Sunday afternoon in December I pointed the car westwards and off we set.  I say "we" as I was joined by the Purple Princess, My daughter Maddie and beloved friend Trev, who like me, had seen RHCP before.  The journey along the A14/M6 wen't almost without a hitch (but not quite!) and we pulled up in the car park with time to spare.

The venue, Birmingham NEC is one I've visited many times.  It's further away than the London venues but less hassle to reach.  As we walked from the car park to the arena it became it had been spruced up considerably since my last visit, maybe a decade ago?  There's now a retail area that I hadn't noticed before with high street names in big lights.  The venue too is now named the "Genting arena" after it's sponsor, a casino apparently.

We joined a throng of people and were steadily drawn into the arena.  A quick stop for a Tee shirt then off in search of our seats.  We found ourselves towards the back of the arena, way up high near the roof.  this may have the disadvantage of not being in the thick of the atmosphere below but our view would be better.  Normally I find myself trying to peer over the shoulders of giants so a clear view of the stage makes a nice change.

Anyway, back up a bit.  By the time we found our seats the support were already in full flow.  This was "Baby Metal".  This band are unique to say the least, how could I describe it?  Imagine a Japanese 'Little Mix' singing in front of a 'Metallica' style hard rock band dressed in strange outfits.  (They look a bit like the band 'Goat'.  If you are unfamiliar with Goat, type it into YouTube, ignore anything dodgy and try to find the mad Swedish rock band.  You'll thank me.)  Anyway, three sweet Japanese girls dancing in perfect synch in front of a hard rock band shouldn't really work, should it?  Well it kind of does, in as much as it was entertaining and good fun.  We all enjoyed it and Maddie in particular loved it so its a thumbs up for Baby Metal.

Most concerts start off with some kind of dramatic intro but not the Peppers.  There's a bit of freaky clarinet warbling as they casually stroll on to stage.  Chad climbs onto the drum riser, Flea straps on the bass, Josh walks on with guitar and they launch into a jam, pounding rhythm and wailing guitar.  The rhythm increases, the sound builds and builds, these are seriously good musicians.  Anthony bops on and the band smashes into "Can't Stop", fucking awesome!  Then it's straight into "Dani California" followed by "Scar Tissue", what a way to start the gig!  "With the birds I share this lonely view..."

From this point on I can't remember what order the songs came in but there were several from the latest album "The Getaway".  these included the title track, "Dark Necessities", "Sick Love" and "Go Robot", I love this album and was looking forward to hearing it played live but was disappointed they didn't find time for "Longest Wave".  Mingled in with these were more familiar tunes like "Did I let you know", "Tell me baby" and "Parallel Universe".  At times tonight it seemed that the atmosphere dipped a little and also the sound wasn't quite right to my ears but these could both have been due to our position in the arena.  When a band has a back catalogue as large as the Peppers there are alway going to be tunes that are left out.  In particular the absence of"Californication" left a big hole in the show.  I would have loved to have heard "Snow" and "Brendan's Death Song".  I hear the band mixes the set up every night which is to their credit.

When Trev and I saw the Peppers play before in 2006 a feature of the show had been the band Jamming between songs and I loved this.  There wasn't much of this improvisation tonight but they did squeeze in a few bars of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" and Sabbath's "Iron Man".  There wasn't much audience interaction tonight either, just a few words from Flea and Anthony but that's fine with me.  By jamming and talking less maybe they could squeeze more tunes in?  Whatever, when the Peppers are on stage they look like they are loving it.

I have to mention the lighting.  Apart from the usual effects we've become used to RHCP used hundreds of thin, tubular, ever changing lights suspended above the stage and crowd.  These rose and fell, ebbed and flowed, formed shapes and patterns.  I can't recall seeing anything like this before and it was really effective.  Maybe our row high seats gave us a different angle and allowed us to fully appreciate this?

The band played on...  "Under the Bridge" sounded brilliant with the crowd singing every word.  This was followed by a blistering "By the Way" and once again the atmosphere was sparking.  Another banging tune now would have lifted the roof... But the band left the stage.

The inevitable encore charade followed.  The band returned with another new song "Dream of a Samurai", a strange choice at this stage but it's a great tune and it sounded superb.  Then came the awesome funky punky "Give it away" which had the roof straining once again...
"Unimpressed with material excess, love is free love me say Hell Yes!"  Chad paid homage to some great British rock bands.  Then they were gone.

Walking back to the car we all agreed we'd enjoyed the show.  For me the measure is how I feel when it ends, am I ready to go home or do I want more?  Tonight I definitely wanted more, I loved it!  That said I think RHCP played a better show when I saw them the first time in 2006.  All in all this was a very, very good gig but one that fell a little short of being great.  I'd go see them again for sure!

India have taken an unassailable 3-0 lead in the test series against England.  We won the test and the latest opener Jennings scored an impressive ton on debut to help England to 400.  It seemed a good total but India have a master batsman in Virat Kholi who is having a remarkable series.  His 230+ helped the home side to a total over 600.  With Ashwin bowling superbly the win was a matter of when, not if.  It's a bit embarrassing for England to lose by an innings after posting 400.  The fifth and final test starts in a couple of days, we could play much better and still lose!

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