Come the night of the Red Hot Chili Peppers gig, I got a seat for the show at the Mercedes Benz Arena way up on the fourth floor, or level I suppose you call it.
But right up alongside the stage, so I could look straight down on the gods from on high.
Which was fine by me: my days in the mosh pit are now well behind me.
I missed the support band, I hate to say, which is something you shouldn’t really do, but our photographer Caterina Gili was in there from the get go – here’s a bit of Deerhoof for you (Gallery at the end of the article!)
After Deerhoof exited the stage, slated to come on at 9, it was around 9.30 that the lights suddenly went down and a great roar went up from the audience…then there they come, three members of the Peppers…bassist Flea, in bright yellow hairdo and multi-coloured circus trousers, drummer Chad Smith in drummer look with bright red baseball cap firmly round the wrong way, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer with a long fringe that he would use to great effect and all in black.
Went into a fighter’s crouch, jutted his head forward and howled at the audience
Flea, a small, muscular figure, strode determinedly across the stage to where his bass waited for him, and halfway across the stage turned suddenly and went into a fighter’s crouch, jutted his head forward and howled at the audience; then carried on.
They were itching, just itching, to let loose
Instruments in hand, they didn’t mess around, they didn’t hesitate for a single moment, and it was obvious from that first adrenaline-filled moment that they were itching, just itching, to let loose. I’ve never seen and felt such a display of pent-up energy from a band hitting the stage, not a young band, and certainly not a band who must all be in their fifties by now.
Flea played three or four notes, Chad hit his snare a couple of times and then the guitarist and bassist converged on him, stood in front of him, stared at each other, and my god, they let rip.
A great big motherfucker of a mutual demon to let out
From that first second, they held absolutely nothing back. They went straight down into a heads-down riveting, balls-to-the-wall power jam: Not an indulgent jam, not some aging rock stars noodling away on their chosen instruments, no: there was such an impression of three people with a great big motherfucker of a mutual demon to let out, the energy coming off them, even from my vantage point up on the fourth floor, it captivated everyone from the word go.
Somewhere in the middle there the audience roared again and I spotted singer Anthony Kiedis get on the stage; he didn’t go round the front though, he went round the back and just sat down on a box behind the drummer and looked like he was just hanging out and enjoying the music, until the guitarist came straight out of the jam and hit the first notes of Can’t Stop. Then Kiedis was dancing up to the front and they were in it.
The phenomenon that is Flea
It was really honestly one of the absolute best live gigs I’ve seen for a long time, and I’m not generally a fan of arena gigs. They’re on top form; they’re seriously tight; they can play their instruments extremely well; and they possess this manic energy – especially the phenomenon that is Flea: he just didn’t stop, prowling the stage, jumping high into the air to emphasise a beat, always moving, always moving: more than Anthony Kiedis in fact: and it was also Flea who chatted with the audience, something which I was surprised to see that Anthony didn’t really do.
Happily, weirdly freaky
The other thing is that the Peppers are just happily, weirdly freaky, in their own chilled Californian way: the huge screen closed up on Flea’s face as he decided to exchange a few words with the audience. What did this icon of punk raucousness decide to chat about?
Well, they’d gone to see the Pergamonn Museum that day, and Flea was very impressed with some of the pieces, and the sense of history there. At which point Anthony piped up with, “Which was your favourite piece?” And I don’t think he was being sarcastic, it sounded like they were really going to have a little band chat about which of the art pieces Mr. Flea had been most impressed with.
Wearing white robes and having sex with men
(The answer, in case you’re interested, is the “house thing” that you see when you go in at the beginning. Flea pondered briefly the idea of going to live in the house, being an orangutan, wearing white robes and having sex with men. “In the Greek way?” asked Anthony politely. Flea declined to answer.)
They played all (or most of) their hits, dotted here and there through the set. There were no low points. There was just an hour-and-a-half long impression of a band that is four friends, completely comfortable with each other, on top form, immensely enjoying what they do, and in no way growing old, neither gracefully nor disgracefully.
Also, whoever’s responsbile for the light show at the Mercedes Benz Arena deserves a medal, impressive shit.
Criticism? All I can say is that Anthony, man, the moustache. It’s just weird, dude. And not in a good way.
Other than that, fucking good show, proper order, go see them, even if you don’t think you’re that much of a fan, you will be.
Review: Noel Maurice | All photos: Caterina Gili
Click through our Photo Gallery of the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in Berlin 2016
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Noel Maurice is one of the founders of indieberlin. Originally from the UK via a childhood in Johannesburg, he has been resident in Berlin since 1991. Describing himself as a ‘recovering musician’, he is the author of The Berlin Diaires, a trilogy detailing the East Berlin art and squat scene of the early 90s, available on Amazon and through this site.