ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JUNE 1, 2000
Nobody rocks like Flea. As soon as the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ hyperkinetic bassist stepped on the GM Place stage last Sunday (May 28), he started churning out monstrous hard-funk licks, and he didn’t slow down until the gig was over. And when Flea wasn’t laying down the grooviest bottom end in rock, when his diligent fingers took a brief respite from their slap-happy party on the frets, he’d instantly turn into a leaping, head-tossing, arm-flailing hooligan, the ultimate funk-soul brother.
Even if the rest of the Peppers weren’t skilled players and awesome performers, the live-wire Flea—who introduced himself as “Bryant Reeves”—could win over a crowd with his manic intensity alone. Fortunately for the 12,000 souls in attendance, the diminutive bass player’s bandmates proved to be equally accomplished.
Currently flying high with the Rick Rubin–produced Californication CD, the L.A. quartet drew roars of approval for melodic ditties from that album (“Scar Tissue”, “Otherside”) and older, frantic funk-rap workouts (“Give It Away”, “Suck My Kiss”). The group also threw in the odd surprise, as when guitarist John Frusciante took over the lead vocals for an abridged version of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. Looking like a concentration-camp survivor who’d somehow managed to work out during his incarceration, the sinewy Frusciante half writhed, half lumbered around the stage, displaying a totally different performance style than Flea, who specialized in Olympic-level pogoing. Their distinct musical approaches—respectively jagged and buoyant—complemented each other beautifully.
With Chad Smith doing serious damage behind the drum kit, the Peppers were an arena-ready force to be reckoned with. And now that they’ve successfully branched out from their punk-funk beginnings with Californication, there’s no telling how far they’ll go. But membership in the multiplatinum club hasn’t gone to the band members’ heads. When one riled-up fan scrambled on-stage during the encore, no security goons were dispatched from the wings to take the intruder down hard and drag him away, as is often the case. The muscular Anthony Keidis just greeted the unexpected visitor with “Hey, how’d you get up here, man?” Then a roadie calmly led the guy away.
During the Foo Fighters’ warm-up set, singer-guitarist Dave Grohl displayed similar tolerance toward those who get physically swept up in the zealous vibe of a fully rocking rink. At one point, he waded out into the crowd with his mike stand and guitar, intent on some intimate interaction. When one overenthusiastic fan started tugging madly at his shirt, Grohl gently chided the fellow with “Hold on, dude, I’m making a speech here,” before asking another “Hey, did you just pinch my nipple?” The former Nirvana drummer responded to that ardent show of misplaced affection by leading his four-piece band through a thrashy set that included their massive radio hit “Learn to Fly” and a “love song” dedicated to Stompin’ Tom Connors.