Artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Trombone Shorty, & Jack Irons
Venue: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Date: February 4th, 2016
Review by Gerrod Harris
Photos by Nicole Wolfe
On Saturday, February 4th, the one and only Red Hot Chili Peppers brought their The Getaway tour to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, along with supporting acts Jack Irons and Trombone Shorty.
Taking the stage first, with only a drum set and some play along tracks was original Chili Pepper drummer, Jack Irons. As he started drumming, he was joined by some out there, space age synths as he played the drums in a very musical way. Each song got bigger and bigger; starting with a basic groove until in the final two numbers he was just tearing it up. His short set was a nice reminder as to how great a drummer Irons is. Not much longer after, Trombone Shorty took the stage and provided a spectacular set of old school funk- in line with a tradition invented by James Brown and then reinvented by George Clinton- with rock ‘n’ roll flair. Shorty proved to be as excellent of a vocalist, sporting a very dynamic range, as he is on both the trombone and the trumpet. Taking solos on both instruments, his sense of rhythm and talent on the horns (along with a jaw dropping lung capacity) puts him in a virtuoso category. His band, made up of a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and two saxophonists, are incredibly tight and embrace a spirit of improvisation as many members soloed over the forms of the song, tying the band to not only funk, but also to the rich history of jazz from New Orleans. On top of that, they also did a fantastic cover of Lenny Kravitz’ “Sistamomalover”.
Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh Klinghoffer walked onto stage and kicked the show off with a slow jam, which evolved into nothing short of a head banger by the time Anthony Kiedis joined them. As many assumed they would start with “Can’t Stop” as they nearly always do, the Chili Peppers dove headfirst into “Around The World”, the heavy opener from 1999’s Californication. Not only was this a nice surprise, but the song, in my opinion, is among one of their best songs to open a show. As the set continued on, the band favoured Californication, preforming five tracks off the album (“Otherside”, “Right On Time”, “Emit Remmus”, and “I Like Dirt”); however, this was by no means a performance running on nostalgia as they also performed five songs off of last year’s The Getaway, including the singles, “Dark Necessities”, “Go Robot”, and “Sick Love”, along with “The Getaway” and “Goodbye Angels”.
The band proved to be in excellent condition. Kiedis has never sounded better or more confident with his vocals and is still one of the most entertaining front man to watch live, not to mention his vocals pair perfectly with Klinghoffer’s beautiful harmonies. More notably, however, was how much more cohesive the band has gotten since I saw them on their last Toronto stop on the I’m With You tour in 2012 when Klinghoffer was much more new to the band. The instrumental jams in between songs have gotten much tighter, organic, and fluid as they build and decrescendo naturally. At times they teased “YYZ” by Rush and even jammed on the Led Zeppelin classic, “Rock And Roll” for a minute. The jams were often rooted in a modern funk and showcased the band’s ability to play some of the dirtiest grooves you’ll hear at a rock concert. What made the jams even better was how the band appeared to be so deep in their own zone, that as an audience member, it felt as if I was sitting in the studio watching them noodle. At times, it felt as if to them, the audience was not there and they were simply expressing their artistry in a very natural manner. There was a level of intimacy beneath the incredible musicianship, something which is very difficult to convey at a sold out stadium show.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers put on a show that was nothing short of incredible. There is a reason, after all, that they have managed to survive the shifting landscape of the music industry into today’s modern world, and I believe much of that rests on their live performance. From show to show, they frequently switch up the set list, some shows take more songs from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, others more from By The Way, and this one happened to dig into the deep tracks of Californication, but they often include a few surprises and rarities. At this show, this took the form of “Soul To Squeeze”, a track originally cut from BSSM but later surfaced on Greatest Hits and is a song which hardly makes a live appearance, but when it does, it leaves an impact as it did last night with what sounded to be the entire ACC singing along to the chorus. Chili Pepper fans are quite the unique crowd, perhaps one of the most diverse groups I have seen. One thing that ties them together is their love for the band and the flow of energy between them at a show. I have never seen so many people dancing at a concert, from the very first notes of the intro jam; it seemed everyone was immediately into it- and what is life if not the transference of energy? From the band to the audience and from the audience back to the band, the ACC was bouncing, and I certainly left feeling what I can only describe as so alive. It was thrilling to see their new tracks filled with the same energy which they devote to classics of the likes of “By The Way” and the explosive closing track, “Give It Away”. Beyond the jams, they express a spirit of improvisation in their songs which gives an experience greater than the album. This involves extended sections, as heard at the end of “Give It Away”, altered guitar solos like on “Otherside”- and bass solos in the case of “By The Way”- as well as shifting grooves as best heard in the final verse of the Stevie Wonder original, “Higher Ground”. The Chili Peppers don’t simply perform their songs; instead, they create a concert experience that is unique in regards to their own body of work and against their peers. Over all, I was amazed by their musicianship while also their ability to create a concert experience that is overflowing with passion. The Red Hot Chili Peppers love what they do and they are masters of their craft. It is only the start of February, and I am confident that I saw the best concert of 2017!
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This review also appears on The Heavy Press