The Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t played a proper hometown show since the release of last year’s “By The Way” (Warner), an album that has cemented their legacy and highlighted its recent maturity. Even with a greatest-hits set expected in November, the Chili Peppers chose to fill their incendiary, frantic performance with songs from “By The Way” and 1999’s “Californication,” a decision that no doubt disappointed the longtime fans who also booed opening band the Flaming Lips. If they were upset, however, they only had their closed minds to blame: Despite the newer setlist, this was the kind of propulsive, open-ended show the Chilis were known for in the early ’90s.
All three of the Chili Peppers frontmen — spastic singer Anthony Kiedis, childlike bass icon Flea and rock god guitarist John Frusciante — were at the top of their game, never stepping on each other’s toes, but playing with a loose, improvisational feel that often led to a surprising what’s-gonna-happen-next onstage vibe. The show had the welcome feel of a spontaneous open rehearsal; in between “By The Way” and “Scar Tissue” Flea started playing a melodic bassline, picked up by Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith, which led to the first of many jammed-out segments. Other surprises included an all-band tease of the Clash’s “London Calling” and Flea playing a trumpet solo over Smith’s jazz-funk drumming.
By the time the Chili Peppers got to the requisite encore run-through of their breakthrough hit “Under the Bridge,” they managed to take the overplayed song and make it sincere again. Perhaps it’s because of California’s recent political tumult, but it’s even more likely the ode to L.A. took on its newfound relevance from the band’s obvious love for their city — and the return to form of one of the city’s favorite rock-band sons.