Local funk-rock heroes the Red Hot Chili Peppers capped their impressive 1999 comeback on Friday night with an exciting and well-rounded New Year’s Eve effort at the near-full Forum, improving significantly over their disappointing Inglewood gig four years before.
With prodigal guitarist John Frusciante back in the band after a six-year absence, the Chilis made a welcome return to form with 1999’s multimillion selling “Californication,” a surprisingly inspired effort that’s top to bottom as good as any of their previous six albums. And the quartet amply demonstrated their renewed musical virility at the Forum.
“Around the World,” the first track on the new album, was ignited by Flea’s thundering bass gallop, and the celebratory tune (“life is beautiful, around the world”) kicked off the band’s 90-minute effort in appropriate fashion. “Love is the only thing that matters,” Flea would later say, a far cry from the risque comments we used to hear from these guys.
The first half of the Chili Peppers’ set featured some of the group’s more melodic and popular songs, such as recent hit “Scar Tissue,” the spastic numbers “Suck My Kiss” and “Give It Away,” both from 1991’s “BloodSugarSexMagik,” not too mention Frusciante’s brief (and comical) solo version of Elton John’s ballad “Tiny Dancer.”
Band members said little about the New Year’s occasion, though they did stop their performance for a few moments just before midnight, and everyone counted down to 2000 with the aid of giant numbers shined onto the backdrop behind drummer Chad Smith.
“We’re all lucky to be alive,” singer Anthony Kiedis told the cheering crowd as confetti showered down on the stage and the four musicians hugged friends and family members before meeting at center stage for a group embrace. Some audience members blew the noise makers they were given at the door, while many others threw them into the air.
After that brief interruption, the four musicians showed their punk side with a furious show-closing onslaught that included the wild “Sir Psycho Sexy,” a take on the Ramones’ “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker,” and an explosive rendition of the Jimi Hendrix classic “Fire.”
The bill also included the L.A.-based funk-metal-rap-reggae band 311, whose hourlong perf featuring such hits as “All Mixed Up,” “Beautiful Disaster,” “Down” and “Come Original” put the house in a rowdy and festive mood, and the Bicycle Thief, which includes former Thelonious Monster vocalist Bob Forrest.