A rain-pelted Saturday evening in a Denver stadium may not be the ideal setting for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to announce their new album — “Return of the Dream Canteen,” the group’s second full-length of 2022 — but the show must go on, and it did.
The rain started mere minutes before the long-running quartet was scheduled to take the stage at Empower Field at Mile High, home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos. While venue officials watched for lightning — which would have brought the concert to a screeching halt — they temporarily delayed the band’s arrival. With each passing second, the crowd grew exponentially rowdier until it sounded like a stampede of actual broncos were descending on the stadium. But after a brief delay, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith and prodigal guitarist John Frusciante — now on his third tour of duty as a Pepper — kicked off the North American leg of the “Unlimited Love” tour (which is named after their earlier album of this year, released in April).
After an electric “Intro Jam” from the musicians, Kiedis exploded onstage as the band charged into “Can’t Stop,” from the group’s 2002 album “By The Way” before transitioning into “Dani California” and “Charlie,” both from 2006’ “Stadium Arcadium.”
About 40 minutes into the set, Kiedis and Flea announced the new double album, “Return of the Dream Canteen,” which will arrive via Warner Records on October 14. The project, recorded under familiar circumstances — with longtime producer Rick Rubin at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu — apparently is the product of an unusually prolific period for the band, who usually take several years between albums.
“We have a brand-new double album stacked to the brim,” Flea said from the stage, to which Kiedis replied, “It’s fucking good news, man. Do you have a single in mind?” Flea answered cheekily, “The single might be called ‘Tippa My Tongue.’ I don’t know for sure.”
While the band has played multiple festival dates in Europe since Frusciante returned in 2019 — and paid tribute to late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins during their set at New Orleans Jazzfest in May — this is their first North American tour since he rejoined the fold.
The set focused heavily on the group’s “new stuff,” and while fans may have hoped for more from “Freaky Styley,” “Mother’s Milk” or their biggest-ever album, 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” the Chili Peppers are in their fifties and sixties and probably don’t want to relive those early years any more than they have to.
The Peppers were preceded by virtuosic bassist and singer Thundercat, who admitted he “drank too much coffee” before his set but proceeded to deliver funkadelic sorcery to a likely dumbfounded audience. While Thundercat has multiple solo albums and credits on projects from Erykah Badu, Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar and a laundry list of others, some of those in attendance still looked at him like the 1950s teenagers looked at Marty McFly in “Back to the Future” when he channeled Chuck Berry for an unsuspecting audience. (He might as well have quoted Michael J. Fox’s famous line, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it.”)
And in an almost surreal choice both musically and thematically, considering the Chili Peppers’ testosterone-heavy sound and vibe, L.A. sister trio Haim performed directly before them. Haim’s Grammy-winning most recent album, “Women in Music,” features Este, Danielle and Alana standing in front of rows of sausages in a meat shop (a sausage factory, get it?) making for a serious disconnect with the Pepper’s bro-heavy audience, yet the group sailed through hits like “My Song 5” and “Want You Back” and went over well, all things considered. However, people couldn’t stop talking about Este’s famous, contorted “Bass faces,” which spawned memes nearly a decade ago. It’s probably safe to assume the implicit feminism in their lyrics landed on mostly deaf ears as well.