“You know this is the best fucking city in the world,” shouted Flea just a few songs into the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ triumphant return to New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center.
“I don’t know,” replied a smirking Anthony Kiedis. “I bet Shreveport would have something to say about that.”
“I don’t know,” the frontman continued as the arena erupted in laughter. “I’ve been to Baton Rouge. It’s pretty nice.”
Despite their humorous nature, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ love for the Crescent City is no joke. The band’s funky sound has been influenced by New Orleans rhythms from the very beginning, and the group even put a song about their appreciation for the city (“Apache Rose Peacock”) on their 1991 opus Blood Sugar Sex Magik.
That love was on full display last night when the California four-piece rattled the Smoothie King Center with a hits-filled set beneath a dazzling demonstration of concert lighting wizardry. The visual component deserves to be highlighted in its own right, as the illuminated array of hundreds of hanging LED lights that moved up-and-down in unison was unlike anything I’ve seen at a rock show.
Of course, there was more to it than their run-of-the-mill set, a non-stop exercise in youthful showmanship that included favorites like “Can’t Stop,” “Californication,” “Suck My Kiss” and “By The Way,” as well as some material from their 2016 album The Getaway.
No, the Red Hot Chili Peppers—rather unsurprisingly—had something special in store for New Orleans. About midway through their performance, Flea turned to guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (who replaced longtime axe man John Frusciante in 2011) and asked him if he was ready for that Allen Toussaint song. Klinghoffer responded with a solo rendition of the 1977 classic “Southern Nights,” a fitting tribute to the city’s late, great musical master.
But that was just the beginning. While previous stops on the Chili Peppers’ latest tour have seen the band offer up their signature tune “Under the Bridge” during the encore, last night’s finale was much more exciting. In a throwback to their fantastic performance at last year’s Jazz Fest, the band invited the Rebirth Brass Band, George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville and Trombone Shorty (the last of whom has been the opening act for the entirety of the tour) for a show-stopping “Give It Away.”
The bevy of musicians stayed true to the song at first before the whole thing descended–or perhaps, ascended—into an all out power jam. Flea got down on his knees, plucking away at his bass while enveloped in a semi-circle of horn players. The Chili Peppers’ bassist appeared to be having more fun than anyone else in the building when he went toe-to-toe with Porter, one of his musical heroes, before Shorty and the Rebirth guys traded solos one by one. Neville even got his time to shine, with the keyboardist holding down the jam for a moment as the others took things down a notch.
It was the perfect way to close out the night and, frankly, the kind of thing that makes rock n’ roll the beautiful thing that it is. It may be 25 years since Kiedis sang, “Yes my favorite place to be / Is not a land called Honah Lee / Mentally or physically / I want to be in New Orleans” in “Apache Rose Peacock,” but there’s little doubt the sentiment holds true today.
In related news, Flea continued his jam session with the Rebirth Brass Band when he joined them at the Maple Leaf for a post-concert collaboration last night.
All photos by Jeffrey Dupuis.