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Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers performing at Bluesfest. Photo by Terry Steeves.

Bluesfest International Highlights: Red Hot Chili Peppers

By Terry Steeves on July 17, 2016

Thunder hit the Bluesfest grounds on Friday night. Not in the way of weather, but in the bolt of power the LA funk-rock aficionados, Red Hot Chili Peppers unleashed on the sold out crowd. The rain had finally let up when the four-piece boarded the main stage to a resounding roar from the audience. Flea and Josh Klinghoffer quickly slung on their instruments, Chad Smith jumped into the drum cockpit, and Anthony Kiedis took his stance at the mic. As I poised myself amongst a series of sub-woofers in the photographer’s pit, they ripped into the first chord, which nearly rearranged every bone in my body. I made sure to check for signs of pyro before I continued my shoot and marvelled at the energy this band continues to pump out after 33 years.

RHCP drummer, Chad Smith. Photo by Terry Steeves.

RHCP drummer, Chad Smith. Photo by Terry Steeves.

RHCP kicked into a series of their classic hits, beginning with “Can’t Stop,” “Dani California,” and the flowing melody of “Scar Tissue” which set the crowd into the first of their singing sprees. A few from their recent album, The Getaway, were peppered into the set. “Dark Necessities,” featured some of Flea’s impressive ascending bass runs over an infectious pop/funk rhythm. “The Getaway” followed a similar melody and catchiness, but it was “Go Robot” that got me in the throes of its driving beat, energetic vocals, some great lead guitar work by Klinghoffer, and a heated exchange of bass, guitar and drums at the finish. The chemistry between these three becomes a whirling dervish of energy when they get going full tilt.

RHCP vocalist, Anthony Kiedis. Photo by Terry Steeves.

RHCP vocalist, Anthony Kiedis. Photo by Terry Steeves.

Flea, dressed in a flurry of colour, strutted onstage, zoned out in his own groove. He led the band into a slap/pull fury, while Smith brought the thunder for “Tell Me Baby,” which delivered a contrast of quick-paced rap segments and coasting melodies, topped off with nice harmonies by Klinghoffer. Kiedis, looking slim and trim in his surf wear and ball cap, may have reserved his energy physically but kept up the pace vocally.

More favourites came with “Californication.” and “Under The Bridge,” which remains my personal favourite for its gorgeous melody, gentle rocking groove, and lyrics that convey a bloodletting honesty. The night ended with their popular “Soul To Squeeze“ followed by “Give It Away,” another from Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), which was the album that brought me into the RHCP fan fold forever. The crowd lent their voices again, as the night rolled in to close another epic Bluesfest concert.

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