Peppers, Kiedis celebrate with energetic show
Anthony Kiedis is living proof that 50 is the new 20.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman turned a half-century-old in Milwaukee Thursday, celebrating the occasion with his band and a primarily full BMO Harris Bradley Center. Initially wearing a formal black jacket with tails, it wasn't long before he was shirtless. And very rarely, if at all Thursday, was he still - whether he was spinning around like a karate master caught in a cyclone or busting out his own interpretation of PSY's "Gangnam Style" galloping horse shuffle - and those moves were during just one song, "Around The World." (Fans brought their own special moves as well, at least in section 407 where I sat; at one point, I found myself completely smashed between two full-body dancers with no concept of personal space.)
Kiedis' energy and the band's hour-and-50-minute set could be described in the exact same fashion. They were relentless, electric, incredible. And this 50th was one to really celebrate - given his battles with drug addiction, it is amazing that he has lived long enough to have seen this day, and that his band not only endures, but plays live shows as great as the one Thursday.
Kiedis is the frontman, but the special appeal of the Peppers is that all four members bring their own supersized personalities and exceptional technique to the music. Whether they were all immersed in a hit, or a lone member was noodling in between songs, practically every note was one to relish.
Thursday's show was the first in Milwaukee since Josh Klinghoffer replaced the band's crucial guitarist, John Frusciante, in 2009. Klinghoffer earned some points from the Milwaukee crowd with a punkish take of the "Laverne and Shirley" theme song, but he hardly had to go through the effort. Despite playing a good portion of the night while seated on a stool, Klinghoffer put his entire body into his instrument, ripping into the music with riffs both familiar and original, most brilliantly on a searing "Scar Tissue."
Drummer Chad Smith emerged for the encore dangling from a suspended ring of lights, before landing on his feet and beating his way through a pounding drum solo.
And then there was bass player Michael "Flea" Balzary - the only other original member besides Kiedis. On Thursday, he was practically primal (and, like Kiedis, shirtless), frequently kicking his leg, leaping in the air, bobbing his head. His bass work was just as nimble, even as his fingers drew out funky, thick, chest-rattling notes.
For much of the night, it was hard to say what Flea's best moment was - but then came the double bass assault on "Give It Away," where Flea was joined by his "favorite bass player in the world," the evening's opener, Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner. With the band behind them, the bass players challenged themselves, and together, all the musicians accelerated the rhythms to their physical limits.
From there, Flea ended the night with an impassioned call for celebrating live music of all kinds - from classical to underground to hearing little kids singing out of tune. And Smith spoke the final words from the stage, belting out a big Happy Birthday shoutout to Kiedis atop thunderous applause.
No matter what gifts Kiedis got for his 50th, they couldn't have possibly topped the gift the band gave its Milwaukee fans Thursday.