Will Ferrell, Chad Smith Host Silly, Surreal Drum-Off Sequel in L.A.
In the place of dark humor were giddy surprises and a generally amiable atmosphere. When Ferrell and Smith came onstage to revive their drumming feud, they brought out different surrogates to battle for them. (“We can’t battle each other anymore; that’s done,” Smith explained with mock-seriousness.) The ensuing match-ups were often surreal: Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins opened the competition by bashing away furiously for Team Smith, followed by an unknown contestant introduced by Ferrell as a “14-year-old kid from Brentwood, California.” Tommy Lee emerged next, doing nothing but smiling and stomping on his kick-drum pedal; a surprisingly hard-grooving Fred Armisen countered Lee’s uncharacteristically minimalist display.
The fairest fight came when Smith tapped the Police’s Stewart Copeland, who showed off his legendary dexterity in a brief solo, and Ferrell answered by introducing Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, who vocalized as he pounded away merrily on his enormous kit. As Fleetwood launched into the opening to his group’s “Tusk,” out came the USC Trojan Marching Band, which played on the original version of the song, to accompany him. Emerging triumphant in this new drum-off, Ferrell returned to the stage in full USC regalia, looking like the happiest guy at his fraternity bash. (It was a far more flattering ensemble than earlier in the night when he marched out in a stupendously tacky quinceanera dress. “I look like a murderer,” he announced with a chuckle. “Blue is my color, though.”)
The stand-ups’ 10-minute sets were tight and funny, but the crowd really came to life for the bands. Devo crushed their three-song performance, Mark Mothersbaugh whipping replicas of the band’s patented red plastic hats into the audience during “Whip It” and leaning hard on the jagged, relentless paranoia of their “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” cover.
Still, even Devo’s taut, propulsive theatrics couldn’t compete with the hero’s welcome Red Hot Chili Peppers received as the evening’s closing act. Moving effortlessly between deathless hits and moody instrumental interludes, the veteran group needn’t have bothered singing their mystical, questing lyrics: Everybody in the crowd knew every word to “Can’t Stop” and “Otherside,” having to be restrained by security from standing on the top of their seats to get a better view. And by the time Anthony Kiedis shifted to “Californication,” the group’s despairing look at the underside of Hollywood glamour, the Shrine felt like one large group therapy session, concertgoers swaying and exorcising their own personal traumas through the song’s mournful buildup and release.
But there was still one more surprise left. After the Peppers briefly left the stage, Ferrell ad-libbed to buy time for the crew to set up myriad kits so that all 0f the night’s drumming luminaries could return for one last performance, smashing through Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Eventually, Ferrell joined in, banging away on his cowbell. It was a slightly sloppy but big-grinned way to end the show. But not before Flea told the crowd, “Be gentle, be kind, be sweet.” A simple sentiment – but in an evening full of good cheer, certainly not out of place.
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