Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has issued an explanation for why it looked like his bass wasn’t plugged in during the Super Bowl halftime show: It wasn’t. Photos hit the internet yesterday on Vulture showing that the bassist’s instrument was not connected to his amp during the group’s performance of their song “Give It Away” with main halftime performer Bruno Mars. Today, Flea published a 931-word open letter that said he had chosen to do that on purpose.
“When we were asked by the NFL and Bruno to play our song ‘Give It Away’ at the Super Bowl, it was made clear to us that the vocals would be live, but the bass, drums and guitar would be pre-recorded,” he wrote. “I understand the NFL’s stance on this, given they only have a few minutes to set up the stage, there a zillion things that could go wrong and ruin the sound for the folks watching in the stadium and the T.V. viewers. There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period.”
He explained that usually the Peppers would not do “any sort of miming,” ever since they were thrown off the U.K. show Top of the Pops in the late Eighties because, as Flea wrote, “I played bass with my shoe.” He said that the times the group mimed songs for MTV “always was a drag” and that the group takes its playing seriously. “It is a sacred thing for us, and anyone who has ever seen us in concert (like the night before the Super Bowl at the Barclays Center), knows that we play from our heart, we improvise spontaneously, take musical risks, and sweat blood at every show,” he wrote.
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The band ultimately chose to go ahead with the Super Bowl miming after soul-searching, conferring with friends and embracing that they “all love football too.” So the group recorded a version of the track to play with Mars.
“For the actual performance, Josh [Klinghoffer, guitar], Chad [Smith, drums], and I were playing along with the prerecorded track so there was no need to plug in our guitars, so we did not,” he wrote. “Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded? Of course easily we could have and this would be a nonissue. We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance. It was like making a music video in front of a gazillion people, except with live vocals, and only one chance to rock it. Our only thought was to bring the spirit of who we are to the people.”
He closed the letter by expressing gratitude to the NFL and to Mars for the opportunity. Nevertheless, he wrote, “I would do it all the same way again.”