“We’re playing this show tonight for Adam Yauch!” Anthony Kiedis declared to the crowd gathered at the Prudential Center in Newark on Friday for the first of two sold-out Red Hot Chili Peppers concerts. Yauch, also known as MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away on Friday after a long battle with cancer.
Tribute to Yauch would be the night’s theme; Sleigh Bells singer Alexis Krauss opened the night by paying her respects to the beloved rapper. Krauss and her partner Derek E. Miller grew up as fans of the Beastie Boys, but Kiedis and his crew were kindred spirits, as both emerged from bratty punk rock beginnings to embrace a broader, funkier vision as they matured into stardom. Both the Beasties and the Chili Peppers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month. Yauch was too ill to attend the ceremony, so the Chili Peppers dedicated their performance to him.
“He left the world with a lot of beauty,” Kiedis continued between songs on Friday. “Adam was for real.”
“I love that man,” Flea added.
As for the music at Friday’s show, the band churned out hits like true veterans after three decades perfecting their white-hot blend of California punk cool, honed on the razor of the Los Angeles underground music scene in the Eighties. On their 2011 album I’m With You, their first LP since 2006’s smash Stadium Arcadium, newest Pepper Josh Klinghoffer turned in a guitar performance that almost measured up to that of his predecessor, the legendary John Frusciante. He was in fine form on Friday night, wailing away during “Under the Bridge” and “Can’t Stop.” On the heels of the band’s Hall of Fame induction, the Peppers’ performance breathed the slick energy of a group who have truly embraced their transition to major rock stars.
Kiedis and Flea, both 49, show no sign of slowing down, though it’s been almost 30 years since the Peppers’ genesis. The boys still like to play: Kiedis made it only halfway through the set before ditching his shirt, and turned out a fine version of his frenetic hoedown jig, at one point kicking and skipping a circle around Flea and Klinghoffer, who were lying prostrate on stage playing their respective instruments. Drummer Chad Smith defied the salt-and-pepperness of his stubble by dangling precariously from a lighting fixture.
Flea and Kiedis have been trading bits onstage for years, and in between the barrage of hits – “Californication,” “Dani California,” “By The Way,” – they’d do something of a comedy routine, making jokes about Newark mayor Cory Booker. Flea, still sporting his turquoise hair, walked in for the encore on his hands.
But as clean as an exercise in arena rock as the show was – the Peppers have come a long way sound-wise and production-wise from their vulnerable days under the bridge – the ache in the room was palpable. “It’s been a sad day,” Flea told the crowd after the show’s final song, an athletic rendition of “Give It Away.” “We want to offer our love and prayers to Adam.” As the lights dimmed and the roadies began to pack up, “Fight For Your Right” floated over the arena’s loudspeakers, sending up the Chili Peppers’ final panegyric to their beloved friend.
“Monarchy of Roses”
“Around the World”
“Throw Away Your Television”
“Strip My Mind”
“The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”
“Under the Bridge”
“By the Way”
“So What’cha Want” (instrumental jam)
“Sir Psycho Sexy”
“They’re Red Hot”
“Did I Let You Know”
“Give It Away”