Having reached the upper tier of successful musicians in rock ‘n’ roll, it would be hard to write a bad review of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP). It would be even harder for me because they are my favorite band. That said, here’s an honest review of my Red Hot Chili Peppers experience at Summerfest June 28, with a breakdown of everything from the festival itself — including the venue, travel and fans — to the legendary Chili Peppers.
If you aren’t familiar with Sumerfest, you should make plans to attend. It’s held annually at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the world’s largest music festival, it boasts 10 to 12 hours of music a day for 14 days. It’s quite impressive, giving local, national, and international artists of all genres a chance to play for their fans. This year is “Summerfest 50,” making it particularly special.
The largest acts at Summerfest sell, or rather sell out, the American Family Insurance (formerly Marcus) Amphitheater with tickets that go on sale months before the festival. The venue holds 23,000 people. This was my first time in the amphitheater, and I wasn’t that impressed. It looks old, and the stairs and public areas are tight. For this show I had a bleacher seat just beyond being covered, on a night full of rain.
Travel and Fans:
I can’t complain with the travel time to the show. Summerfest employees efficiently moved fans through ticketing gates and were helpful in finding seats. Although the public areas were crowded, and the rain made everyone anxious to find shelter, I had a positive experience. The fans at the show were awesome. Everyone sang and shouted along; like me they had waited months to see this show. The age range at the show was staggering. There were fans younger than me and also much older, which shows the impact RHCP has had on more than one generation. One woman was 90 years old and still came out to rock out!
I missed the first act, Jack Irons, as I was on a bus to the show, and the second, Deerhoof, was not impressive. I had no expectations when coming to the show but considering RHCP has toured with Gnarles Barkley opening for them in the past they really could have done better.
Red Hot Chili Peppers:
The bread and butter of the show was fantastic! The Red Hot Chili Peppers played a great mix of songs, from their new album, The Getaway, all the way back to 1987’s, Uplift MOFO Party Plan. They transitioned between sets of songs by playing impressive solos or thanking the crowd. “Dark Necessities,” “Snow (Hey Oh),” “Under the Bridge,” “Give it Away” and other hits all got their chance. The best part was to hear the Chili Peppers improvise on their riffs. The funk got funkier, the rock got harder and the environment was amazing. Flea was my favorite to watch; his bass sounded crisp, and he carried the rhythm well. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer also showed his skills (moreso than on the studio recordings), freely soloing like one of the greats. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis and drummer Chad Smith both wore their respective headbands and baseball caps, and had just as much energy as the other two members.
As great as their set was, with 30 years of music they couldn’t play all of their hits. Most surprising was that they didn’t play “Can’t Stop,” or “Dani California.” The set was Californication-heavy; opening with “Around the World,” and later playing “Californication” and “Scar Tissue.” The crowd also missed out on the entire, I’m with You, album. While this isn’t one of the most popular RHCP albums, it’s new enough that I would have expected at least one song from it. “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” would have been very appropriate. I also would have liked to hear their cover of “Higher Ground.” By far the song no one saw coming was “Mommy Where’s Daddy;” this song is so rare I didn’t even know it. They played it in combination with “Me and My Friends,” which was an awesome throwback to the days when Kiedis would rap on the mic.
Speaking of the mic, the Chili Peppers were not shy of it. Flea did most of addressing the crowd, and did it well. At one point in the show he shouted a heartfelt public service announcement that everything except love is cowardly. The crowd cheered in agreement. The whole groups made us feel like they cared about us with their music, and when they addressed us.
That said, the video effects might have been the best part of the concert. The amphitheater features four massive video screens, and RHCP had another wall of screens behind them. The lighting and video employees did their job well! Music videos played; live shots from all angles enhanced our viewing, it was incredible. Transitions were colorful, matched the songs and were placed with a purpose. My favorites were the gold hue effect, and the groovy images playing during “Give it Away.”
Although I was wet and cold, I still really enjoyed the show. I would go to see them again in a heartbeat! The video effects were great, they played an awesome mix of tunes and I felt they cared about us, the fans. If you don’t know the Red Hot Chili Peppers, start listening to them and go to a show if you can.