Anthony Kiedis and Flea bounced around the stage with the enthusiasm of a couple of guys on their first big arena tour.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ great feat Friday night at KeyArena was existing in a special plane where the familiar became new again, treating a rowdy St. Patrick’s Day crowd to an all-out auditory and visual assault of relentless energy and joy that elevated the show above pure fan service.
Founding members Anthony Kiedis and Flea have been together since 1984’s self-titled debut album, but the pair of 54-year-olds bounced around the stage with the enthusiasm of a couple of guys on their first big arena tour. They set the parameters for the evening by opening with wicked versions of “Around the World” and “Otherside,” two hit singles off 1999’s era-defining “Californication.”
The illusion of agelessness is a tenuous one at best, easily shattered by a favorite lyric or memorable hook. Nostalgia is the drug that helps the illusion take root, and the Chili Peppers masterfully administered a double dose, working the crowd into a healthy lather and easing them into slightly more recent territory with 2006’s “Snow (Hey Oh).”
The band finally got to a new one with the driving funk of “Dark Necessities,” off last year’s “The Getaway.” It was the perfect song to highlight relative newcomer Josh Klinghoffer, who joined the band in 2009 to replace lead guitarist John Frusciante, and who has developed a deep chemistry with bass guitarist Flea and longtime drummer Chad Smith.
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Adding greatly to the atmosphere was an enormous grid of LED lights that were suspended on individual wires above the stage and floor seating, and were in constant motion, changing shape and reacting to the songs. It was surprising just how much it added to a show that didn’t need any extra bells and whistles.
By the time the Chili Peppers were working their way through a pitch-perfect version of “Californication,” KeyArena was officially in party mode. Billows of smoke rose to the rafters as the crowd exercised their I-502 rights and sang along.
Throughout the show, Flea — relentless, brazen and locked in — powered the Chili Peppers with his unique blend of bass licks and chords. On “Aeroplane,” a single from their 1995 album “One Hot Minute,” Flea created a tidal wall of sound that almost seemed like a full horn section, but he easily downshifted by the time “Soul to Squeeze” required a defter touch.
The Chili Peppers might not wear socks to protect their modesty anymore, but lead singer Kiedis still found a way to be shirtless for a good portion of the show. Screaming into the night as a sea of colored lights pulsed wildly overhead during the final encore song “Give It Away,” he looked a mirror reflection of his fans, lost in the moment.
The show was almost over. The illusion had held.