Last month, after coming home from the indie punk rock Sleeper Agent show at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, a late night look at my inbox yielded an article sent by Jeffrey Jones, who runs the James Patrick Page group on Facebook. It says that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have invited Jimmy Page to join them on one of their UK tour shows, perhaps Knebworth, on June 23, 2012. Originally from Gibson Lifestyle, it was reposted on the Led Zeppelin.org site among others, so I knew there was some buzz.
Photography by Micah Gummel.
Article and Live Show review by Bluebird.
Boston TD Garden.
May 7, 2012.
Bluebirdreviews is strong in Zeppelin followers, and we are fans of all music genres, as long as it is good music - great music. When the 2011 Red Hot Chili Peppers album, I'm With You, was released, I became hooked on the single, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie."
The Chili Peppers have been making music since 1983. I caught them live at a college outdoor festival at Vassar in Poughkeepsie back in the late 1980's and I've always been impressed by their signature sound. I love funk of any kind.
So when I read on that late April evening, that the Red Hot Chili Peppers had invited Jimmy Page to play with them in Knebworth, I decided to pay them a visit. On May 7, 2012, I headed to the Boston Garden with trusty photographer, Micah Gummel, having one question in my mind:
Should Jimmy Page play with the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their London tour?
After experiencing their full live arena show, I started making some connections about the band, Led Zeppelin, as well as Mr. Page himself, and decided to post something for discussion directly with fans.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers take on a pure genre and make it their own.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers take the funk genre, push it to the limit, and make it their own. There was even a P. Funk guitarist (DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight) with the Chili Peppers for a time, after the passing of Hillel Slovak and before the dawn of John Frusciante. Josh Klinghoffer is at the lead guitar helm now, with Michael "Flea" Balzary continuing the historic bass post for RHCP.
At the Boston Garden show, "Around The World," funky bass man Flea was rocking it out. These heavy sounds were so intricately woven into the overall punch of the show, along with psychedelic lights, intense guitar work and energetic vocals, that the entire experience was elevated to a true George Clinton divine with a sharp rock edge. Yet this is what the fans Chili Pepper fans have come to expect at every show.
"Look Around" has a core funk foundation, while the drums and lead guitar stayed as independent entities. The bridge is jagged, edging out the song with slices you can actually feel as you hear it live. This taps into the source of funk, but the rock layers flesh it out to something entirely new. Still you can move and dance to it, that's the hook.
So what does this have to do with Jimmy Page? You have to respect a band that takes a core genre and turns it into something entirely new which becomes their signature sound.Think of how Led Zeppelin electrified the blues. Jimmy Page didn't create the blues sound, but bent it and crafted their music around it. I would believe Mr. Page would respect the way that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have consistently taken on the pure funk genre and expanded it to the reach of rock, landing what is now something very unique to their band. And remember with any funky bass line comes a quick rhythm guitar lead to keep up, of which Jimmy Page is a master and Josh Klinghoffer demonstrated quite well in the performance I saw live in Boston.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers showcase percussion.
RHCP take their drumming sequences very seriously as well as their live show percussion demonstrations. I walked into the Boston Garden and was immediately impressed when the Chili Peppers hit the stage because there were two drum kits set up. Ah, how I love a good drum solo, and what Zeppelin fan doesn't dream of "Moby Dick" when those sparkling cymbals embark! The show opened up with "Monarchy of Roses". Chad Smith made a thunderous entrance and captured the crowd. And this was not the only stunning drum performance of the night. There were two drummers, Chad Smith and Mauro Refosco. This team was amazingly talented, energetic and eclectic in their choices and renditions of percussion.
The spotlight on the production of the instrumentation and the strength of the drumming section made me think: The Red Hot Chili Peppers care about drumming as equal talent of production for the band. Given the legendary and irreplaceable John Henry Bonham, and the Zeppelin focus on the uniqueness of percussion, the honorable four sticks, perhaps Mr. Page would like this.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers cover ROBERT JOHNSON.
"They're Red Hot," a Robert Johnson cover, was on the Blood Sugar Sex Magik record, taking this ragtime blues song into the contemporary rock world.
If you are a classic rock fan at all and know anything about Jimmy Page, then you are a student of the blues, especially the Delta blues. Go 'Walking Into Clarksdale' and you will know what I mean.
The Chili Peppers' songwriting is unique.
The songwriting for RHCP is unlike any other, mixes multiple styles of music, and covers many areas of content and sound, often within the same track. Very much like the solo works of Jimmy Page, and the classics of Zeppelin, there is a creative outlet for poetic song writing here. Yes, it is a totally different style than Page/Zeppelin, because it encompasses rap and loose associations, as the Peppers' lyrics often do. And perhaps this is the point. Great music should be unique to the band. The song titles, structure, the thoughtfulness that is put into the creativity of it is important. RHCP has lyrical writing that addresses many different issues and makes the listeners think.
The Chili Peppers playing "Scar Tissue" live in Boston was a great example. With Klinghoffer leading fresh licks on this classic Peppers tradition, just a few bars in and almost every fan was singing every lyric. The solos were extended at the finish with Josh and Flea playing off of each other.
"Californication," is a production minefield of raw talent. Kiedis' vocals carried a wide range while performing live. The live version of this is more than just a song, it's an experience. The stage was colored with red and orange scenery casting flashes of light across the set while prescription pills were trailed through the scene. During the performance, Klinghoffer was sprawled out on the floor while Smith was hammering away at the drums above him. Flea and Klinghoffer both had pedals to make different effects.
Experimentation with sound is a key factor in Page's production of any song or album. He painstakingly reviews the studio recordings to ensure the sound he envisions can be present and transmitted. Creating new sounds that didn't exist before has been a breakthrough for Page, time and again. Passing this on to the next generation might be a very good thing as in the film, It Might Get Loud.
Jimmy Page has said in interviews that marketing is often through the use of a talisman of sorts. You create a sense of the music that is hard to define, but only through unconscious reaching out to the listener do you connect in a way that keeps them following.
I don't know if the Chili Peppers set out to do this, but even if they did it by accident, they have created a mystique around them of sorts, that is consistently built on the foundation of their identity as a band, yet is not formulaic.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers create a 5th element 'experience' with their live show.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been through a few line up changes over the years. The loss of Hillel Slovak sent shockwaves, with original drummer, Jack Irons, leaving the band. John Frusciante's sound still echoes in the ears of these fans. Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction) is still mentioned by fans, (performing Woodstock '94, One Hot Minute, and film productions) albiet his stay with the band was considered brief. Josh Klinghoffer's 'newness' as compared to Frusciante's legendary works was felt in the room at the Garden, even though Klinghoffer had been with the band for three years. Given this history, I wasn't sure what to expect from the band or their fans and I watched closely for certain dynamics as the show unfolded.
There is a 'Zeppelin' philosophy that if each individual member of a band is independently talented in their own right, when you put these people together, they create what Jimmy Page would call, "The Fifth Element." This was described as how the band members interconnect with each other to elevate their creative process to another level which is beyond the individual performances. This collective experience creates something which can not be duplicated in any other group. This transcendence is transmitted to the listeners as well.
I have seen the three surviving members of Led Zeppelin play together twice, at the 40th Anniversary of Atlantic Records and at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute in London. With these experiences still the memories of a lifetime, I understand first hand something that approaches what this 5th element is all about. Still I am cautious, however, because the loss of John Henry Bonham echoes in any arena where the three surviving members play. Had I never seen the Zeppelin members live, their recordings and video footage deliver an experience to the listener that often can not be described. The 5th element of these four equally talented musicians.
To me, no band could equate the same level experience as a Led Zeppelin performance, but were the Red Hot Chili Peppers capable of creating this level of transformation within their own fans?
At the Boston Garden, "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie," crashed through the arena and before we knew it, Flea was on the floor playing upside down. Kiedis' vocals reached every corner of the room, while Klinghoffer was literally in a spiral playing guitar. There were some guitar arrangements that wrapped around the bass structure that were very metal sharp indeed. Kiedis and Flea took turns addressing the crowd, keeping everyone engaged.
They played a unique performance of "Breaking The Girl," which had heavy rhythms and more movement on stage than I've seen in any band so far. Klinghoffer and Keidis were spinning, while Flea was jamming his bass so hard he was vertically swinging from the waist and his head came within just inches of the stage floor.
Bells, bongos and many forms of percussion were at work to bring the entire experience into the equation that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.
The Boston show had more than half the set list pre-date the new album. "Dani California" brought Klinghoffer to the forefront to tackle the intense guitar works between Flea's bass chords. Even though Flea had his own spotlight, side stage, he and Klinghoffer were in tandem with each other all night. I watched as these musicians made it all work by seeking each other out, cuing their timing and then just having a blast in their collective zone. There was one point when this duo met face to face, greeting like two gentlemen fencing masters. They looked each other in the eye and then took off into an airborne shred of guitar wielding might.
During, "Can't Stop," something happened in this performance that moved it from a great funk rock show to a feast of psychedelic sound scapes, imagery, and all out mind bending jam session. With a blue light on Kiedis, and the band swirling into their jam circles, it all seemed to click with this crowd. In this moment, I looked around the arena and there it was ... the 5th element had encapsulated these fans in this musical experience.
What happened after this was electric magi-ck mayhem. The Red Hot Chili Pepper instrumental jams were top notch talent. Piercing lights,with a fierce duo drum solo had everyone clapping and the crowd invigorated. I glanced away from the stage for a moment and in an instant, Flea was walking on his hands, while a stage video made it appear as if he was climbing the wall! The rest of us became funky freaks with the intensity, while psychedelic rappin rock jammed on. Percussion created what almost sounded like a xylophone.
This rock-metal-funk jam session was not for the faint hearted. What closed the show was a duo of Flea and Smith, with Klinghoffer coming back to work the set up and down the chords. This trio kept going to a moving back-beat meditative jam with searing guitar phrases that reminded me of Zeppelin's Heartbreaker at one point. The set got faster and came to a crescendo with the fans completely ensconced.The Chili Peppers were hot that night and left the crowd raw.
The 5th element had arrived for the RHCP fans at this live Boston show. But would Jimmy Page embark to their UK gig?
The fans are loyal, unique and they know their band.
"I'll see you in the depths of your soul brotha!" (Kiedis)
A fan yells out, "THERE GOES THE SHIRT!" and Flea is bare chested. Then they wait, "How long before the rest are gonna go?" Kiedis ends up next, later in the set.
Don't Forget Me Intro:
As fans still remember the legacy of John Frusciante, there was a welcoming embrace of Josh Klinghoffer tonight, who has been with the band since 2009. They chatted away in the sections, I heard a few fans comparing the tone of Fruciante to Klinghoffer, not in a critical way, but knowing each note bend so well, they were true musical analyses and it was impressive to know of fans who follow their band so closely.
And the energy ... this crowd could have danced and ranted all night. Beachballs were released and the fans bounced around along with the Chili Peppers as if the seats did not exist in this arena.
"Suck My Kiss," was the crowd anthem tonight and it is a riot to hear thousands of people belt this out on a Monday night. Flea put his hand to his ear in delight as the crowd kept shouting on cue.
At some shows, once the main set is over, there is an exodus for the door before encore, but most of these fans stayed. The arena glowed with, you guessed it, lighters!
I saw more than one person with either green or blue short cropped hair, muscle bound with a cut away shirt walking around like the Super Hero Funky Flea, yes, these were fans in the streets and parking lots of Boston. The back streets were full of RHCP music after the show, the celebration went on all night it seemed.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers don't seem to care what the press think.
Loyal to their fans, but confusing to the press, take a stand for music. If anyone understands this it is the members of Led Zeppelin and their fans. This is why we started this website in the first place.
As of May 7, 2012, the Lakers and the Celtics were still in the NBA playoffs. The Red Hot Chili Peppers had sold out the Boston TD Garden months before this show. So what do Kiedis and Flea do to open the performance? Show off half leg pants with purple and yellow socks! The local newspapers have a photo of Flea giving the favorite finger to the Celtics emblem on the stadium floor. Bantor and grit on this undercurrent both opened and closed the show. The Chili Peppers take risks, the fans know where they stand, which paradoxically makes their following even stronger. I have said this before and I will continue to say it, music transcends and in a world of competitive differences, music always wins.
The Garden performance gets going and after the bold Lakers slapstick, Anthony Kiedis belts out, "I LOVE YOU FU***IN PEOPLE!" "I WANT to hate you, but I love you!" And he said it again after encore, "LOVE YOU ALL!" Kiedis: "We came all this way ... just to see you ... ALL OF OUR LOVE!!!" The last moments summed up the true heart of this band, before exiting the stage Flea leaves the crowd saying, "Support live music as much as you can! Listen to old music, new music, weird music ... all music!" Smith threw some drum sticks to the crowd and just to keep the notebook carrying members like me on their toes, he whispers to the crowd, "Don't tell Flea, but GO CELTICS!"
Should Jimmy Page join the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their UK tour? Knebworth is already historic, will he transfer this legacy to another band first hand in guitar work? The arrangments are complicated, but the larger theme of this article is that great music with unique content often has strong similarities among its peers, regardless of the genre. Serious instrumentation, unique songwriting, loyal fans and the 5th element of experience are the just some of the ingredients of Knebworth legends.
Mr. Page, what say you?
The Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Anthony Kiedis- Vocals
Michael "Flea" Balzary- Bass
Josh Klinghoffer- Guitar
Chad Smith- Drums
Chris Warren- Keyboards
Mauro Refosco- Drums