A common question I get is who is left on my bucket list to see live and every time, my mind floats to two bands. One is System of a Down. Don’t judge. They are just one of those bands that hit me at a pivotal time and I would do next to anything to see them perform live (within reason, of course, which means an expensive trip to see them in Vegas is out but I digress). Another one was Red Hot Chili Peppers. I say was because I crossed them off my list on Saturday night.
First up on the giant arena show was King Princess. I had caught King Princess when they opened for Kacey Musgraves in January of last year and instantly fell in love with the brashness of this genre-defying act. Although I didn’t get the same sense of snark and attitude from vocalist Mikaela Straus I did get the same feeling of intense talent that I got last year. Sadly, people had chosen to show up to the show late and King Princess was left performing to a fairly light crowd for the immense size of the U.S. Bank Stadium. I was eating it up and enjoying the sounds of their performance but many of the conversations happening around me were about anything other than what was happening on the stage. This was such a bummer for me as I truly think King Princess is a true talent with a huge voice and a style worthy of the spotlight (which was validated by The Strokes’ vocalist Julian Casablancas when he declared King Princess the best voice of the next generation). Regardless, I was beyond stoked to continue to watch King Princess’ climb to the top. Two arena shows in such a short span of time is telling of the trajectory of this young act and regardless of if there were tens of thousands of people there to see the set, there’s no stopping this amazing musician.
Casablancas seemed to want to be anywhere but on stage. At one point it seemed as if he was trying to pick a fight with someone in the crowd that had shouted something at him. He was quick to respond with a rage-filled “F You” to this particular audience member before muttering something about how they had “caught me on the wrong day”. This was an odd moment and I chalked it up to just a quick snap but the oddness continued as Casablancas mumbled between songs and then butchered an ambient-styled happy birthday song for one of the members. Between messing with the person who was doing the closed captioning and these other odd moments, I couldn’t tell if Casablancas was on something or if this was just his personality but it left an odd taste in my mouth which left me confused. The band sounded so tight and even Casablanca’s vocals sounded great but this attitude just kind of canceled all of the good out in my mind.
I was still puzzled and baffled by The Strokes’ set as the stage was changed over for the headlining act of the night but between seeing my brother, sister-in-law, and some random friends, I was able to push the confusion out of my head and just mentally prepare for what was about to happen but, the truth is, I don’t think anything would have prepared me to see the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers live.
Everyone knows the sound at U.S. Bank Stadium sucks so I’m not going to get into that but, really, out of all the shows I’ve seen there, this one sounded best. From bassist Michael Balzary’s (aka Flea) intense and frantic bass solos to the wailing guitar work from John Frusciante, the precise drum hits from Chad Smith, and the distinct vocals from Anthony Kiedis, RHCP sounded just like I wanted them to for a live performance. Energy-wise was exactly what I expected too. Flea’s endless energy left me floored. Watching him was like watching a kitten on a Red Bull and catnip concoction and Kiedis’ vocals came across as smooth even though he was hopping around the stage as best he could with the boot that was on his leg (I really hope his doctor wasn’t watching the performance because I’m sure that what he was doing with that boot on would have been frowned upon and given his doctor a heart attack).
The music and energy were at the forefront throughout the seventeen-song set followed by a two-song encore. Really, their show was understated for being a giant arena show. Other than an impressive screen that covered the back of the stage and extended upward and outward creating an almost “room” feel for the stage, there was no smoke and mirrors with this band which was just what I wanted. RHCP have been a force for decades and it was nice to see them prove that, even after all of these years, they still have it and still have their distinct sound and style that made them pop all those years ago.
From old classics that really got the audience going (obviously, “Californication” was a favorite of mine) to some newer tracks and even a super amazing cover of “Your Song” from Elton John done by Frusciante, I was completely entranced the entire night. Although nearly twenty songs is an impressive set, it just didn’t feel like enough but, then again, with a band as legendary as RHCP, would anything have been enough?