On what could be just another day of summer in Los Angeles, July 31 2022 specifically — the Red Hot Chili Peppers played a sold-out concert in the So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, with two highly acclaimed opening act: Beck, another Angeleno who was successful and then Thundercat, the acclaimed bassist and singer Stephen Bruner.
The Chili Peppers – that’s singer Anthony Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante who range between 52 to 60 years old, put on a stunning performance that exuded determination, unending energy and true musical proficiency–the kind that comes only from the constant effort that comes from a 39-year professional and the acceptance of the greatness of oneself. It’s possible that the same can be said about Beck who was another genius of the weirdo genre and another child who like Kiedis experienced a distinctive L.A. upbringing. Yes, both were amazing; surprise, surprise. What was it that made this seemingly unsurprising event so moving?
I took a flight to L.A. in the early hours of 5:20 a.m. on the day of the show; however, I was not in a position to sleep for more than an hour the night prior. I’m having a lot of difficulties getting to sleep these days. My thoughts fill the closets with murderers as well as the crawl spaces filled of demons and my windows with spectres. Of course, the things that I am most afraid of are the aspects of myself that get so obvious in the quiet before bed.
About a year ago I left Los Angeles–specifically Los Feliz, specifically near the Gelsons on Hyperion–for Chicago. I packed my possessions into a U-Haul cube. I paid the $2,000 or whatever it was, and then headed back to “home.” I grew up in the middle of the city of Skokie, Illinois. That’s why I came back. I settled into a modest one-bedroom house in Evanston which was located next to Skokie and Chicago as well as along Lake Michigan. Evanston is a beautiful place to be in summer and I would go for a stroll along the lake every day. I was extremely lonely and more than nervous, so the nice weather wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Is it possible to blame me? Did anything feel normal or hopeful over the last three years?
The music I played during my walks was dominated by my favourite band, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I must have heard “Dark Necessities” a thousand times. You’re not aware of my thoughts/you don’t understand my needs/dark requirements are part of my style. Kiedis is familiar with the feeling to turn and toss and stare at the demons that occupy the mattress.
I’ve listened to their older albums as well, exploring the joys that are Freaky Fashionable as well as Mother’s Milk. I am a huge fan of Funk (e.g. Rufus, Parliament, Rick James) However, being the Millennial me, I could not know the extent of how the RHCP began to get funky in the latter half of the 1980s. They were as loud as anybody else. I took the time to take in the lyrics from 1999’s Californication and 2002’s By The Way, which I’ve always listened to at a leisurely pace. I let Kiedis’s melancholy soothe me. In other words, I didn’t develop into an avid Chilis fan until I moved out of Los Angeles.
So the moment it was revealed by the group that they were to perform a homecoming concert, with a brand new album and play SoFi at the end of July was eager to be able to join the band. John Frusciante was back in the group after a decade and I was curious to know what would happen if Los Angeles’ favourite, previously debauched sons returned to their back to their home in the three months since dystopian terror was sweeping the globe.
Have you ever gone away for a whole year? The first day of returning is full of the pull and push, and stomach-shaking emotions of a reunion with the person who was gone. I was exhausted, but exuberant to return to Los Angeles. It was a pleasure to feel the warmth of the scorching heat in Burbank. Watching happy yuppies stuff their faces with food at Alcove in Hillhurst. For me to stuff myself.
While driving towards the show, I was listening to a podcast featuring Frusciante, Kiedis, and producer Rick Rubin discussing the new album. I’m not certain what I learned, other than that I believe–haters or not–these guys are all artists. In the true sense. In the background, the extremely Koreatown Dad-Uber driver was listening to an exquisite violin tune that was played on 91.5 FM. When we were on 101, I got on this beautiful silver Mustang. I was hoping for a Christie Brinkley moment–but the driver was more like an automobile mechanic cousin of Danny Trejo. The cars tell you everything about Los Angeles, cars tell you nothing about Los Angeles.
I was walking right across an avenue from SoFi Stadium, the behemoth of Inglewood the giant that is “progress,” and started walking alongside the crowd. In front of me, a group of Latino avid Chilis fans were talking to an individual who was trying to offer them expensive merchandise. They were laughing over “the hustle” and the merchandise seller made a remark about how marijuana makes everything better. One fan mentioned that she is a wine drinker. I added that they could be a team if you let them. I tried to start an exchange with the group about what the band represents to them and if this show has any particular significance. Most of them said they were looking forward to seeing shows following the horrible COVID experience.
A few steps closer to the stadium I came across actor Joshua Jackson and proceeded to ridicule myself — a common L.A. tradition as we strolled among famous people. I sat and watched while he introduced his wife (the beautiful actor Jodie Turner-Smith) and walked up to him to tell him that I was a fan of his in Dr Death. Did he have any thoughts to share concerning the Chilis? The only thing he could say was that it was his 10th time watching the band live, and also the first time to be in Los Angeles; that was an exciting experience the guy, he informed me. While I was walking backwards in an effort to distance myself from the wonderful star in front of me, I was almost slammed into the pole. I later told myself, “Almost ran into a pole!” and I ran away.
Inside the arena, buzzing from my celebrity encounter, and with excitement due to having a ticket at the state level, I made my way down the long ramp. Lo, and it was revealed that one of my dearest acquaintances and his partner were waiting to enter the event. From the crowd of many thousands of spectators, I was able to see my old friend as well as my friend who, like me returned home to Los Angeles from a Chicago visit. We talked through the majority of Beck’s set, but ultimately the attraction of the auteur who was on the main stage wearing his beige dress was too strong to ignore. Beck played many songs that were popular with the crowd, and everyone was singing with enthusiasm”Na the, particularly the moms who were famous as the Sunset Strip hotties of the 90s. Beck’s set was a hit and got the crowd excited. I’m tempted to be Beck in real life. Are they just playing with us? Are we going to ever find out?
After a brief break at the port-a-potty carnival, which was set up for individuals who paid the most for tickets at the field–don’t you just appreciate the subtle ways in which the world plays with the elite? was time to welcome the punctual Peppers.
Flea and Smith began the show with a truly epic jam session. Some of the most memorable moments of the show were the jams. Flea, Frusciante, and Smith have a chemistry in their music and it was evident displayed to the fullest extent. (Rick Rubin has mentioned in the podcast episode, that watching the Chilis is often like being a fan of great jazz. They perform with such a subconscious harmony and it’s a joy to listen to.) Then Kiedis appeared on stage, and they exploded to “Can’t Stop.” Everyone got lost. The magic was already in full swing.
Naturally, Kiedis was quick to take off his shirt. He as well as Flea were seen on stage shirtless like they do (Flea had also spray-painted his head with bright yellow and wild pink neon…of course!). As a couple, they appear pretty good, even though as with Tom Cruise, their eternal acceptance of their youthfulness is a cause for contemplation. But not too contemplative–, Kiedis and Flea rocking out shirtless or with their dicks in a sock isn’t something to scoff at with East Coast propriety or Pacific Northwest reserve; after all, it’s pure unadulterated pornified L.A. magic, which the rest of the country may decry while secretly wanting to be baptized in it.
That, of course, is the main point. It’s a certain type of magic. You already know that they rocked us to the core. The show featured Frusciante solos that made Eddie Van Halen a run for his money. There were songs that would be worthy of any blues club in Chicago or an evening session in Muscle Shoals. There were some moments that were dragging, but not too much. I’d like to have seen more banter. I would have liked to have taken an edgier weed gummy and lost myself completely and I would love to drink the pleasure of a cup of coffee with Kiedis and chat about the dating scene with her in Los Angeles. However, they blew our socks off.
We are, indeed, the group of young hot women to my right who may be celebrating birthdays or a birthday; the 30-something woman couple of rows ahead of me who knew every lyric for every song, even the latest ones; the teens a couple of rows ahead of me who were banging their heads in the aisle in such a way that you’d be convinced that punk was back. old punks who pointed at their 1990s Sunset Strip wives as well as the nerds sporting earplugs. The Chicanos and the Jews as well as the Salvadorans and the WASPs and the Koreans and those who are Inland Empire plumbers, and the rest. They rocked our socks off. Whatever L.A. is, for sure, all of L.A. was there.
I was constantly gazing around, all the way to the stadium, looking for people to look for. It was my desire to experience the same sensation I’d been missing all the time in Evanston. The desire was to be as if I was part of something bigger, that I could understand something that these hundreds of thousands of people understood also, something that we’re not able to explain, but we know in our guts, that this band could communicate. We were all together to celebrate four old men that’s presence and dedication were significant to us. This place has always meant something. Perhaps I should return. So that I’m not in bed, with the demons.
As we sang and cheered to the end when the camera caught a man holding a Dodgers hat. A cameraman zoomed up to get an extremely close-up. The image, which was an imitation of an 80s-style music video, featured only the hat and one finger that was pointing towards the logo time and time, with perfect timing. The audience was enthralled. I enjoyed it too. Then, just in a perfect sequence, it was the Chilis who came back for “Under The Bridge.” As with many other times, I was deeply touched by this 31-year-old track, which anticipated, years in advance my dark L.A. nights of the soul. I drive along her streets/because I am her friend/I walk through her hills because she knows what I’m like…
It was an incredibly amazing moment to witness several generations of Angelenos singing in harmony to a track that hasn’t lost a jot of its relevance over the past three decades. Of how many shows can that be mentioned? To test my interest, I typed the name Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Twitter username late Sunday evening after the show. As I browsed I noticed tweet after tweet that echoed my personal impression:
“As my tears grew in Under the Bridge I realized how intertwined my love for Red Hot Chili Peppers is with my love for LA. Now I can die.”
“Sex is cool but have you ever experienced the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform Under the Bridge at a sold-out Sofi Stadium?”
“Bawled my eyes out as Red Hot Chili Peppers performed Under the Bridge tonight.”
Was this an event of baptism, confirmation, or wedding? What is it that it means to give something away to a crowd of individuals who comprehend what isn’t clear to someone else? What is it that you mean when you communicate anything in this modern world of long-lasting stay-at-home orders and veiled faces, anger and rage and helplessness?
It means a great deal. Like I said that this concert was very significant to those who were in attendance, as well as those who were not in Inglewood that night. For the residents who lived in Los Angeles, this bizarre beautiful, beautiful, often sad and lonely group of people who live at the fringe of Western civilization, I believe it was a significant event. In reality, the punks, these crazy punks with a funky attitude, are a source of inspiration, often profoundly. Thirty-nine years later the past, The Red Hot Chili Peppers remain a source of inspiration. Los Angeles is some kind of priestess, and each one of us is a kind of priest.