Cathy Cassinos, Sacramento Bee:
When the Red Hot Chili Peppers first took the stage at Club Can’t Tell Sunday night, surely at least a few members of the audience thought they’d been burned.
The band’s lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, was mysteriously absent.
Instead, an anonymous young man with a facsimile of an American flag wrapped around his bottom waltzed out and grabbed the microphone.
“This is the band’s new lead singer,” announced bassist Flea.
“I want my money back!” cried a young lady standing behind me.
But, after an instrumental piece and a blistering rendition of “Neutron Bomb”, Kiedis wandered onto stage donning a pair of dark shades.
“Where ya been, Anthony?” asked guitarist Hillel Slovak.
“I had problems,” Kiedis replied.
Fortunately, no new problems presented themselves after that, and the Peppers were free to do what they do best: go wild.
Though Flea once explained the Los Angeles-based quartet’s music as “a mix between Ornette Coleman, the Germs, Pablo Picasso, Jimi Hendrix and ‘Friday the 13th, Part IV,’” it’s really not that complex – or that interesting. It’s simply a combination of heavy-duty funk and rap, played with incredible intensity. Subtlety is not part of the Peppers’ vocabulary.
Their collective vocabulary, in fact, seems limited to vulgarities. This particularly applied to the bare-chested Flea, who tossed out a well-constructed series of four-letter words every time he opened his mouth.
Nevertheless, the music never suffered. Flea and drummer Cliff Martinez made a relentless rhythm section; Kiedis, once he arrived, won over the crowd with his fast but often barely intelligible rappin’; and guitarist Slovak flowed smoothly from funky one-chord workouts to spicy rock ‘n’ roll riffs and stylings.
Audience members danced, jumped and leaped about as if their feet were on fire. Kiedis may have had an influence here. He did exactly the same thing. The Red Hot Chili Peppers made it abundantly clear that their hearts belong to bone-crunching funk. And although it’s hard to think of a current band that does it with more conviction, it’s also hard to imagine a steady diet of the stuff.
One night at the Club Can’t Tell, at least for me, was enough.