Live review: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Time Warner Cable Arena, 4/6/2012

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Red Hot Chili Peppers w/ Santigold
Time Warner Cable Arena
April 6, 2012

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I believe most Red Hot Chili Peppers fans fall into one of two groups - those who started listening before "Under the Bridge" and those who discovered the band because of the radio hit. The first camp believes nothing the band released after Blood Sugar Sex Magik has come close to the glory of the early years. The other camp loves every radio-friendly, pop-leaning tune they come out with and thinks the band is in their prime.

The last time I caught the Chili Peppers live it was 20 years ago, shortly after the release of "Under the Bridge." When the band played the song live at 1992's Lollapalooza festival in Scranton, Pa., a mosh pit started in defiance of the mellow undertones. Fast forward to the April 6, 2012, concert at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena and "Under the Bridge" was clearly the favorite song, boasting the night's loudest sing along. Personally, I used the time to check my e-mail.

Aside from a strong distaste for one song, I headed into the concert with an open mind and was pleasantly surprised. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have all of the energy they used to exude, but it's now done in different ways. Singer Anthony Kiedis, 49, still finds time to dance, but his wild side has calmed down a bit. Drummer Chad Smith, 50, still appears to have an absolute blast behind the kit - throwing sticks to the crowd and making faces at people - and bassist Flea is as crazy as ever - evidenced by his random comments and stories, walking across the stage on his hands and constant jumping around. As for new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer - more on him in a moment.

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The band kicked off its set with "Monarchy of Roses" - the first track from 2011's I'm With You. Where the album version sounds a bit disco, the live version found its funk roots thanks to the slapping bass of Flea. It was a trend that was constant throughout the band's set - more potency to the studio pop. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer quickly found his rhythm and showed the crowd why the band hired him as their Spinal Tap-like eighth guitarist.

Klinghoffer found plenty of time to display his talents during numerous between-song jams with Flea, including an encore-closing five minute adventure full of structured sonic squeals. He added the right flourishes soaked in psychedelia, and his style closely resembles that of long-time guitarist John Frusciante.

While the band's setlist focused on more recent albums - "Californication," "Look Around," "Dani California," etc., they did find time to revisit Blood Sugar Sex Magik via the title track, "Give It Away" and "Suck My Kiss." They also included their high-energy cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground."

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Kiedis didn't say much of anything to the crowd and also didn't appear be suffering from any after-effects of the broken foot which caused a postponement from the original January concert date for Charlotte. Instead, it was 49-year-old Flea who addressed the crowd - to introduce band members and to tell a random story about smoking hash in an English cemetery.

32-year-old Klinghoffer brought new life to the group as all members fed off of his intensity throughout the show. His brief solos and moments of heavy-handed riff slinging were never self-serving and Kiedis could often be seen watching him with a smile on his face.

The band's 90-minute performance was a bit shorter than I would have liked - though I would have also welcomed a few older songs thrown in. Note: The band did play "Me & My Friends" from 1987's Uplift Mofo Party Plan at their April 4 show in Raleigh, so all is not forgotten when it comes to the past.

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Also worth noting is the opening set by Santigold who showcased some of her debut album along with new songs from the upcoming followup, Master of My Make-Believe, in a solid effort warming up the crowd. Flanked by two dancers, she brought her funky M.I.A.-like style to the stage, offering electro-pop with a splash of attitude. Included in her set were "L.E.S. Artistes," new single "Disparate Youth" and set-closer "Creator." She also invited up 10 audience members to dance their way through "Shove It."

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Santigold setlist
Go!
L.E.S. Artistes
Lights
Anne
Get it Up
Hold the Line
Disparate Youth
Say Aha
Starstruck
Brooklyn Go Hard
Shove It
Creator

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RHCP Setlist
Monarchy of Roses
Can't Stop
Scar Tissue
Dani California
Look Around
She's Only 18
Suck My Kiss
Annie Wants a Baby
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie
Higher Ground
Under the Bridge
Factory of Faith
Californication
By the Way

Encore
Drum Solo
The Power Of Equality
I Could Have Lied
Give It Away
Final Jam

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