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Live review: Red Hot Chili Peppers

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With Radio 1’s Big Weekend and the Isle of Wight festival raging at the same time, it was an explosive weekend for live music. But the best event of the lot didn’t parade itself around on BBC 3. You had to be there.

Red Hot Chili PeppersOn Saturday 23 June, the Red Hot Chili Peppers essentially put on their own festival. An enormous field outside Stevenage, 80,000 adoring fans armed with wellies, and more dodgy burger vans than you could visit in a year contributed to an experience far superior to your average gig.

The band’s support would probably have made an alright festival line-up by themselves, with Reverend and the Makers, The Wombats and Dizzee Rascal all taking to the stage before the main event.

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, no-one really watched the Reverend and his gang, who had to make do with a polite round of applause for ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’.

The Wombats fared better, with most of the crowd mumbling their way through ‘Moving to New York’. The smattering of older, well-known tracks kept the audience listening through the newer songs, and by the end of their set they may well have gained a few more fans.

Dizzee Rascal certainly did, with middle-aged men throughout the crowd going suitably "bonkers" for him. The lack of a full live band right before the Chili’s may have seemed like a strange decision, but Dizzee proved to be the perfect support, whipping the crowd into a frenzy for the headliners.

That frenzy was in danger of dying off over the agonising wait between acts, but as Flea stepped onto the stage he was met by the roar from all 80,000 people. The band assembled and leapt straight into ‘Monarchy of Roses’, the opening track from their new album. Josh Klinghoffer, the band’s new guitarist, has clearly grown comfortable in his role over the past two years, twitching and writhing around with his instrument. He also has the confidence to put a new slant on the band’s extensive back catalogue, stepping away from former guitarist John Frusciante’s iconic solos and creating his own.

The setlist was dominated by older tracks, with only three songs off their latest album making the cut. ‘Soul to Squeeze’ sounded perfect rolling over the mellowing outdoor crowd, and everyone singing and swaying to ‘Under the Bridge’ must have looked pretty special from the stage.

These were the rare slower moments in a set of high-tempo songs, however, with ‘Around the World’ and ‘Higher Ground’ being particular highlights, alongside ‘Can’t Stop’. Even with singer Anthony Kliedis forgetting the words to the second verse, it received one of the biggest reactions of the night.

A lengthy encore followed ‘By the Way’, with Chad Smith involved in a scintillating drum-off with Mauro Refosco, the band’s percussionist, before some of the band’s classics.

The response to the opening riff to ‘Give it Away’ was enormous, and the band lengthened the song to revel in the reception. Kliedis left the stage, signalling the start of a five minute jam to end the set. Flea, widely regarded as the best bassist in the world (for good reason) left with a plea for everyone there to support live music, regardless of what it is. “It’s the voice of God!” he shouted to the assembled masses. Amen Flea. Amen. 

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