Michael “Flea” Balzary and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at WFAN’s Big Hello To Brooklyn at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on February 1st, 2014 in New York City.
Of all the rock’n’jock concerts capitalizing on New York City’s proximity to the Super Bowl this weekend, only one had the cheerleaders of both the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks shaking their pompoms simultaneously to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away,” as balloons repping each band’s team showered down on the revelers. That’s because Saturday night’s “Big Hello to Brooklyn,” the first Chili Peppers concert in New York City since 2006, was a rock’n’jock concert put on by a company that could pull off such a feat: sports-radio station WFAN.
The stagehands were dressed as referees and the cheerleaders shimmied to the Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” and ZZ Top’s “Tush” between opening acts, but the real athletes were the Chili Peppers themselves, who in their early fifties have the stamina of musicians half their age. Flea shook his head like a wet dog during opener “Can’t Stop” and later shook his body like a simian in the funky “Ethiopia.” He and frontman Anthony Kiedis even moshed a little, tugging at the cable connecting Flea’s bass to his amp, just before set closer “Give It Away.” Either the Chili Peppers play hard or this was no mere warm-up for performing with Bruno Mars during Sunday’s halftime show.
Overall, the group was in fine form, even though it had every excuse to be tired. Midway through the set, Flea told the audience, “We’re just about to go into a period of hibernation and make a new record.” Talking about a need to “progress,” the bassist said Saturday night’s show was meant to be “one last blowout,” and the Chili Peppers played their 17 or so songs as though the concert was the band’s last hurrah.
Even though the band’s first record turns 30 this year, it focused its set list on the last decade or so. The Chili Peppers’ cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” – a punky highlight in the show – was the only Eighties song the group played. Instead they focused on hits (“Under the Bridge,” “Californication”) and the finer points of their most recent album, 2011’s I’m With You, like the sex-charged “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie.” It was a party.
And in typical party fashion, Kiedis adorned himself in unusual underwear, though it wasn’t the “sock only” look he and his bandmates were known for in the Eighties. Instead, he wore a red bra that some free spirit hurled onstage. He had come onstage wearing a long-tailed suit coat and dress pants with one leg trimmed to reveal (no surprise here) a long tube sock.
Similarly, he flexed his ability for bizarre between-song banter. “Is there anybody here from Flatbush,” he asked after “Dani California,” apropos of nothing and adding Brooklyn neighborhood Greenpoint to the mix. And before “Under the Bridge,” he said to the audience, “Thank you for having tie-dyed pubes above your vagina – or not.” Then he turned the attention toward his guitarist. “Josh does,” he said. And during the thank yous after “By the Way,” he singled out a concertgoer on stage right and said, “If I was closer, I’d make out with you.”
But he didn’t have to make good on such an offer: the Brooklyn audience indulged everything the band did. After pouring in steadily through the evening’s opening bands – one of which, new-wave punks New Politics, might have given the Chili Peppers a run with their frontman’s athletic feats like breakdancing and Iggy Pop-style walking over the audience’s hands – the crowd seemed hungry for the main event. (During the Seahawks cheerleaders’ routine, however, a collective of seemingly mismatched guys wearing Peyton Manning jerseys and New York Hardcore hoodies seemed satiated just by ogling the dancers.) For the band’s three-song encore, the crowd was so enthralled with Chili Peppers songs “Around the World,” “Soul to Squeeze” and even “Give it Away,” releasing a collective roar as the balloons descended in the latter song, they barely noticed the cheerleaders dancing along. Touchdown, Chili Peppers.
“Factory of Faith”
“Snow ((Hey Oh))”
“I Like Dirt”
“The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie”
“Under the Bridge”
“By the Way”
“Around the World”
“Soul to Squeeze”
“Give It Away”