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Red Hot Chili Peppers’ history in Las Vegas brief but memorable

Updated August 3, 2022 - 10:35 am

“The aquatic mouth dance is waiting for you.”

So says the elastic-voiced rock ’n’ roll chameleon who might possibly be allergic to chest-covering fabrics.

On Saturday, the wait will be over.

It’s been a minute — 10 years, in fact — since the Red Hot Chili Peppers last played Las Vegas.

This weekend, they’ll make their long-awaited return with a headlining gig at Allegiant Stadium.

They’ll do so in support of their latest double album, the funk rock rabbit hole that is “Unlimited Love,” whose standout tracks include the previously referenced “Aquatic Mouth Dance.” The song is a trip down a musical memory lane by frontman Anthony Kiedis — still the envy of shirtless dudes the world over, even at age 59, thanks to his Iggy Pop-worthy abs — its title paying tribute to the art of rapping, the fluid flow of words.

It’s a supremely soulful tune, a testament to the band’s skill at unifying a hodgepodge of disparate musical influences (hip-hop, punk, R&B, shades of heavy metal, thankfully no polka) into a singular, albeit wide-ranging, sound.

When the Chilis perform tunes from the album for the first time locally this weekend, it’ll be among the relatively few concerts they have played here in a 39-year career. (They’ve also done a couple of private gigs.)

Let’s take a look back at their limited, yet unique, concert history in Las Vegas.

Slow going … at first

What, did they have something against slot machines, Wayne Newton and yard-long cocktails available in just about every flavor of extremely poor decision-making? Beats us, but how else do you explain the fact that the Chilis barely played Vegas during the first 15 years of their existence (there was that gig at club Paradise Alley in 1989)?

The Chilis made up for lost time, though, with a pair of shows at the long-shuttered Huntridge Theater, an intimate, locally beloved room with a capacity under 1,000, where there were no nosebleed seats, just the occasional bleeding nose in the pit.

What made the shows even more memorable: They were among the band’s first concerts with wunderkind guitarist John Frusciante back in the lineup after he quit the group in 1992 and subsequently struggled with drug addiction.

This era marked the beginning of a creative and commercial resurgence for the Chilis following 1995’s hit-or-miss “One Hot Minute,” which featured Jane’s Addiction six-stringer Dave Navarro on guitar.

The band’s comeback smash “Californication” would hit shelves the following June, prefaced here with early airings of a trio of songs from the album: “I Like Dirt,” “Emit Remmus” and “Scar Tissue.”

The Chilis were reborn.

Maybe we’ll be able to say the same of the Huntridge some day?

Some (not so) private gigs

Remember that time the Red Hot Chili Peppers raided a local woman’s fridge for some cans of Slim Fast, commandeered her couch for a bit and then rocked out at her apartment complex pool?


Refresh your memory by watching VH1’s “Backyard BBQ With the Red Hot Chili Peppers” concert special. (It’s on YouTube.)

In August 2002, the Chilis played a private gig at the Fountains at Flamingo apartments for a contest winner, a flight attendant named Leslie, and 50 of her friends.

Highlights: Kiedis joking about being nervous before the show (“We’ve never played an apartment complex before”), the band prefacing “Parallel Universe” with a snippet of Fugazi’s “Latest Disgrace,” and Leslie inviting her buddies to the show on this weird communication device. (Turns out it’s called a “land line.” We Googled it.)

A decade later, the band also played a private show at Rocks Lounge at Red Rock Resort as part of a UFC holiday party for company employees.

And that’s how you get Santa to totally tap out.

Good tunes, good company

If you’re anything like us, Jane Fonda, the State Farm Insurance guy, Wade Boggs and the ghost of Winston Churchill, you’ve spent countless sleepless nights wondering, “Just what cover songs will the Chili Peppers play when they next visit my city of residence?”

It’s an all-time great question for two reasons: 1). The Chilis almost always perform at least one cover tune at their shows, and 2). Whether or not you like their music, there’s no denying their taste in music.

Just check out at the covers they played during their two arena gigs here, at the Thomas &Mack Center in September 2000 and Mandalay Bay Events Center in October 2003: “Maybe” by ’50s doo-woppers The Chantels; “Havana Affair” by the mighty Ramones; “Red Hot Mama” by the legendarily funky Funkadelic; and their signature throttling of The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.”

What’s more, these shows also maintained the band’s tradition of bringing along well-curated opening acts: the Stone Temple Pilots at the Thomas &Mack gig; the Flaming Lips and Mike Watt at Mandalay Bay.

That legacy continues to this day: The Strokes and King Princess will join the Chilis at Allegiant Stadium.

Centennial fireworks

As anyone who’s ever turned 100 will tell you, the best way to commemorate the occasion is with a tasty funk rock cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” complete with Richter scale-agitating bass lines delivered by a fellow nicknamed after a small, flightless parasite.

Vegas did it right, then, during its centennial celebration. As part of the festivities, the Chilis played a free show for 50,000 fans on July 2, 2005, with Weezer and the Adolescents opening.

The outdoor concert was originally planned for a parking lot at the Las Vegas Convention Center before event organizers realized that maybe putting on a show atop concrete in Las Vegas in July, when heat levels rival that of Satan’s armpit during a hot yoga session in hell — where hot yoga sessions were invented — might not be among the best of ideas.

And so the show was moved to the grass-laden Silver Bowl Sports Complex soccer fields by Sam Boyd Stadium.

Cool footnote of that hot night: The band premiered “Readymade” from the double album “Stadium Arcadium,” which was released the following spring.

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,

no Dick Clark necessary

So, you weren’t there when the Chili Peppers rang in 2003 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel during the second show of a two-night stand at the venue?

Scour eBay, and you can be — sort of: The group’s climactic, set-ending, nearly 13-minute jam of “Nothing to Lose” was recorded and featured on the B-side of its “Can’t Stop” single.

Ten years later, the Chilis again played Vegas on New Year’s Eve, this time at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

It would be the band’s only public Vegas show with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who departed in 2019 to make way for the (second) return of Frusciante.

The last tune the Chilis played in 2012?

“Auld Lang Syne.”

“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon?” the opening of the song goes.

Of course not, chief.

You just reconnect with them a decade later at the local football stadium.

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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