Updated August 8, 2022 - 11:22 am
Ever see how a boxer gets ready on fight night just prior to the opening bell?
Often times, they shadowbox hard, maybe work the the mitts a bit, build up a nice sweat, get the muscles burning, before hitting the ring and getting to business.
The show started kind of like that.
On Saturday at a packed-to-the-rafters Allegiant Stadium, the Red Hot Chili Peppers initially entered the room sans singer Anthony Kiedis.
The band then launched into a warm-up jam session that both set the stage and could have cratered it: guitarist John Frusciante began ripping the kind of leads that can seemingly only be played from the back of the heels with mouth agape, while bassist Flea dug into his instrument the way his namesake does a dog’s hide, fingers racing up and down the fretboard to keep up with Frusciante, the two going at it like a couple of thoroughbreds barreling down the home stretch.
As for drummer Chad Smith?
When he got going, it sounded as if his kit was being bombarded with cannonballs, such was the boom he conjured.
Just as things worked themselves into a fever pitch, Kiedis joined his bandmates for a rapturously received “Can’t Stop,” the crowd exploding like the aforementioned ammunition.
It was fitting the Chili Peppers’ first Vegas show in 10 years was taking place inside a football stadium: the night was suffused with the raucous, raw-throated mania of tens of thousands of fans cheering on the home team against a hated division rival.
What’s more, the band has a sound catered for the largest of venues: their tunes are often so rhythmically dense that they register physically as much as aurally, meaning you could be in the nosebleed seats — or a parking lot outside — and they’d still reverberate in your sternum like you’d just swallowed a lit string of firecrackers.
Backed by a massive video screen shaped like an inverted “L,” pulsating both behind and above the band, the Chili Peppers delved into a songbook divided between funk-rock bombast (seismic tongue-twister “Give it Away;” the punk-informed “Right on Time,” preceded by a few bars of The Clash’ “London Calling”) and soulful, sweetly sung anthems of love and love lost (stirring mega-hits “Otherside” and “Californication;” eruptive ballad “Don’t Forget Me”).
They played a quartet of tunes from their latest double-album “Unlimited Love,” highlighted by the concussive bounce of “Here Ever After” and the cinder-block-heavy riffs of “These Are The Ways.” They also gave Vegas a little something special: The tour debut of “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” the title track of their multi-platinum breakout 1991 album, which they played for only the second time in the last five years.
The show wasn’t without its wrinkles: There were multiple technical issues involving Frusciante’s guitar rig, leading the show to be paused twice as things got sorted out. (Silver lining: it resulted in still more jamming between Flea and Smith.)
And the Chili Peppers didn’t air all the hits — No “Scar Tissue” or ”Under the Bridge” left some fans peeved enough to email this reporter.
The band seemed to anticipate these kind of complaints.
“We like to play whatever we want, whenever we want,” a leather skirt-wearing Flea snarled early in the show, throwing an expletive in there for good measure.
Prior to the band’s encore, he did a handstand across the stage, upended skirt revealing his tighty whities, a visual encapsulation of the air of irreverence he brought to the gig.
Instruments back in hand, the Chili Peppers closed the show with another “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” chestnut, the disconsolate “I Could Have Lied,” followed by a foundation-rattling ”By the Way.”
“Have we all had enough?” Kiedis wondered earlier in song during “These Are the Ways.”
That would be a resounding “no” for some of those in the house, but, really, who could blame them for not wanting this night to end?
On a similar note, The Chilis’ set was prefaced by a hope-you-got-there-early performance from New York City rockers The Strokes that came and went all too fast.
Propelled by the underrated guitar tandem of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr and frontman Julian Casablancas howling into the mic like a coyote establishing his territory, the band put the hammer down on fan favorites like “Reptilia” and “Last Nite,” which got crowd members in the stands up on their feet.
“I ain’t wasting no more time,” Casabalancas bellowed on a set-ending “Someday.”
With but 45 minutes on stage, we could have used a little bit more of said time.