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Red Hot Chili Peppers' Super Bowl performance: A musician's opinion


Although they didn’t really fit in with Bruno Mars Super Bowl halftime show (though Mars actually chose the band to play), it was nice to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers  make an appearance on football’s biggest stage. Although the casual music fan could view them as not being relevant anymore, I would say that’s not exactly a valid statement (although I must admit I enjoyed them much better with John Frusciante in the band).These days, it’s a matter of who the executives want to make relevant, but that’s another story for another article. Photo: PA


Anyway, back to the show.


Being a long time drummer,  I thought Chad Smith’s drum set was pretty neat. That said, being a drummer, I couldn’t help but notice that Smith was a little off with some of his cymbal hits (drummers lingo) and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was doing a lot of shaking, but not a lot of playing. And oh yeah, bassist Flea wasn’t even plugged in and there was no trace of a wireless adapter. Overall the performance sounded tight, but musicians can tell if something is the least bit off. We pick up on that stuff right away. Trust me.


When it came out the next day that Smith, Klinghoffer and Flea had pre-recorded their tracks (Anthony Kiedis’ vocals were live), it naturally caused quite an uproar.  But that’s why Flea quickly went public with a statement explaining why the music was pre-taped to throw water on any possible controversy.  


I’ll be the first to admit that I’m ready to slam any artist who goes on stage and decides to lip synch their songs for paying customers. It’s one thing if you have instrumental or vocal backing tracks and have only a select number of musicians to play the required instruments of a given song, or something is so elaborate that it can’t be replicated on stage. Queen was famous for leaving the stage during the extensively multi-tracked moments of Bohemian Rhapsody. On the other hand, there’s Ashlee Simpson and her botched Saturday Night Live performance. Although Simpson was apparently instructed to lip synch due to severe health issues and she continued to record and release albums, was she ever really taken seriously as an artist after this?


 The Chili Peppers have been playing music for 30-plus years. Flea and Kiedis have known each other as long as most of us have been alive. They’ve definitely made their mark on the music business and broke new ground in several music genres. The band has taken their stance on a similar issue back in the 80s, when they was once kicked off the U.K.’s  Top of the Pops because they had to mime their performance and Flea played his bass with a shoe.


However, every situation is different. There comes a time when you can either do the rock n’ roll thing and fight the establishment, or you’re older and smart enough to know how the game is played and you see both sides of the coin. All these guys (minus Klinghoffer) are in their 50’s. While the band would have rather understandably played live, the NFL told the band that their way was the only way. There was no compromise. If any musician has ever had the unenviable chore of a soundcheck, they will understand where I’m coming from.


For this to happen properly in the short span between the band’s performance and the third quarter for just one song is an absolute trainwreck waiting to happen. This situation should be filed under ‘logistical nightmare’ than any long-time band ‘selling out’ at the behest of the corporate monster known as the NFL (for the record, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band also supplied pre-recorded tracks for their Super Bowl performance in 2009). It’s really not an issue of money, as neither Mars or the band received payment for their performance-not that the Chili Peppers really need it anyway. They’re known for doing a lot of crazy things over the last several decades, but you haven’t heard about any of them being broke. In fact, Smith’s drums from the show are being auctioned off for charity.


So in the end, there’s no nipple controversy, Mars saw his sales increase on the Billboard charts, the Chili Peppers possibly got some new fans or reignited somebody’s passion, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation was able to benefit. Let’s not start another controversy when one really isn’t needed.


Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Photo: PA