By Brian Ives
“Every night before we go onstage, I get on my f—ing knees, and I pray to God, I pray to uplift the people who have come to see us play. And to love them, and to give the best I can to them. That’s my life’s mission.”
That’s a quote from Flea from April 14, 2012, from his acceptance speech at the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It had been over a quarter of a century since Flea and singer Anthony Kiedis formed the funk-punk combo. By that point, many artists — if they are still playing at all — have become jaded. But not Flea. At one point in the show, he suggested, “Let’s put love out into the world: that’s the power we’ve all got!” From nearly any other rock star in 2017, that might come off as snark. But Flea meant it; part of his charm is that he tattoos his heart on his sleeve. And it’s a sentiment that much of the audience appreciated.
The sense of joy and wonder in Flea’s playing — and in the playing of his bandmates — permeates every show that the Red Hot Chili Peppers have played for the past few decades. And that was the case last night for the first of three sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Flea, drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer took the stage at 9:15 pm for one of their many extended improvisational jams of the night. Soon, Kiedis came bounding on stage to join them as they went into one of their classics, “Can’t Stop.” “Choose not a life of imitation,” he rapped, and that’s something the band live by; they were unique when they released their self-titled debut way back in 1984 — there wasn’t anything that funky on alternative radio back then — and they still are unique today. Most of their peers from the ’80s and ’90s have broken up, or are playing nostalgia based shows.