The Red Hot Chili Peppers brought their Getaway Tour to the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night, with a second show Monday night.
You know the Peppers of which I speak: the mugging, comical punk-funk band that wore gym socks on their private parts and reflected all that was goofy and awful about what Jim Morrison once called “fantastic L.A.” Since the Peppers' epic reflective Californication (1999) and continuing into 2016’s The Getaway, singer/lyricist Anthony Kiedis has added romance, rumination, and rebirth to his palette (to say nothing of a surprisingly agile higher vocal register). Sonic booming bassist/co-founder Flea, drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer richly expanded the band's color wheel of melody and arrangement. It’s that bolder, brighter band that lighted up Wells Fargo.
It’s crucial to note that Flea -- the very definition of “lead” bassist as he blended gorgeously expressive Jaco Pastorious-like phrases into his guttural-but-fluid funk pulse -- Smith and Klinghoffer commenced Sunday’s proceedings with a lively jam. The Peppers have become the most dynamic “jam band” without that genre’s air-heady excess. As an undulating wave of tube lights rolled overhead, Kiedis and his mustache (Flea, too, wore one, perhaps their last vestige of silliness) hit the stage and made a familiar noise with the lean, mean funk and in-your-face rap of “Around the World.”
From that song forward, arrangements and instrumentation blossomed hauntingly while additional live players joined the quartet. Klinghoffer opened his tight, jagged riffing into wide noisy squalls of sound and fury. “Snow (Hey Oh),” “The Zephyr Song,” “Dark Necessities,” and the Mali blues of “Hard to Concentrate,” all benefited from sleek piano lines, moody synths, and downright pretty melodies through which Kiedis lifted his brooding voice in praise and tone. By the time they hit upon the mutant disco of “Go Robot,” the hypnotic tribalism of “Don’t Forget Me,” and the ascending flicker of “Parallel Universe,” Kiedis was ready to doff his shirt, and Flea was willing to reminisce about past Philly gigs such as those at the long-closed Chestnut Cabaret.
The past didn’t hold much alure at this gig. Yes, the musicians did lovely takes on their yearning hit ballad “Under the Bridge” and made night-closing gestures such as “Suck My Kiss” and “Give It Away” brusque and vivid, but for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the sound of their future was now. This is going to be the gig to beat in 2017, and maybe 2018, to boot.