DETROIT -- The star of the show Friday night, June 1, at Joe Louis Arena? Nicklas Lidstrom, like so many Detroit Red Wings games during the past 20 years.
This time it just happened to be at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert.
The newly minted Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group had finished its blazing hour-and-45-minute show when Bloomfield Hills-raised drummer Chad Smith -- expressing his own "dream come true" awe at playing a venue where he'd seen so many concerts and hockey games -- brought Lidstrom, who announced his retirement the day before, on stage. The arena literally shook as a beaming Lidstrom took in the kind of ovation reserved for Stanley Cup championship victories.
"This is unbelievable," gushed the Captain, who attended the show with former teammates including Tomas Holmstrom and Chris Chelios and spent time afterwards chatting with Smith's mother Joan. "This tops it all. This is another great memory for me. It's hard to imagine; I came here 20 years ago...and 20 years later, getting this kind of ovation...I love you guys."
A big moment, to be sure, followed by many of the 15,000 in the crowd chanting "Let's go Red Wings!" as they left the building. And, oh yeah -- the Chili Peppers played as well.
Making its first metro area appearance since Nov. 3, 2006, the Los Angeles-based quartet showed Lidstrom-style love for Detroit, too. Bassist Flea thanked the Red Wings from the stage "for letting us use your building" and later recalled the Chili Peppers' first visit to the Motor City, in 1984 at Saint Andrews Hall. Frontman Anthony Kiedis also thanked "Dr. Funkenstein" -- aka George Clinton, who produced the group's second album, 1985's "Freaky Styley," in Detroit -- "for letting us use his town this evening. He gave us the keys."
Smith, of course, sported a Red Wings jumpsuit and had a team logo on his bass drum, while new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer endeared Detroit's Pepperheads to him by donning a Lidstrom jersey during the encores.
The group hardly needed to curry favor, however. Its 18-song set ripped with trademark ferocity and virtuosity, with Smith, Flea and Klinghoffer -- aided by auxiliary musicians on keyboards and percussion -- weaving their busy, intricate parts into tight explosions of funk-punk-rock synthesis. An array of moving and expanding video screens provided the primary eye candy on the clean and wide-open stage, but the group's own frenetic physicality generally topped that -- especially a shirtless Kiedis, who's clearly recovered from the foot surgery that delayed the start of the Chili Peppers' North American tour.
Kicking off with the tribal psychedelia of "Monarchy of Roses," the group offered up plenty of material from last year's "I'm With You" -- including "Look Around," "Goodbye Hooray" and a particularly hot rendition of the single "The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie" -- while also feeding the faithful plenty of favorites such as "Dani California," "Otherside," "Can't Stop," "Californication," "By the Way" and the deep cut "Hard to Concentrate," with an assortment of jammy intros serving as segues between many of the songs.
The somewhat tossed-off "Under the Bridge" provided the show's sole respite, but the Chili Peppers blew it away with its pounding cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Encore renditions of "Suck My Kiss," the new "Ethiopia" and "Give It Away" iced the night and gave the group true ownership of the city Dr. Funkenstein let them -- at least until the captain turned Joe Louis back into Hockeytown.
A recording of the Chili Peppers' is available at www.livechilipeppers.com.
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