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Chili Peppers give, and get, lots of Detroit love at Joe Louis show
DETROIT -- There's no place like second home, which the Red Hot Chili Peppers can confirm after the group's typically explosive show Thursday night, Feb. 2, at Joe Louis Arena.
Los Angeles may be the quartet's birthplace, but Detroit certainly lays some claim in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group's lineage. It gave the band one member, Bloomfield Hills-raised drummer Chad Smith, while frontman Anthony Kiedis -- leaping and skipping around the stage despite a stress fracture that put his left leg in a walking boot -- hails from Grand Rapids. The Chili Peppers, as bassist Flea noted, also spent a couple of months living in Detroit during 1985 while recording their second album, "Freaky Styley."
And, lest we forget, the group's first major hit was a cover of Motown legend Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground."
So Thursday's 100-minute concert was, not surprisingly, filled with love for the Motor City. Smith wore a Red Wings baseball cap, backwards, and the team's winged wheel log on the back of his red tunic top. Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer sported a Red Wings T-shirt, and the group displayed the Joe Louis' final season logo behind Smith's drums during the encore break. The Chili Peppers' also nodded to a bit of Detroit rock heritage with a cover of the Stooges' "Search And Destroy" and, of course. included the song "Detroit" from their chart-topping 2016 album "The Getaway."
The Chili Peppers lived up to their formidable live reputation throughout the 17-song set as well, powering through its particular hybrid of muscular funk, jazz-fusion sophistication and rich pop melodicism. Smith, Flea and Klinghoffer played in their own kind of lockstep, seemingly disparate parts swirling around each other without ever sacrifcing the songs' taut grooves. Bolstered by a pair of additional musicians on keyboards and percussion -- and following opening sets by original drummer Jack Irons and the always-combustible Trombone Shorty -- the Chili Peppers shifted easily from ferocious ("Can't Stop," "Dani California," "Suck My Kiss") to gentle ("Scar Tissue," "Californication," "Under The Bridge"), and accomplishing both within songs such as "By The Way."
The three instrumenalists periodically stretched their chops between songs, too, with brief, jammy interludes that never work out their welcome.
The show was as arresting visually as it was sonically, too. The band's bare stage setting was dressed up by a four-panel HD video screen but most strikingly by a grid of lighted votives above the stage and the crowd -- similar to the scheme Drake used for his Summer Sixteen Tour last year -- which were programmed to move in colorful formations that, again, accented but never eclipsed the music.
It all played to the clear delight of the sold-out Joe Louis crowd, and Smith, of course had the last word of the night as the band exited the stage. Blowing a kiss to his mother, Joan, sitting at the side of the stage, he gushed that, "You guys are a amazing. This is a dream come true for a kid from Detroit. I'm humbled, privileged...I go to a lot of places, and I'm so proud to say I'm from...Detroit, Michigan. You guys are the best."
And when Smith promised "we'll see you again soon," the Chili Peppers faithful made it clear that return can't come too soon.
A download of the Chili Peppers' Joe Louis show will go on sale soon at livechilipeppers.com.
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