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What’s Red, Hot, and Totally Rocks?

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Spice Up the Tweeter Center

By Peter R. Russo

staff writer

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Tweeter Center

Sept. 10, 7 p.m.

On Sept. 10, the Red Hot Chili Peppers made their long-awaited appearance at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield, a stop on the third leg of their “By the Way” tour.

The first of two opening acts, the Washington, D.C.-based French Toast, consisted of two guys playing four instruments (guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizer). It looked like they could have used a hand up there, but they were surprisingly decent given their severe personnel shortage. While I liked their unique blend of heavy synthesizer undertones with overlayed guitar melodies and drum beats, the vocals were uninspired, and I’m pretty sure that the drum/bass player is really just a drummer.

Next up was Queens of the Stone Age, who was very well received by the audience (unlike many opening acts). They played typical metal fare, complete with power chords and lots of screaming. While I can’t say that I’m a huge metal fan myself, after the performance I overhead one girl remarking (quite seriously) that her life was complete now that she had seen the Queens.

Finally, after an excruciating half-hour wait while the stage was rearranged, the Chili Peppers stepped out and immediately mesmerized the crowd with “By the Way,” a rock/rap hybrid and the title song of their latest album. The current Red Hot Chili Peppers lineup includes original members Anthony Kiedis (vocals) and Flea (bass), and more recent recruits John Frusciante (guitar) and Chad Smith (drums).

While many still associate legendary guitarist Dave Navarro with the Chili Peppers, Navarro only played with the band for three years, making way for former member Frusciante in 1998.

After the classics “Scar Tissue” and “Around the World” came “Zephyr Song,” a mellower piece which turned into a crowd sing-along. Some lesser-known songs (including “Parallel Universe” and “Havana Affair”) followed, during which the crowd quieted somewhat. But the roaring energy returned as soon as the first identifiable chords of “Otherside” were played. Starting off slowly, the pace built up until it reached that of the familiar studio version.

While the band worked quickly, and talking between songs was kept to a bare minimum, when it comes to working a crowd, the Chili Peppers are seasoned veterans. Between Anthony Kiedis flailing his arms and dancing around with the microphone stand and Flea playing his bass while perched precariously atop the kick drum, the band’s wild stage antics energized the performance.

The highlight of the concert came a few songs later, as the Chili Peppers first played their time-honored classic “Soul To Squeeze” (arguably their signature piece) and then “Can’t Stop,” an instant hit from their latest album. “Soul to Squeeze” was faithful to the album version, except for some added guitar riffs. The Chili Peppers themselves remained (surprisingly) calm throughout the song, despite the crowd’s enthusiasm. The spectacular guitar intro to “Can’t Stop” nicely showcased the gifted Frusciante, who has played on most of the band’s classic albums including “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” and “Californication.” Frusciante’s quiet acoustic guitar intro to “Venice Queen” was a nice transition from the high-energy “Can’t Stop.” A new song in the band’s repertoire, “Venice Queen,” is a wonderful piece that demonstrates a quieter side of the band.

Flea kicked off the encore with a rousing trumpet solo -- not too shabby for a crazy bass player. Next came “Under the Bridge,” which again turned into a crowd sing-along, and the night ended with “Fire.”

As the band exited the stage for the final time, the kick drum fell down from its stand, and Flea ran over and pounded on it for a few seconds before retreating backstage, somehow a fitting end to a spectacular concert.