The Red Hot Chili Peppers got off to a hot start at their first concert in Syracuse in three decades.
Bassist Flea did a walk-handstand on stage, letting her purple skirt fly and her underwear flash, before joining drummer Chad Smith and guitarist John Frusciante for an opening jam on Friday night. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis came out next, wearing a walking boot on his left foot and a compression sleeve on his right knee, as he energetically delivered the hits “Can’t Stop” and “Scar Tissue.”
RHCP then performed “Snow (Hey Oh),” perhaps the perfect song for a Central New York crowd familiar with snowy winters — even if the lyrics have nothing to do with the weather. About 35,000 fans in the JMA Wireless Dome (formerly the Carrier Dome) happily sang along with the choir.
There’s nowhere to go but down.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group skipped some of its most popular songs, including “Under the Bridge,” “Aeroplane,” “Otherside,” “The Zephyr Song” and “Dani California,” and instead packed the another nearly two-hour set with more mellow tracks like “Eddie,” “Don’t Forget Me,” and “Carry Me Home.” Frusciante shines through every song with some amazing solos — Kiedis even stops to watch the guitar virtuoso multiple times, sometimes playing air guitar or waving his hands like a funky conductor. The ageless funk-rock band sounded great, but Flea lost its energy and seemed to want the crowd to dance.
The Chili Peppers hit a few more high notes with favorites like “Soul to Squeeze” and “Californication,” though the show was filled with plenty of new songs from their recent albums, “Unlimited Love” and ” Return of the Dream Canteen.” (Six of the 18 songs they played on Friday were released in 2022.) “Tippa My Tongue” is groovy, but won’t we hear “Higher Ground,” “Sir Psycho Sexy” or even “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie? ”
It’s normal for a band to want to play new music. It’s also normal for fans to want to hear the music they grew up with, the songs they were fans of by the band they paid $100 or more to see. Can you imagine if Paul McCartney spent a third of his Dome concert last year playing songs from “McCartney III?” They’ll riot more than when The Beatles played “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
However, it’s impossible not to be impressed by the longevity of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which first formed 40 years ago with a mix of rap, rock, funk and punk. The band is touring with Kiedis, 60; Flea, 60; Smith, 61; and Frusciante, 53 — the same lineup they last played in Central New York, at Woodstock ’99. Kiedis was injured, but still ran circles around the stage Friday like he was chasing the Flea in a child’s game of tag, and Smith backed them up with relentless drumming.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers finished strong with a two-song encore, including the breakout hit “Give It Away” from 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magick.” That was also the year RHCP last played Syracuse, a wild showing at the Landmark Theatre.
Flea did the entire show on Friday shirtless, wearing a purple skirt with a gold belt and matching socks to represent her favorite NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers. (Longtime basketball fans will also shout out Syracuse basketball alum Carmelo Anthony on stage.) Smith also wore a Lakers hat and a sleeveless purple jumpsuit. Kiedis wore a black netted top that matched his shorts, dark hair and a moustache, though he took his shirt off for the last half hour and looked as fit as you’d think half his age.
“The kids are still having fun,” Flea tweeted after the concert.
The Dome crowd was noticeably less rowdy than at the 1999 Woodstock festival, which erupted into flames as the Chili Peppers played a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY Friday, attendees said Friday range in age from teenagers and college students to longtime fans in their 40s and 50s; few are as old as the band itself.
A 59-year-old man from Seneca Falls told me he was seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time. He didn’t want to miss the opportunity because he knew the older band’s days were numbered; he missed opportunities to see AC/DC before Brian Johnson took time off due to hearing problems, and he won’t be able to see Mick Mars join Motley Crue at the JMA Dome this fall because the guitarist retired last year.
Some fans told me they were there especially for The Strokes, one of the two opening acts. Some even refused to stay for the Chili Peppers, leaving after singer Julian Casablancas and his band played an echoey, 40-minute set featuring songs like “The Adults are Talking,” “Reptilia ,” and “You Only Live Once.”
That said, I admit I don’t understand The Strokes. The New York-based rock band has won a Grammy Award and enjoys many die-hard fans, but their music is one of those things that you either get or you don’t. To me, all their songs sound the same and nothing changed my mind about their live show. (The Dome’s acoustics didn’t help either.)
However, I appreciate The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. wearing a Lou Reed T-shirt. Reed, the late singer-songwriter and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, graduated from Syracuse University in 1964 and formed The Velvet Underground with SU classmate Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen “Moe ” Tucker, Morrison’s younger sister. friend from Syracuse.
King Princess opened the concert with a 30-minute indie pop set that won over new fans with every song, including the viral hit “1950.” The Brooklyn-based singer, whose real name is Mikaela Mullaney Straus, looked genuinely having fun on stage, infecting the crowd with smiles and head bops.
That’s what we want the Red Hot Chili Peppers to bring next: More bops.
Red Hot Chili Peppers setlist
April 14 at the JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, NY
Snow (Hey Oh)
Here Ever After
Suck My Kiss
Tippa My Tongue
No Stranger Like Me
Do not forget me
Take Me Home
What is Soul? (Funkadelic cover)
By the way
Maybe I lied
Give It Up