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The Red Hot Chili Peppers haven’t played Ohio since 2012 when they jammed at Cleveland’s Public Hall during their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  They did a small-hall show at House of Blues the following morning—then doubled back in the summertime for a concert at Quicken Loans Arena.

But the Chilis returned to the home of the world championship Cleveland Cavaliers last Saturday (May 13) in support of their eleventh studio album, The Getaway.  And the thousands in attendance were glad to have the funk-rock heroes back…even if just for the night.

Still fronted by founding members Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bassist), longtime drummer Chad Smith (since 1988)—and featuring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (who replaced pal John Frusciante in 2009)—the kinetic L.A. quartet performed with an energy belying its 35-year history and a spirit that unified the diverse, all-ages crowd in song.

Kiedis, 53, may appear loquacious in television interviews (or confessional in print, as in the 2004 memoirs Scar Tissue)rapper/singerr / singer formerly known as “Tony Flow” isn’t one for pillow talk when there’s decades of material—and lots of radio hits—to be accounted for.  Bounding onstage to an instrumental jam already in progress by his virtuosic peers, the still-buff front man (in a white Du Blonde band tee, Helmets ball cap, black work shorts and leggings) took charge at the mic on slinky Californication (1999) opener “Around the World,” gritty Stadium Arcadium (2006) single “Dani California,” and sunny By the Way (2002) entry “Zephyr Song.”

Tugging away at the strings of his Fender Jazz bass, Flea (with leopard-spotted hair and homemade Technicolor vest and pants) underpinned the material with undulating grooves and slap-pop soul panache while Smith (in blue jumpsuit and backwards Indians ball cap) articulated big beats and monster drum fills. 

Klinghoffer capably recreated the sounds committed to tape by predecessor Frusciante with a low-slung Stratocaster and ample pedal board, summonsing just the right amount of distortion and fuzz on “She’s Only 18,” “Look Around,” and “Power of Equality.”  A signal glitch triggered a temper tantrum, but a roadie magically appeared with a fresh instrument even as Klinghoffer hurled his offending ax into the shadows.

The Chilis were accompanied on some tunes by Nate Walcott and Chris Warren, who decorated Getaway hits “Dark Necessities” and “Sick Love” with piano, trumpet, and percussion.

The lightshow was as impressive as the sound: Suspended from the arena rafters was a matrix of cylindrical lanterns (there must have been hundreds) that could be synched up and down to form mesmeric wave patterns and parallelograms.  Imagine a giant upside-down bed of nails, but with glow sticks instead of 10-penny nails, each of which could be maneuvered alone or en masse above spectators’ heads.  We especially liked the effects of a massive picnic blanket being unfurled, and the rotating rectangles that—when viewed from our side seats—simulated the Chili’s asterisk logo.

It was like Christmas at center court.

And yes, the stage setup boasted the typical oversized LCD backdrops, too—so folks in the nosebleeds could catch occasional close-ups of the punk rock peacocks in action.  The screens also displayed eye-popping computer graphics, psychedelic swirls, and cartoon clips.

Herky-jerky “Go Robot” was propelled not by one bass but two.  One Hot Minute  (1995) memory “Aeroplane” was lighthearted and limber.  Stolid, soulful Stevie Wonder cover “Higher Ground” was the sole sample from 1989’s Mother’s Milk—and the evening’s oldest offering. 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magic post-addiction ballad “Under the Bridge” prompted a sing-along, while 2002’s “By the Way” was greeted with a thunderous roar upon recognition (the band segueing into the track from another jam session) and more vocal participation by Northeast Ohio’s resident rockinfreakapotami.

Klinghoffer kicked off the encore with a snippet of Randy Newman’s 1972 ode-to-Cuyahoga cut “Burn On” (as heard in the movie Major League).  Then the full band shimmied through latest Getaway single “Goodbye Angels” and bouncy, benevolent Blood Sugar staple “Give It Away” (and obligatory outro jam).        

Sure, we could’ve used one or two songs from the first four albums (like “Fight Like a Brave,” “Get Up and Jump,” or “Me and My Friends”), but it can’t be said the aging-but –still-agile Chili Peppers didn’t aim to please with this mainstream marathon of more familiar selections. 

Original Peppers drummer (and former Pearl Jam percussionist) Jack Irons opened with a solo spot that saw him flick his sticks along to prerecorded pieces like the exotic “Big Blue,” “Doubloons,” and “Outer Space Dream.”  Klinghoffer even came on early to sing verses on Iron’s tripped-out version of Pink Floyd anthem “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”

Then five-man L.A. group Irontom amped the audience with forty minutes of ‘80s-influenced keyboard / guitar rock from their new Aaron Bruno (AWOLNation)-produced LP Partners.   

Fronted by vivacious vocalist Harry Hayes and featuring shaggy-haired southpaw guitarist Zach Irons (Jack’s son), the alt-rock outfit elicited an enthusiastic response with “More to Explore,” “Live Like This,” “Hookers,” and singles “Brain Go” and “Be Bold Like Elijah.”

Irontom’s eclectic mix was rounded out by bassist Dane Sandborg, drummer Dyl Williams, and keyboardist Daniel Saslow. 

The band was named for a family acquaintance whose frequent motorcycle accidents led to a titanium leg implant.  They’ll tour later this summer with Missio and AWOLNation. 

Looking for a great souvenir?  FLAC and mp3 files of the entire concert will be available for download on the Chili Pepper's website mere days after the show.