The audience at a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert is a lot like what I imagine the audience at a Trump rally would be: overwhelmingly white, with biker tattoos and facial hair in abundance. Ages ranged from indoctrinated children to people who had to consult their doctor before engaging in strenuous activities.
“I’m excited too,” a middle aged man wearing a leather RHCP vest whispers to me in line at will call. I don’t know what I did to elicit a summation of this man’s emotional state.
The Moda Center is large and I am awkward, so finding my seat was a challenge. I managed it about four minutes before the first opening act. It was Jack Irons, the original drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers before leaving – and a drummer for Pearl Jam – again before leaving. His show, called the “Jack Irons Experience,” essentially amounts to loud drums played over a recorded synth while trippy videos are projected on a screen behind him. It was two hours before the Chili Peppers and the stadium was mostly empty. It was cool at first, the kick was loud enough to shake your sternum and the projections matched both the emotion and beat of Jack Irons’ drumming. However, it got dull fast and throughout the experience I had two competing thoughts, Jack Irons is a damn good drummer, and I’m bored.
The people sitting next to me showed up right before the second opening act, Trombone Shorty, got on stage. It was a mother with two children. She eyed me like I was a threat. Maybe it was the leather jacket? Despite her protective maternal instinct, she decided to stand as far from me as possible allowing her kids to be mere inches away. I thought this was an odd decision, but I focused on Trombone Shorty walking out on stage.
He was incredible. His trombone sang in the same range as him, and whenever he lifted the instrument to his lips, you could see the other band members prepare. The New Orleans band flew through a set that included a cover of Green Day’s “Brain Stew,” and had the entire audience on their feet. This was the true highlight of the night.
Then, after the mother had switched positions with her children and was now standing, uncomfortably, next to me, the Red Hot Chili Peppers came on stage. The first few songs were forgettable. Anthony Kiedis’ voice was flat, and he sounded like he was one of the many teenagers around the world who try and cover his songs. The drummer, Chad Smith –– who we might as well refer to as Will Ferrell – seemed old and the sports memorabilia he had on only enforced the fact that he was a middle-aged white man. They were disappointingly clothed and there was no evidence that Anthony Kiedis was using a sock as a penis sheath.
However, when his shirt came off on “Dark Necessities,” Kiedis’ voice reached a level that was altogether adequate and when coupled with Flea’s always-superb bass playing and Josh Klinghoffer’s effervescent grunge guitar, created a feeling that the whole night was leading up to this moment. It culminated in a beautiful rendition of “Under the Bridge,” which, while out of place in Portland, was made relevant by the river of LED lights that hung above the audience and flowed to the music.
Overall, the experience, including the masterful stage and lighting design was great. However, the Chili Peppers were forgettable and the seventeen-song set list seemed entirely too short for a band with this many hits. It was a show that seemed destined to disappoint, and apart from Trombone Shorty, I would not recommend it to a friend, especially for an average ticket price of $88.