Red Hot Chili Peppers give Nashville's Nissan Stadium a night of reinvigorated rock

·3 min read

Roughly six songs into his band’s concert in Nashville on Friday night, bassist Michael Balzary (a.k.a. Flea) made a quick announcement.

“We’re the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We’re from Los Angeles, California.”

That’s standard stage talk for a band working its way through the club circuit — not so much for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act playing our city’s NFL field, 39 years into their career.

Anyone who shells out a decent amount of dough to see this band in 2022 knows exactly who they are (and the home state they’ve mentioned in seemingly half of their hits.)

But remarkably, that's how this funk-rock band still operates — playing like they were just now bursting onto the scene, with a level of urgency and controlled chaos that you almost never see at shows this massive.

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

Within the first minutes, the band had opened with an improvised jam, Flea was essentially “twerking” onstage and drummer Chad Smith had rattled a gong and tossed a stick a good 40 yards into the crowd.

But then the instantly recognizable riff of “Can’t Stop” brought frontman Anthony Kiedis (who was in impressive vocal form Friday) into view, and this rowdy quartet locked right into formation.

The band is switching up the setlist each night on this “Global Stadium Tour," and Music City got a decent batch, including “Give It Away,” “Dani California,” “Otherside,” “The Zephyr Song” and “Californication,” though no “Scar Tissue” or “Under The Bridge.”

Nissan Stadium is quite a big swing for a band who last played Nashville 15 years ago – though since then they’ve twice headlined Bonnaroo, 60 miles up the road.

John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

Still, the venue was nearly full, save for a handful of sections closest to the stage in the upper levels. As a live draw, the Peppers are likely packing more heat these days thanks to the return of guitarist John Frusciante, now in his third stint with the group.

His melodic chops revolutionized their sound, fueling their 1991 breakthrough “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” as well as their 1999 comeback “Californication.” He seems to still light a fire under them today: Flea told the crowd they’ve been busy “writing and recording. We’ve got John Frusciante back. That’s why.”

They’re also getting a good night’s sleep. Friday’s show ended as early as any Nashville arena or stadium show in recent memory – just shy of 10:30 p.m. – but not before a potent encore featuring “Soul to Squeeze” and “By The Way.”

Julian Casablancas of The Strokes performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
Julian Casablancas of The Strokes performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

As much as the Peppers were the star attraction on Friday, their opening acts weren’t afterthoughts. Primary support came from 21st century rock icons The Strokes, whom most of the crowd was clearly thrilled to see. The band’s own level of excitement was harder to gauge, though that aloofness has always been part of the deal.

There’s been a bit of chatter about the erratic onstage behavior of frontman Julian Casablancas at recent shows, but aside from him offering a middle finger to our photographer (sorry, those shots didn’t make it to the gallery), his mood and vocal performance seemed equally bright, save a few flubbed lyrics.

Between songs, he congratulated Titans fans “on your future legend quarterback, Malik Willis,” and said Nashville was “by far the coolest of all the crowds we’ve played (for) at these mega-domes.”

Thundercat performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.
Thundercat performs at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

Bass guitar virtuoso Thundercat also earned a warm welcome for his brand of indie jazz-funk that’s somehow both impossibly dense and approachable– epitomized in the likes of “Dragonball Durag,” which veered from smooth, falsetto-laced R&B to the most frantic jazz fusion you could imagine.

All three acts continue on to Detroit’s Comerica Park on Sunday.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Red Hot Chili Peppers Nashville concert review: Reinvigorated rock night