First, Sanneh on the Red Hot Chili Peppers:
Looking for an easy way to ruin your band? Try this: grow up, chill out, dig in. Shed your we-use-"party"-as-a-verb reputation and rededicate yourselves to musicianship. Embrace balladry. Allow the guitarist to sing.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, now celebrating their 20th anniversary, have done all of these things. And yet somehow, the results are spectacular. On Tuesday night, the band came to Madison Square Garden for an extraordinary two-hour performance, full of wildly inventive playing and — even better — lovely songs.
It has taken the band a long time to get this good, and perhaps it couldn't have done it any faster. Its previous incarnation as a jovial punk-funk act gave the members lots of opportunity to blow off steam. . . . Mr. Kiedis deserves much of the credit for his band's evolution. By yielding the spotlight a little bit, he has helped his bandmates explore new ideas. And if the shy Mr. Frusciante has not become the band's new leader, he has nevertheless become its guiding spirit.
On the other hand, he also saw Fleetwood Mac last week:
Compared with the group's long career, a presidential term is merely a passing fad: Fleetwood Mac was there in 1993, to play Bill Clinton into office, and the group was there eight years later, to play him out.
And what's the reward for persevering so long? Yet another concert — this one at Nassau Coliseum on Friday night — on yet another tour supporting yet another album, entertaining the same fans who saw the band last time and will, most likely, see the band next time.
The band members had plenty of help: Stevie Nicks was shadowed by two backup singers, Mick Fleetwood was joined by a backup drummer (sometimes two) and Lindsey Buckingham had as many as three guitarists playing with him. In fact there were easily enough musicians onstage to form two Fleetwood Macs, which might be one way to justify ticket prices that reached $138.
The current incarnation is led by Mr. Buckingham, which is a problem for anyone who doesn't enjoy histrionic guitar solos, overheated vocals and pious speeches. . . . Mr. Buckingham certainly knows how to finger-pick an enchanting guitar line, but he spent too much of the night showing off; when he got really carried away, he would slap at his instrument with both hands, like a dog trying to unwrap a Christmas present.
I still can't believe Anthony Kiedis and Flea are 40.
[side question: best acting performance by a RHCP member -- Flea as a nihilist in The Big Lebowski, or Kiedis as a surf-punk in Point Break? Discuss.]