WHERE: Accor Stadium, Eora/Sydney NSW
WHEN: Thursday February 2nd, 2023
REVIEW: Brendon Foye
The first thing anyone would have noticed upon arriving at Accor Stadium on Thursday night would have noticed the generational divide between punters. Mixed in between die-hard Red Hot Chili Peppers fans were an almost equal split of younger fans more excited to watch opening act Post Malone. It’s not to say the younger weren’t also fans of the legendary LA rock band, but Post Malone’s inclusions may have been successful in drawing a broader audience to the Chili Peppers when you consider the overall lack of recognisable hits they performed on the night.
Post Malone may have seemed like an odd choice to open the show, but the rapper and singer proved popular among the entire audience. He immediately won over Chili Peppers’ fans with an incredibly sincere performance, accompanied by Post Malone’s own brand of laid-back awkward dancing and a small fireworks display to cap off the hour-long set.
Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist, the recently returned John Frusciante, and bassist Flea entered the stage just last as the last rays of sunlight dimmed. The two kicked off the set with an improvised intro to their opening number, ‘Can’t Stop’. It should be no surprise that Frusciante and have unbelievable chemistry when they jam in front of a crowd, and the entire stadium became unglued when singer Anthony Keidis and drummer Chad Smith finally arrived on stage.
It didn’t take long for the energy in the stadium to shift from overjoyed excitement to confusion. Faced with the decision to either smash out their catalog of classics or showcase the two new albums they recorded in 2022, Red Hot Chili Peppers chose neither. Instead, the band opted to play a mix of new songs, even fewer classics, and a handful of deep cuts. The strangeness began when the band followed ‘Can’t Stop’, one of their biggest and most energetic hits, with ‘The Zephyr Song’, classic and fan-favorite in its own right, but a rather mellow song to play for a piping-hot crowd. This was followed by the first new song, ‘Here Ever After’, which sounds fantastic in an arena, but many fans missed due to using a new song as an excuse for a drink/bathroom break. This isn’t a great sign when you’re only three songs into a set.
We’ll talk about the new songs first. As mentioned, RHCP released two albums in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return Of The Dream Canteen, both of which contain a handful of songs intended as their latest arena anthems. I was particularly looking forward to how these songs, such as ‘These Are The Ways’, ‘Reach Out’ and ‘The Heavy Wing’ would sound in a football stadium, but I was unfortunately let down by Frusciante’s guitar. What should have been heavy, crunching guitar approaching something sounding like grunge was unfortunately lost due to being an outside venue. Accompanied by a mostly unfamiliar crowd, these new songs unfortunately fell flat.
As for the hits, this will be a sticking point for many long-time Chili Peppers fans. While fans perked back up anytime the band played classics like ‘Can’t Stop’, ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’, ‘Soul To Squeeze’, ‘By The Way’, ‘Californication’, and set closer ‘Give It Away’, they just didn’t play enough of hits to hold the audience's attention for long enough to remain enthusiastic for the majority of new songs and deep cuts. It’s not fair to expect bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers to play every song from their enviable catalog of classics, especially when they have new material to showcase. However, the exclusion of songs like ‘Under The Bridge’ and ‘Dani California’ were notably missing by the time the show closed.
If Red Hot Chili Peppers were trying to make a statement in Sydney that night, it’s that their legendary guitarist, John Frusciante was back and can claim fame to being one of the greatest musicians alive. His improvised solos during songs like ‘Eddie’ and ‘Californication’ go a long way in proving their mission statement, and anything Frusciante plays still retains his unique sound and style no matter the venue. It seems as though the sentimentality was largely lost on the audience though, as they seemed largely confused by the setlist throughout, only perking up for the few times they recognised a hit from the 2000s. I would have preferred to hear the band lean either towards playing their hits or a majority of their new albums. By choosing neither of these routes, it seems most fans left Accor Stadium confused rather than satisfied.