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Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in Featured, Review | 2 comments

Red Hot Chili Peppers Live in Joburg

From the moment Flea popped onto stage to join the Beastie Boys’ Mike D as a second guest of Die Antwoord and slapped his bass through Hey Fatty Boom Boom, you could tell that this was going to be a very special concert. And when the Red Hot Chili Peppers took to the stage a few minutes after 9:00pm the roar of approval from the packed FNB National Soccer City Stadium confirmed that.

RHCP-AKDrummer Chad Smith starts to beat out the rhythm to the “I’m With You” tour and album opener Monarchy Of Roses. Lead guitarist Josh “the new guy” Klinghoffer follows him in. The roar of welcome for Michael “Flea” Balzary and Anthony Keidis in trademark mirrored torn leg trousers and knee-high gym socks is quickly drowned by the music.

What follows is two hours of fully engaging, frenetic and incredibly energetic rock and roll. All the trademarks are there – Flea contorts his face and snarls and grins at the crowd, and slaps and flays at his bass with abandon. Klinghoffer (on his first tour with the Peppers as a full member since replacing long-time band member John Frusciante) is easily able to hold his own with the rest of the band – all of whom have 20-odd years on him. Smith breaks into huge Jokeresque smiles whenever he lets fly with his drum sticks. Frontman Keidis is a bundle of energy from first word to last. Even the two sidemen (introduced by Flea as “Mauro Refosco on percussion and Chris Warren on weird sounds and other shit”) are clearly enjoying the experience as much as everyone else.

RHCP-FleaDani California opens over the cheers after MOR with Flea acknowledging that the band can’t understand why they have never visited South Africa before. Keidis admits that he is struggling with the notorious Jozi altitude which is making him want to “puke in your mouths”, but the problem doesn’t seem to affect his voice at all. He is vocally strong, passionate in his delivery throughout the concert. The passion is especially evident in the songs so personal to him (like Under The Bridge and Soul To Squeeze).

Flea is by far the most engaging with the audience pausing between songs to thank Die Antwoord for joining them, repeating how pleased the band are to be in Africa, and thanking Joburg for making them so welcome. His last thoughts are to encourage us to “continue to support live music, our own music, South African music, the guy on the street corner playing the accordion for loose change”. Every time he speaks his words are met with a huge roar of approval from the estimated 75,000+.

And every time he opens a mini-jam guitar duel with Klinghoffer, the roar is amplified. His bass playing is fantastic, the guitar like an extra appendage. Most bass players are satisfied with that. Not Flea. He is an incredible showman on top of the technical skill. When he returns to the stage for the encore walking on his hands their is an audible intake of breath from all those around me. He hardly stops moving for the full 2 hours on stage. He has us eating out his hand.

RHCP-Stage1As does Anthony “Scar Tissue” Keidis who is an equally ridiculously energetic foil to Flea. Considering that both are 50 years old, their on stage energy, antics and activity would put many younger performers to shame. (Incidentally Smith is 51 and Klinghoffer is 33).

Chad Smith is the unsung hero of the rhythms so important to the RHCP sound. His sticks never stop flying and he works damn hard to keep things moving, to keep things funky. We’re given a few brief moments of the immense effort he puts into his work when he plays the lead into The Power of Equality with a pen camera attached to his head. All we can see on the big screens is a blur of hand movements and the occasional flash of a drum stick. It’s mesmerising.

Josh Klinghoffer, the man chosen by Keidis and Flea to replace on/off guitarist Frusciante, had acted as back-up guitarist for the band on past tours. The “I’m With You” album and tour are his first official outing as a fully-fledged member of the band. There were a lot of rumblings around his appointment with suggestions that he would not be able to fit in with the band, that he didn’t have the talent to replace Frusciante, that he was too young.

On evidence of the album and what I heard on Saturday night though, I believe he has done more than enough  to silence the naysayers. He is certainly the most introspective member of the band on stage, spending most of the concert ‘hiding’ behind his long fringe. He seems to have this feeling of calm concentration about him. It’s a feeling possibly highlighted by all of that high energy action going on around him. Behind the quiet demeanour though lurks a remarkably skilful guitarist. His duelling jams with Flea were amazing, and he clearly is able to thrash about with equal enthusiasm. It was pleasure to watch the two of them play together.

RHCP-JKIn a final master stroke to endear himself to the local Peppers fan base, and to swing those doubting holdouts over to his side, Klinghoffer arrived back on stage for the bands’ encore wearing a Bafana Bafana jersey. With the live cameraman zooming in on the South Africa Protea badge on his chest, the act elicited one of the biggest roars of approval and appreciation all night.

With a good mix of old and new songs, the main set was well balanced  song wise. Considering that this was the first performance by the band here, noticeably absent though was Scar Tissue, which many (including myself) had hoped would be added to the set. Other than that though, fans across the generations should have been more than satisfied with the songs selected and performed.

The trio of Suck My Kiss, Californication and By The Way that closed the main set were inspired performances. (I filmed -badly- BTW from my floor vantage point in the GA if you want an idea of the vibe.) Closing the show with the encore Give It Away resulted in many amongst the the swarms of people exiting the stadium after the concert shouting out the “give it away, give it away, give it away now” refrain as they shuffled (and in many cases, stumbled!) their way to cars and busses.

RHCP-Stage2I hear there were a number of unhappy punters who experienced logistics and organisational issues at the concert. I, the group I was with, and all those around us didn’t have any issues. Maybe we were just fortunate. Maybe they were just unlucky. I just hope that those that were less than satisfied with the event were still at least able to enjoy the RHCP performance, and still have a vague measure of appreciation for the promoters who managed to bring them to South Africa. I also hope that the Peppers realise that they remain very welcome to return at any time for another visit to these shores.

All in all, as far as I am concerned, seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers live in my home town was an incredible experience. Thank you Peppers.

Concert Details & Full Setlist - Click to expand

Red Hot Chili Peppers “I’m With You Tour”

FNB National Stadium (Soccer City), Johannesburg, South Africa Saturday 02 February 2013 (21h00 – 23h00) Attendance: 75,000 – estimated

Support Acts: Muffinz and Die Antwoord (with guests Mike D and Flea)

Full Setlist:

  1. Monarchy of Roses
  2. Dani California
  3. Otherside
  4. Look Around
  5. Can’t Stop
  6. Hollywood (Africa) (The Meters cover)
  7. Throw Away Your Television (Bass Intro)
  8. Snow (Hey Oh)
  9. The Adventures of Raindance Maggie
  10. Right on Time
  11. Parallel Universe
  12. Under the Bridge (I Could Die For You tease)
  13. Ethiopia
  14. Suck My Kiss
  15. Californication
  16. By the Way


  1. Chad & Mauro & Josh Jam
  2. The Power of Equality
  3. Soul to Squeeze
  4. Give It Away 


  1. Get to the stadiums early and the issues are non existent. Many sefricans are immature concert goers. Moving 75 000 people in and out a small space is a logistical nightmare. Sorry we missed the RHCP.

  2. Very nice review! Was a great concert. Only issues we had were the 100s smoking (smokes and weed) all over the place, and the pushing and shoving to get down that embankment to the P&Ride spot. The first could have been sorted by better security checks at the gates and on-field. The second was due to the tons of drunken idiots who lack decent parenting. So neither were things in Big Concerts’ control. Bring RHCP back again BC! And more of the same too!

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