23 June 2004: Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, UK

With this being the first time I’d seen the Red Hot Chilli Peppers live, and my first time at a stadium concert, I had a few concerns about what this gig would be like. Would there be a complete lack of intimacy because of the size of the venue? The Red Hot Chilli Peppers attract such a varied audience – old, young. Rock fans, pop fans – would this mean that the atmosphere in the crowd was dull, with mums scowling at you for accidentally pogoing onto their child’s foot? Would there be one of those really annoying gold circles, which mean that only special, 12 year old fan club members can get down the front? Truthfully, I’d bought my ticket more for the chance of seeing The Pixies supporting, as they had in Dublin, than for love of the Chillis. Previous to this gig I’d found them a bit irritating, and any live performances I’d seen on T.V. had often left me confused over why Anthony Kiedis couldn’t manage to sing in tune.

However, from the moment we entered the stadium, this gig was a pleasant surprise. To start with there was no gold circle – Great! – so we headed some way into the crowd for the first band, Chicks On Speed. I’d heard that they’d been bottled at the Hyde Park show, but thought this could be due to the way many young rock fans won’t put up with watching a band they don’t know or who aren’t 100% rawk! (Green Day at Cooper’s Field in Cardiff is probably the closest thing to this concert I’d been to before, and anyone who was there and saw the bad response Iggy Pop got because the audience were too young to know who he was, will know what I mean). So their introduction – a robotic voice saying “Chicks On Speed…Chicks On Speed” sounded kind of promising, (unfortunately this turned out to be the best part of their set!) the band came on stage, ok, they are ‘chicks’ a sort of electronic-girl-dance-group. All seemed o.k. until their songs got going and we realised just why they’d been received so badly ay Hyde Park. Every tune had only one line of lyrics. For example, “99 cents…99 cents…99 cents” (repeat for 4 minutes) or another song, which repeated “We don’t play guitar!” over and over. – RUBBISH! – Of course, they got booed, but not bottled this time, which I was glad about, especially when they ended their performance by saying to the audience “Thank you, you’ve been our best crowd!” Bless.

At this point, I was beginning to wonder how the crowd were going to welcome James Brown. He may be a randy old pensioner and serial sexual assaulter, but he’s also a musical legend who deserves a warm welcome! Thankfully, from the moment his band, The Bitter Sweets began, the whole audience, even the balconies, really got into it. After an anticipation-building introduction by the band, the Godfather of Soul took the stage and began a set of most of his biggest hits, beginning with Get Up Offa That Thing and including It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, I Got You (I Feel Good) and …Sex Machine, all broken up by fantastic jamming from The Bitter Sweets. Brown did do that annoying thing that soul and R&B singers always seem to do, where they let the backing singers sing most of the songs and then add a bit themselves here and there, when they feel like it but hey, he is 71, what do you expect?! Brown and The Bitter Sweets really knew how to get a crowd going and keep them entertained through 15-minute versions of the hits with long instrumental sections. There was great dancing, not only from the two gorgeous female dancers but also from James himself, whose grooving could only be described as a mixture of the running man and a pony ride! Fantastic! So James Brown and The Bitter Sweets proved that Chicks On Speed’s youthfulness, energy and looks were no match for pure style and funkiness!

So it was about 8:30 and there was just enough time to push in the huge queue for the bar for a drink before the Chillis would come on! The band took to the stage amid a clash of feedback and noise – a really exciting entrance. Thy opened with Can’t Stop, which sounded amazing and immediately got the whole crowd jumping and singing along. This was the start of a brilliant opening section including By The Way, which was great and equally energetic, and then Fortune Faded, which usually irritates me on the radio but sounded surprisingly good live. The Chillis’ live show is also visually spectacular. Not only do the band look good (Anthony in a shirt and tie, leaping around the stage, Flea, straight-faced and bare-chested, John, eye-catching with cool exuberance, yet making the guitar parts look easy, and Chad…um…drumming) but also the visual light displays and backdrops were just right. The opening section ended with a brilliant cover of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, sung by John, whose falsetto vocal skills are so impressive you can see why the band was so awful without his presence.

The second part of the set was slightly more subdued, but nevertheless included great versions of Scar Tissue and Californication, which was set perfectly to pop-art-esque visuals and a black and white image of the Hollywood sign. Next came some new songs. “This is a new song” they announced, before beginning the song and messing it up! “So new we’re still writing it right here!” Anthony joked. Bands this huge messing up live is great for revealing their vulnerable side – it made the atmosphere more intimate and informal and showed that these world renowned rock stars are only human, no matter how much yoga and injections of pure ozone! The new songs seemed interesting and engaging, especially one that started off slowly and then went absolutely crazy at the end.

The encore began with a trumpet solo from Flea and consisted of Under The Bridge, which I felt was the only disappointing song of the set. It was a bit lack-lustre and (quite understandably) sounded like a song they were bored of playing live but have to, to please the crowds. But if Under The Bridge was disappointing, the Chillis more than made up for this with final song Give It Away which sounded fantastically fresh and got the crowd really going mad right up until the end when Anthony climbed over the drum kit to finish the song in style, with his shirt almost ripped off from his enthusiasm. This was their last song and I wanted to hear more. The gig was brilliant, and although it hasn’t converted me into a super-fan, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers seem a far better band once you’ve experienced them live.

Liz Whitaker