Red Hot Chili Peppers pursue new glories
Recent rock hall of fame inductees have new CD, tour
Friday, November 9, 2012
If you go
What: Red Hot Chili Peppers, in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14.
Where: Rose Garden, One N. Center Court St., Portland.
Cost: $39.50-$55 through Rose Quarter, 877-789-7673 or http://rosequarter.com.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a major occasion to celebrate the group's history and its accomplishments in April when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
But from what drummer Chad Smith says, there isn't a lot of celebrating past glories going on with the Chili Peppers these days. The band instead has been focused on the here and now. And as the band wrote and recorded its current CD, "I'm With You," it became obvious that there was plenty of life left in the group.
"There are lots of ideas, lots of creativity. Everyone's excited to be playing music," Smith said, as he turned his thoughts to the writing of the latest CD in a recent phone interview. "The juices were flowing and the batteries were recharged. It was fun to every day show up, and, who knows what's going to happen today? We might come up with a great song today. We didn't always. But it was really good for a lot of it. So that made us feel really confident that we were on the right road."
That feeling had to be reassuring, because making "I'm With You" very much represented a new chapter for the Chili Peppers and one with no guarantees that the group would be as good as it had been over the preceding decade.
The band was coming off of a two-year break and had seen guitarist John Frusciante quit the band. Frusciante, over the course of two stints in the Chili Peppers — from 1988-1992 and from 1998-2009 — had become a major songwriting contributor, especially on the musical side of the songs.
His replacement, Josh Klinghoffer, was a longtime friend of the group and had toured with the Chili Peppers as a keyboardist/guitarist/backing vocalist on the latter part of the band's tour in support of its 2006 double CD, "Stadium Arcadium."
So there was familiarity with Josh's playing abilities, Smith said, but what he would contribute as a songwriter was more of an unknown.
As it turned out, the creative chemistry between Klinghoffer and bandmates Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bass) and Smith was strong, and it immediately became apparent that the group had its new guitarist.
"The first day, we came up with ideas that ended up being on the record, two ideas," the affable drummer said. "One of them was 'Brendan's Death Song' and the second one was 'Annie Wants A Baby' or something. … So that whole process proved to be, he was the right guy."
"I'm With You" has not yet become the blockbuster hit that "Stadium Arcadium" (or for that matter, earlier records such as "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," the band's 1991 commercial breakthrough, or 1999's "Californication") proved to be. It opened at number two, but has fallen off of the "Billboard" magazine top 200 albums chart. The group, though, has released a new single, "Brendan's Death Song." In any event, on a musical level, "I'm With You" is a worthy effort.
The CD starts out in familiar territory. "Monarchy Of Roses," "Look Around" and "Annie Wants A Baby" return to the sleek funk-ified rock/pop that defined earlier hits such as "Californication" and "Otherside." Meanwhile, the ballad "Brendan's Death Song" has some of the sad and soulful overtones of the group's hit song "Under The Bridge." Those songs are solid, and as the CD hits the midway mark, the Chili Peppers start finding fresher grooves. "The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie" starts pushing the funk forward, using a perky bass line and popping rhythm to flavor the proceedings. There's a bit of a jazzy touch to "Did I Let You Know" in its delicate guitar notes, horn solo and rhythm. "Goodbye Hurray" gives the CD its most rocking moment with its slamming beat and fiery guitar lines. The piano-laced "Happiness Loves Company," meanwhile is a catchy rocker with a strolling beat.
"I'm With You" could also still get a boost as the Chili Peppers return to the states for a fall run of shows. The band has also begun releasing 18 songs from the "I'm With You" sessions that were left off of the album. So far, three pairs of songs have been released digitally and as vinyl singles, and these releases will continue into early 2013.
The group has also released "We Salute You," an EP featuring the Chili Peppers' versions of song by six acts already in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including the Beach Boys ("I Get Around"), the Ramones ("Havana Affair") and Neil Young (Everybody Knows This is Nowhere").
Smith admits the Hall Of Fame isn't just another honor.
"It's great to be included in. You know, it's kind of a special club," he said. "It's not for, 'Oh, you did a great album this year, or you did this.'" It's for longevity and for hopefully doing something unique in the music business and bringing something special. I can't put a lot into awards and stuff. Music is not about a competition. But to be recognized for something, like, I say, for the longevity of your career, what you've done and brought to it, we're pretty pleased about it."