- - Thursday, April 13, 2017


Twenty-eight years ago, the Red Hot Chili Peppers turned the ears of alternative radio listeners their way. They then took things the next level with the 1991 album “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” on which songs like “Suck My Kiss,” “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away” showcased their unique meshing of quirky punk, funk, metal with a raplike delivery.

Wednesday night at the Verizon Center, the Chili Peppers kicked off the latest leg of their tour to promote their eleventh studio album, “The Getaway.” The band is, of course, older now, and maybe wiser, but they act and look the same as ever. And while the legendary tube socks did not make an appearance, age has certainly not tempered their live theatrics.

Lead singer Anthony Kiedis retains a killer physique and voice. His nonstop bounding about the stage with his bandmates made Mr. Kiedis seem like a kid but days off his Ritalin. Bassist Flea, with cheetah spots dyed into his blond buzzcut, brought the funk and the noise while hopping about the platform like a deranged rabbit. Drummer Chad Smith acted like a combo of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chick Webb — the latter the hardest-playing drummer of the best jazz riffs. And lead guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, the youngest of the band and the Chili Peppers’ guitarist since 2009, matched the energy, playing fast and furious — often on his knees — of his elder bandmates.

It’s almost a shame that same energy couldn’t have been rolled off onto a smaller stage, such as the nearby 9:30 Club, versus the vast and sky-boxed Verizon Center.

“They did a great job of incorporating the new stuff. I’ve seen them many times over the years, from back when they wore socks, up to now,” said a concertgoer I met later. “The new stuff is powerful, very much a return to the early style of playing. But the crowd really didn’t know the newer stuff, and the vibe had a lot to do with venue. [It’s a] pretty corporate feel here.”

However, the crowd was definitely into the performance — cheering for the encore so loudly it hurt my ears (and I was wearing high-grade ear plugs). And yes, there was lots of air guitar and drumming, and singing along to the choruses. But it seemed to happen only for the older hits, which numbered eight of the 21 total songs in the setlist.

Despite the cavernousness of the Verizon Center, the band was not to be deterred. The multicolored cylinder lights on the ceiling acted as a trippy blanket that flapped in time with the music. During “Suck My Kiss,” when a beach ball wound up onstage, Mr. Kiedis affixed it to his head via duct tape for the duration of the song.

Flea often played on the platforms flanking the stage to give those in the upper sections a better view of his typical manic magic. During the encore, Flea walked out on his hands from the wings, and Mr. Klinghoffer came out wearing a Capitals jersey, causing many in the audience to cheer as their hometown hockey heroes are now chasing their way through the playoffs.

“We’ve been playing D.C. since 1985, playing the old 9:30 Club,” said Flea at one point during the show. “It’s always such a pleasure to come back to such hospitality.”

Mr. Smith returned to the stage after the encore to thank you the fans, saying, “it’s a scary time out there now.”

“Thanks for supporting live music. Keep supporting art, make it happen,” Mr. Smith said. “And go Caps!”

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