Red Hot Chili Peppers Burned Bright and Never Fizzled in Vancouver BC Place Stadium, March 29

With City and Colour and King Princess
Red Hot Chili Peppers Burned Bright and Never Fizzled in Vancouver BC Place Stadium, March 29
Photo: Joshua Peter Grafstein
Red Hot Chili Peppers have never hesitated to indulge in lengthy albums. Even after more than 40 years together, they released two double albums last year with Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen. Considering this tendency for indulgence and their wealth of material, it came as a surprise that they contained their Wednesday-night set at BC Place to an hour and 45 minutes — a trim runtime compared to other legacy stadium acts.

Reflections about mortality and the passage of time have crept into the Peppers' recent work, but the band displayed plenty of vitality — they were a flare that never fizzled. Beginning with plenty of pomp and circumstance, Flea, Chad Smith and John Frusciante walked onstage to symphonic music, with Flea even popping a cartwheel and hitting a mid-air split on his way to his bass.

The trio began with an extensive jam that granted each member plenty of moments to shine. Frusciante transmitted cosmic guitar solos, while Flea piled putty-like basslines, and Smith sounded like an entire marching battalion as he clanged and banged cymbals and skins. Seven minutes passed before they even teased "Can't Stop"; at this point, Anthony Kiedis appeared on cue and the show officially got under way. 

As expected, all the bands' classics ignited the fans. From the floor to the nosebleeds, the sea of patrons became unglued for "By the Way" and even the sombre "Californication" and "Otherside." But the Peppers were best when they dug into their funky roots. Between punk-funk thrasher "Me and My Friends" from 1987's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan and "Tell Me Baby" from 2006's Stadium Arcadium, the band demonstrated the enduring strength of their funk instincts. 

None of this is to say the Peppers' later-career songs fell flat. Fans stayed warm for "Black Summer" and "Eddie," before the band stoked their fire with a parade of more familiar hits. And the psychedelic languor that slinked into a wrenching explosion on "Carry Me Home" was just one of several instances where the payoff came in the form of a gradual crest, the smouldering crescendo on "Wet Sand" being another.

The Peppers ended the night with less flamboyance than they started with. Kiedis finally went tarps off for "I Could Have Lied," which they followed with "Give It Away," the second and final song of their modest encore.

With such an exhaustive discography, bloated by heaps of forgettable material, Red Hot Chili Peppers' mindfulness of endurance — the fans' and their own — was a welcome act of preservation. And best of all, despite decades of lobbing albums that suffer from over-compressed production, the Peppers sounded as good as any stadium rock band.