The Chili Peppers evoked the sunny summer-of-love symbolism of 25 years ago with a stage backdrop of psychedelic patterns, a gigantic Time Tunnel spinning wheel, polka-dot lighting, and a sound that’s as much Grand Funk Railroad as Funkadelic. To me, the Chili Peppers apply the Presley principle to alternative rock. They take a black idiom (funk), boost the male hormone count, marry it to a white form (post-punk rock), and bring the result to white audiences…and straight to the bank.
The Chili Peppers top the Lollapalooza bill not simply because they are phenomenal musicians, but because they are performers. The ever-astonishing, bass-playing Flea even stopped hopping long enough to strike an emotional chord with a solo version of Neil Young’s “The Needle and theDamage Done.” If you can get beyond the obvious pandering – adolescent dialogue about Flea’s butt, crotch-grabbing, Anthony Kiedis’s handstands – you can detect the authentic bond they make with their following. As the flames licked the sky and the Chili Peppers grinned at poor dead Jimi Hendrix, you could imagine a barker outside Great Woods already braying about the next day’s Lollapalooza show, offering a new look at this generation’s gathering of the tribes just inside the tent.
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