“Thank you Beirut!” Michael Peter Balzary (aka Flea) shouted to his audience at Beirut waterfront. The bassist of Red Hot Chili Peppers expressed his thanks repeatedly during band’s one-night stand Thursday evening.
Alongside Flea, lead vocalist Anthony Kiedis, drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer set the waterfront stage alight with a blistering performance of their hit-riddled repertoire.
Since they coalesced in 1983, RHCP has become known for its one-of-a-kind concerts, for blowing the minds of their spectators with their musicianship, lyrics, stage presence and tireless dynamism.
The show had an edge of controversy around it, stemming from the band’s scheduled Sept. 10 date in Tel Aviv. Campaigners from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement appealed to the Los Angeles band to not perform in Israel.
RHCP refused, publishing a YouTube video on June 28 expressing their “joy, pleasure and excitement at playing in Tel Aviv,” as well as their “great love for Israel.”
Two of RHCP’s 10 albums were recorded with Haifa-born guitarist Hillel Slovak, a founding member of the band who died of a heroin overdose in 1988.
Local indie band Mashrou’ Leila had been booked to open the Chilis, but a couple of days before the show, and after pressure from fans and activists to pull out of the gig, the Lebanese band announced it wouldn’t be performing.
Flea’s thanks aside, controversy was absent from Thursday evening’s gig.
Pindoll, another local band, stepped into the vacuum left by Mashrou’ Leila. Erin Michaelian, Jad Aouad, Miran Gurunian and Chris Reslan belted out a few of their own compositions as well as covers of such well known tunes as “Tainted Love.”
The audience applauded respectfully, but clearly the real show was still to come.
The space’s standing area was utterly packed with spectators, whose movements undulated like a human wave. The instant RHCP took the stage, the spectators erupted into furious applause.
RHCP’s show continued for two outstanding hours. They performed such classics as “Californication,” “All Around the World” and “Give It Away,” leavened with newer tracks like “Throw Away Your Television” and “Monarchy of Roses.”
For ADD-addled spectators, video projections accompanied the tunes.
As happens, Flea remarked how pleased the band was to be in Lebanon. Before the show they visited Byblos, he said, which was “awesome.” Flea’s words triggered great applause from the crowd.
Later on, a Lebanese flag was hanged on stage – one whose cedar was flanked by RHCP’s star symbol and the sentence “I’m with You.”
Jumping and dancing, Kiedis was a perpetual motion machine, while Flea and Klinghoffer’s bass and guitar riffs amazed the crowd. Smith wielded his drum sticks with such dexterity that they seemed an extension of his body. RHCP appeared to have a grand time.
Regulation time was called. The crowd screamed for an encore.
After a few minutes suspense, Smith hammered out a few beats. Flea walked on stage on his hands and the band squeezed out a few more minutes of music.
The audience didn’t want to leave and the Chilis looked as though they’d like to keep playing too.
But all good things come to an end. Smith pitched his drumsticks into the crowd.
The chilly breeze couldn’t take the edge off this red hot night.
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