“When I find my peace of mind, I’m gonna give you some of my good time.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Soul to Squeeze
So, last week I went to a Chili Peppers concert at the Singapore National Stadium. It wasn’t much of a big deal…
Just kidding, of course it was!
It was one of my biggest childhood daydreams to see them perform in the flesh, especially with guitarist John Frusciante in their lineup.
I got myself a front-row ticket as a self-reward for last year, particularly for “graduating” from 7 months of weekly psychotherapy. Despite the considerably large expense, it was worth it. After all, seeing them live in that time and place was a surreal experience that I could never get back or replace. And also — considering this is John’s second return after a decade — God forbid, but you just never know if he might leave again (no offense to John). And it’s not always that they visit this part of Asia anyway.
I was exceedingly lucky to get a spot right in front of John’s stage position. I deliberately looked for that spot, of course, as I knew he would typically stand at the right side of the stage. I was two rows away from the barricade, but I still had an incredible view.
As I’m still processing the surreality of it all a week later, here are some of my thoughts on the overall experience of the show.
The Experience. The Chili Peppers are just a band that you have to experience live to truly believe. The seamless chemistry between the members, the raw energy, the heart-to-heart communication that they imparted through their playing — everything coalesced into a sort of spiritual experience, that I was on the verge of crying throughout the entire set.
The show literally had some of the best improvs that I’ve heard from them, as their jams and solos were incredibly spot-on. They kicked off their set with a high-powered jam, before ingeniously transitioning into Fake as Fuck, a song from their latest album, Return of the Dream Canteen. The Chili Peppers’ lyrics are typically quite a mouthful to remember, but it was something else when the crowd sang the entire lyrics of Californication and Black Summer at the top of their lungs. I’d like to believe that these songs have especially held dear meanings for them, just as they have for me.
They paired the perfect duality of songs for the encore, too — slowing us down with the darkness of I Could Have Lied, before sending us home pumped with the fun and playful energy of Give it Away.
John Frusciante! The love for John was just immense, as the crowd would collectively keep chanting and cheering his name. It’s funny though, how the ladies in the audience were mostly reserved, while the screams of “I love you John!” came from big sweaty guys. I was having that excitement too, I guess, only quietly. It was — and still is — hard to grasp the reality that the guitarist I’ve admired since my childhood, whose guitar lines and improvs I would diligently learn by ear, was just a few feet away from me, playing his heart out. It felt good, too, to see how genuinely happy he looked onstage.
The Setlist. Honestly, I find it surprising that the Chili Peppers’ current tour has drawn criticism from even their avid fans, who aren’t happy with their concert setlists. A lot of people have complained about “struggling to feel” their new songs that are played live, especially ones from the Dream Canteen. Some have said that they wouldn’t attend another Chili Peppers show. And some also urged the band to make less space for their new songs, and instead play more of their greatest hits. In several cities in Australia where the band played in, there were even huge crowds that gathered after the shows to sing the hits that weren’t on their setlists.
I feel differently though. I do acknowledge that the Dream Canteen album took a bit longer for me to warm up to, considering it’s one of their most experimental and weirdest albums, and definitely not as mainstream as its sibling album Unlimited Love. But I became a much, much bigger fan of the album during the show, as the songs just sounded amazing live.
After the show, I’d be lying if I didn’t wish that they played more of their most famous hits, especially Under the Bridge, Otherside, Snow (Hey Oh) and Can’t Stop — but I guess that’s just how a concert is. The band isn’t on a greatest hits tour. And it really isn’t much of a concern when you’re lost in the moment. At least for me, I was absolutely fanboying and going nuts about every song that was being played.
Moshing. I’m just not really a fan of moshing. Personally, from having been to a rowdy Avenged Sevenfold concert back in 2012, I could say for myself that it’s hard to enjoy the music when everyone’s pushing around, and you’re already out of breath when the band is only getting started with their set. Good thing this wasn’t a heavy metal concert — and Chili Peppers fans are generally well-behaved and don’t like to mosh much. Most of the people around me were just about vibing and really listening to the music, and to the serendipitous moments of improvisation. Maybe it also had to do with the fact that the age groups of the Chili Peppers’ audience tend to be quite diverse. That night, it was very common to see fans in their 40s, and even families with kids.
Hearing Protection. Yeah, I wore earplugs to the concert. Sounds uncool, I know. But it’s definitely cooler than getting tinnitus or losing your hearing in the long-term — especially relevant in my case, as I was standing very close to the stage. I spent just RM30 on a set of earplugs meant for drummers. And honestly, I was no different from initially thinking that wearing them would kinda ruin the concert experience. But I was wrong. Wearing the earplugs actually helped me listen to the music more clearly, without the pains and poundings in my eardrums. I almost forgot I was even wearing them.
The Way Out. It was interesting for me to learn that there were actually two concerts going on, as Westlife was simultaneously performing in the opposite Indoor Stadium, just a few meters away. So that obviously led to a post-concert traffic hell. Singaporeans being heavily reliant on public transportation, lining up in a long and huge crowd from the stadium to the MRT station felt like you were being mass-transported to a Gulag. But hey, fortunately public transportation there is a lot more efficient and well-managed than here in Malaysia. So it wasn’t so difficult to get a ride as trains were coming fast, one after another.
Post-Concert Blues. It’s normal to feel sad, or to feel a sort of grief after a concert, more so when it’s a band that you really, really love. You’re withdrawing from a high, and it’s only natural to want to relive your memories of the concert, and to perhaps live in those moments for the rest of your life. I myself am taking my time to sort through these feelings, and writing this article is one way to do just that.
Another thing I like to do when it comes to dealing with grief is that I would reflect on the values that the event carried, that I could keep close to me. I believe that my memories of the show are a giant reminder that beauty exists in life. So whenever I’m facing a tough time, looking back at these memories remind me that I could experience beauty, by being in awe with art, or by being lost in the experience of creating art that I love.
And of course, I’ve framed and put up my physical artifacts of the show where I need to see them the most.