Mike Hsu's Blog
I'm Giving The Chili Peppers A Pass
I have to admit. I was a little disappointed to find out the Red Hot Chili Peppers were not plugged in during their Super Bowl Half-Time appearance with Bruno Mars. I also have to admit that I was thoroughly entertained. I thought Bruno Mars and his band put on a great show and I loved hearing the Chili Peppers "Give It Away" with a horn section. And in the end my feeling of New England Schadenfreude towards Peyton Manning was quite satisfying.
But I wasn't that disappointed. Here's Flea's statement on their website about why they were miming their performance:
When we were asked by the NFL and Bruno to play our song Give It Away at the Super Bowl, it was made clear to us that the vocals would be live, but the bass, drums, and guitar would be pre-recorded. I understand the NFL's stance on this, given they only have a few minutes to set up the stage, there a zillion things that could go wrong and ruin the sound for the folks watching in the stadium and the t.v. viewers. There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it. The last time we did it (or tried to) was in the late 80's, we were thrown off of 'The Top Of the Pops' television program in the U.K. during rehearsals because we refused to mime properly, I played bass with my shoe, John played guitar atop Anthony's shoulders, and we basically had a wrestling match onstage, making a mockery of the idea that it was a real live performance.
We mimed on one or two weird MTV shows before that and it always was a drag. We take our music playing seriously, it is a sacred thing for us, and anyone who has ever seen us in concert (like the night before the Super Bowl at the Barclays Center), knows that we play from our heart, we improvise spontaneously, take musical risks, and sweat blood at every show. We have been on the road for 31 years doing it.
So, when this Super Bowl gig concept came up, there was a lot of confusion amongst us as whether or not we should do it, but we eventually decided, it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it. We had given this a lot of thought before agreeing to do it, and besides many a long conversation amongst ourselves, I spoke with many musician friends for whom I have the utmost respect, and they all said they would do it if asked, that it was a wild trippy thing to do, what the hell. Plus, we the RHCP all love football too and that played a big part in our decision. We decided that, with Anthony singing live, that we could still bring the spirit and freedom of what we do into the performance, and of course we played every note in the recording specially for the gig. I met and spoke with Bruno, who was a beautiful dude, a real talented musician, and we worked out something that seemed like it would be fun.
We recorded a track for the day, just banged one out from our hearts that was very like in spirit to the versions we have been playing live the last few years with our beloved Josh on guitar.
For the actual performance, Josh, Chad, and I were playing along with the pre recorded track so there was no need to plug in our guitars, so we did not. Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded? Of course easily we could have and this would be a non-issue. We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance. It was like making a music video in front of a gazillion people, except with live vocals, and only one chance to rock it. Our only thought was to bring the spirit of who we are to the people.
I am grateful to the NFL for having us. And I am grateful to Bruno, who is a super talented young man for inviting us to be a part of his gig. I would do it all the same way again.
We, as a band, aspire to grow as musicians and songwriters, and to continue to play our guts out live onstage for anyone who wants to get their brains blown out.
For over 30 years the Red Hot Chili Peppers have proved they could play for REAL. The first time I saw them they were playing on the back of a flat bed truck in a muddy filed to about 300 people at UMASS Amherst. I was familiar with them from hearing a couple of songs here and there but never rushed out to buy their albums..until that day. They stepped up on that truck following a mind blowing performance by Fishbone that I thought no one could top and proceeded to alter my musical universe. My fat face was flapping like I was in one of those NASA training videos. It was like watching a spastic cartoon. They were not only manipulating their instruments in impossible ways but also their bodies. It still amazes me just thinking about it. Later on I caught them at an over capacity Channel Nightclub in Boston with fresh new guitarist John Frusciante, then again at Lollapalooza 92 coming off a day of drinking, mushrooms, and bad food, and still their performance put a stranglehold on my burned brain. I've seen them a few times since, and like the previous performances they left nothing on the stage except sweat, blood, and wreckage.(and at times their clothing).
I get why they did it. It wasn't their show. There's millions of dollars and a limited amount of time to get it right. We would all be complaining about the bad sound if something had gone wrong. They wanted to get sideline access for the Super Bowl. I, personally would love to get a closer look at Erin Andrews.
Like Flea said in the statement above, "it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it". After seeing them on the back of that truck back in 1987, I never would have guessed they would have lasted this long, let alone play Halftime at the fucking Super Bowl. They were able to get themselves in front of the largest television audience in U.S. history. I like to think a lot of bands would do the same to get their music out there. Just because they weren't really playing won't stop me from loving them and seeing them again. Yes, I'm a fanboy. Whatever.
Interesting side note: Super Bowl Halftime artists do not get paid for their performance according to the NFL's Director Of Programming, Lawrence Randall. They all do it for the exposure.
Flea Photo by Leon Wilson