Various ads for the Red Hot Chili Peppers'sold-out concert Saturday at Target Center used terms like "modern-rock" and "alt-rock," but who are we kidding? The veteran Los Angeles band is as much a mainstream classic-rock act nowadays as the Eagles and Tom Petty were 20 years ago.
Saturday's set fell squarely in the nostalgic all-American department, fueled by a steady stream of ubiquitous hit singles that have been blasting out of beat-up cars and inside NHL arenas for decades. By that standard, the 1¾-hour show was as strong as frontman Anthony Kiedis' facial-hair game and as tight as drummer Chad Smith's backward ball cap.
The Chili Peppers made fans endure only five songs from their new album (still three too many) and peppered in some older deep cuts, but mostly they hit the crowd with familiar standards. There weren't many lulls in the set for fans to make beer runs Saturday (though clearly that didn't stop many of them).
Maybe the most modern and adventurous thing the Peppers did Saturday was to enlist Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue as openers. With the arena more than half full, the New Orleans funk/R&B stars — a staple at Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras parties — earned themselves about 8,000 new Minnesota fans. They emphasized their rockier side with heavy numbers such as "Do to Me." Fans responded excitedly, particularly after Shorty (Troy Andrews) carried the same blasting note for nearly two minutes straight before rocketing off into the musical stratosphere.
The Chili Peppers kept the funky vibe going when they hit the stage, opening with an instrumental jam that gave the crowd a chance to absorb the hefty throb of Flea's bass and the brightness of his pants. Kiedis walked out a few minutes later to launch into "Can't Stop," which is also when the band's impressive lighting system kicked in. The long rig of color-tinted tubes bounced up and down to the music over the audience's heads for the duration of the show.
Now in their mid-50s, Flea and Kiedis still showed plenty of bounce themselves. The bassist leapt and spaz-danced around like the madman of old during the 1987 nugget "Me & My Friends" and the finale "Give It Away." And Kiedis — never much of a singer to begin with — still hit the right notes when required, including in the more melodic fan faves "Scar Tissue," "Californication" and "By the Way." Smith was flawless on the drums as always, coming off especially monstrous in their unexpected cover of Iggy & the Stooges' "Search & Destroy" and the requisite version of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground."
Guitarist Josh Klinghoffer — the new guy with about seven years in the band — has gotten past the fitting-in stage and is a bona fide heavy contributor now. He impressed during the best of the new songs, "Dark Necessities," and in his many between-song jams with Flea.
As he's done in almost every city on tour, Klinghoffer also kicked off the encore by singing a classic tune from local record bins, in this case a nice spin through the Replacements' "Answering Machine." Kiedis also dropped in a few lines about Prince "picking up a guitar" and "painting the sky" during one of the improv jams.
Despite the many familiar songs played, several big hits surprisingly got left off the set list Saturday, including "Under the Bridge" and "Otherside." But hey, they're still new to this classic-rock-status thing.
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658