Concert review: Gnarls Barkley, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Despite a disappointing song selection, the Red Hot Chili Peppers gave their fans plenty to rave about Saturday night at the Assembly Hall, but the real stars were Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo and DJ Danger Mouse
By Erin Hayes
Gargoyle staff reporter
Posted Monday, March 5, 2007, The OG, arts
TO MY DISMAY, Saturday's Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at the Assembly Hall was advertised as “Red Hot Chili Peppers with special guests Gnarls Barkley,” reducing Gnarls to the role of an opening band. That line, which ran in the papers and online, is a severe underrepresentation of the talent and charisma that was displayed Saturday by the power duo, consisting of DJ Danger Mouse and soul singer Cee-Lo.
The ensemble, which was much larger than I expected, never tired, and consistently showed the utmost involvement in the music they were playing. Several backing musicians shared the stage with Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, including a synth player clad in a flaming red cape, and a bouncy young guitarist who engaged the audience with his leaps and twirling jumps. They even had a quartet of backing strings (all women clad in matching schoolgirl uniforms), which Cee-Lo referred to as “the G-strings.”
Gnarls Barkley's Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse perform
Feb. 28 in Milwaukee, three days before coming to the
Assembly Hall. (photo by Phil Bonyata, used with
permission from concertlivewire.com)
All members of the band donned synchronized costumes of red, black, white, or tartan, adding to the impression that they would cover all their bases in order to be consistent and entertaining.
Their rendition of their little-known song “Storm Coming” swept me off my feet with its sheer power, which brought all their instruments on at full force, creating a sound as volatile, dark, and robust as any typhoon.
Their cover of The Violent Femmes' “Gone Daddy Gone” was also impressive and found me dancing in my seat; it was the perfect archetype of their unique, genre-bending sound.
The song mixed Cee-Lo's impermeable falsetto with diverse rock ‘n' roll instrumentation and Danger Mouse's gripping beats, and it came across as infinitely better than their recorded version (which sounds sapped of most of its energy).
Essentially, despite their minimal lighting effects, Gnarls Barkley put on a show that could have satisfied anybody, from the pickiest of critics to your average pop music fan.
After an inordinately long break between sets, Red Hot Chili Peppers began to take the stage gradually, coming on one by one and building on a jam that was started by their drummer, Chad Smith.
Flea and Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot
Chili Peppers perform in Milwaukee
on Feb. 28. (photo by Phil Bonyata,
used with permission from the online
Once all their members were up, they broke into an incredibly high-octane performance of “Can't Stop,” not hesitating to utilize the gargantuan light grid that was assembled behind and above them, setting it ablaze with red-orange.
They even projected live footage of their members onto four large screens, simultaneously accentuating parts of the song with strobe lights.
After that point, it would have been nearly impossible to get a member of the audience to sit down. The Assembly Hall was alive with movement, as the Peppers cranked out hit after hit, and the audience gobbled them up.
Personally, I wouldn't have stopped moving for anything short of a threat of physical violence. Driving numbers from their more recent albums, such as “By The Way” and “Parallel Universe,” were some of my favorites of the evening, and made me dance in a way I haven't experienced in months, swinging and shaking every part of my body, head to toe.
Unfortunately, however, the Peppers played far too many songs from “Stadium Arcadium” and far too few from older records, such as “Blood Sugar Sex Magik.”
Of course, they delivered “Dani California” and “Snow ((Hey Oh)),” but they disappointed me by leaving out some of their funkiest and most interesting classics, such as “Suck My Kiss” and “Get on Top.”
It was easy to predict that they would not play some of their more obscure material (e.g., almost anything from their album “One Hot Minute”), but the lack of their most distinct songs (and even some extremely popular ones like “Otherside” and “Under the Bridge”) left their set feeling somewhat lopsided, even empty.
However, there were several high points to the Peppers' performance that redeemed their show.
Flea and John Frusciante jam during the Chili
Peppers' Feb. 28 Milwaukee show. (photo by Phil
Bonyata, used with permission from the online
For instance, John Frusciante, the Chili Peppers' present guitarist, also happens to be a talented solo artist. About half-way through the RHCP set, all the other members backed off and let him have a few minutes to himself on stage.
During this time, Frusciante performed a beautiful cover of Cat Stevens' “How Can I Tell You,” letting his voluminous vocals flow across a river of acoustic guitar as the faint odors of marijuana and cigarette smoke wafted over the swaying audience.
Also, the set was interrupted several times by extended jams, which always included bassist Flea and alternately involved Smith and Frusciante. This was another chance for Frusciante to shine, and Flea stole the show whenever he grabbed a line.
Flea's fingerwork was absolutely incredible, and he left me yelping with an almost sexual delight as he navigated complex labyrinthine rhythms and oscillating tunes with an intensity that could leave anybody shaking in their boots.
Although I was a bit disappointed by the Chili Peppers' repertoire, the performances of John Frusciante and Flea, combined with the outstanding show Gnarls Barkley put on, left me feeling well-exercised from nonstop dancing, and very much alive.
— Concertlivewire.com: Gnarls Barkley & Red Hot Chili Peppers play Milwaukee, Feb. 28, 2007
— MySpace page: Gnarls Barkley
— MySpace page: Red Hot Chili Peppers