Since the 1999 release of Californication, the musical output from the Chili Peppers has been less than Red Hot. Sure, there's good material on the subsequent By the Way and Stadium Arcadium, and devoted fans may even call one, if not both of them, masterpieces.
However, neither of those records made quite the artistic splash that Californication did. They were more like waves extending out from the creative burst that occurred with the return of key member and beauty catalyst John Frusciante in '99.
With Frusciante out, the band is back on the road with former backing guitarist Josh Klinghoffer filling his vacated spot. The new formation seems to be vibing well, but the return record, 2011's I'm With You, and the band's current approach is only a small step in an interesting direction, one that whets the appetite for a leap.
After Stadium Arcadium, the third and final record in the second Frusciante era, RHCP took a yearlong hiatus. During that time, some notable shifts and personal activity happened within the band. First and foremost, Frusciante left to follow his wild muse elsewhere. Meanwhile, Flea studied music theory at USC and hung around Thom Yorke a lot. These bits of information alone are enough to invoke suspicions of potential dissolution or dreams of exciting reinvention. Yet, neither of those happened.
On I'm With You, additional elements are brought in -- percussion, organ, trumpet, and piano. However, percussion is the only one of the four that occurs throughout the album. The core members, especially Flea and Chad Smith, are playing at a high level, and Klinghoffer is finding his way. Of course, the magical chemistry that occurred with Frusciante isn't there, and one wouldn't expect it to be.
Here's an idea for the future: Continue expanding the band and the jam! Bring in some serious, funky players like keyboardist Bernie Worrell and a horn section like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Maybe add in a virtuoso like guitarist John Scofield as well. Imagine the band looking more like Parliament Funkadelic. With an ensemble like that, they could not only deliver big, rocking shows with fresh arrangements of their well-loved and lesser-known songs but they would also encounter a wide variety of new musical ideas that could lead them in exciting directions, as far as writing new material goes.
Keidis, Flea, and Smith would not be the first artists to make a move like this. For example, when the core Wailers unit disbanded, Bob Marley didn't simply bring in a couple of dudes to replace Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer; he did something new. He built a big, powerful band. Miles Davis is another of the many musicians who realized the virtue of larger ensembles. Bitches Brew could not have been created by a quartet.
Criticism aside, the Red Hot Chili Peppers remain an inspiring and uplifting force in the music world simply by having made it through all of the shit and still exuding such glow. Their difficulties seem to have strengthened them and made them all the more glad to be alive and jamming.
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With that said, it is equally fair to say that with their talent, energy, and catalog of material, they could do something with real artistic merit if they allowed their minds to open a bit wider and took a more playful and experimental approach to their music. Let's see them get on top and bring it!
Red Hot Chili Peppers. 8 p.m. Monday, April 2, at BankAtlantic Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets cost $54 to $75.25. Click here.