Live Report: Red Hot Chili Peppers at London Stadium

Frusciante is back, the band bring the noise...

“My heart soars with joy, thank you!” exclaimed a characteristically amped Flea, gazing outwards to a sea of mesmerised fans at London Stadium last Sunday. 

Released at the beginning of April this year, ‘Unlimited Love’ brought a great deal of excitement for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their fans worldwide. Their twelfth studio album not only marked the long-awaited return of guitarist John Frusciante (rejoining officially in 2019 after a ten year absence) but signalled the start an extensive world stadium tour. As fans began lining the interior of London Stadium in Stratford, a hum of anticipation steadily grew.

The band-minus-Kiedis clamber onto the stage for a thunderous introductory jam; a perfect warm-up, giving a taste of what’s to come, the crowd patiently awaiting the first big number. Kiedis and the crowd are elevated by the familiar overtones of blistering opener ‘All Around The World’, its frenetic verse and euphoric chorus encompassing the band’s characteristic sound. The four of them from here onwards performed like wind-up monkeys, perfectly in tune with each other’s musical prowess as they tore through mid-Noughties belter ‘Dani California’, a funk-laden ‘I Like Dirt’ and a soaring play-through of ‘The Zephyr Song’.

While much of their set situated itself around material from ‘Californication’ and ‘By The Way’, a few new numbers were trialled before the crowd, including progressive anthem ‘Black Sunday’, a defiant ‘These Are The Ways’, and modern Chili’s classic ‘Here Ever After’, all of which finding powerful footing in a live scenario.

The Chili’s continued with some serious hard-hitters; ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ which united that crowd in avid chanting, a sneaky taste of ‘London Calling’ by The Clash before diving into ‘Right On Time’ without hesitation, all accompanied by vibrant, psychedelic visuals, and manipulated stage camera footage throughout. Changing up the tone as the set progressed, the crowd were gifted some softer, intimate numbers, including ‘Wet Sand’ (a tour debut) and ‘Don’t Forget Me’, a beautiful classic which saw Frusciante rip through a mind-bendingly heavy solo.

The tail-ends of each song either saw the band break into spontaneous onstage jams – a fly on the wall glimpse of them in the rehearsal room – or featured Flea and Kiedis reminiscing about their first times playing in London. A few extra wrinkles aside, the Chili’s in many ways have never said a proper goodbye to their juvenile selves, and hopefully they never will.

The end of their set drew closer, and after a gargantuan sing-along of ‘Californication’, and a ferocious run of ‘Give It Away’, the band tease the crowd with an initial farewell. Their eventual return for the encore, which saw Flea handstand-walk back to his on-stage post, featured a play-through of ‘Soul To Squeeze’ (original ‘Give It Away’ B-Side) for the old school Chili-heads, and an enormous grand finale with ‘By The Way’.

Taken aback by the band’s sheer life force, and perhaps equally so by the extent of their back catalogue, the crowd exit the stadium, emphatically convinced by the enduring vitality of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band proved they are more than merely their hits, their new material showing their continued relevance, and a deeper dive into older favourites confirming a legendary status.

Words: Kieran Macdonald-Brown

Join the Clash mailing list for up to the minute music, fashion and film news.