Spearheading a West Coast revival in the late-eighties, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in a career spanning almost two decades and seven studio albums, have earned their place in the upper echelon of rock stardom. With their trademark bass-driven funk rock, the band has spawned more imitators than ‘Elvis’ night at the MGM Grand. There were some valiant attempts to replicate the sound, but none could sustain the same level of intensity for long, and inevitably fell exhausted by the wayside. If you like your music up to speed and with a liberal groove, the Chili Peppers not only deliver, but lay waste to all who follow in their wake.
Over the years, the Chili Peppers have become as synonymous with California as pneumatic breasts and singing raisins. Still flaunting their LA roots, the band embarked on a worldwide Californication tour in 1999 in support of their successful album of the same name. The tour would last for more than eighteen months and reconfirm their status as four of the hardest-working men in rock. In their first full concert release since 1991, Off the Map documents the last days of that tour leading up to their final performance in Portland, Oregon in September of last year.
Shirtless (do they perform any other way?) and sporting new Mohawks just for the occasion, the Peppers take the stage in a whirl of freeform before launching their assault. By the time Flea has fired the first salvo in the form of his opening bass lick on their ’92 hit, Give It Away, there is no turning back. As the performance gains in momentum, it becomes apparent just how influential the Red Hot Chili Peppers really are.
Lewd, crude and tattooed, the band treats the gig as though it is their last (funny, that) and the show hurtles along like a runaway loco. The two constants in the Red Hot Chili Peppers line-up are in fine form with singer Anthony Keidis skipping and dancing across the stage like an overjoyed prize fighter while bassist Flea provides his own brand of performance insanity that is, at the very least, awe-inspiring. Fun is clearly the keyword in the Pepper camp and guitarist John Frusciante, while revelling in his guitar acrobatics appears almost constantly delighted. As is the drummer’s lot in life, and despite being the engine room for the band’s onstage juggernaut, Chad Davis is often eclipsed by the Chili Peppers front line (that is, until the hilarious gag played on the band at concert’s end by support act, the Foo Fighters).
Not content with forging their own unmistakable niche in the history of rock, the band give a more than cursory nod to their influences, serving up covers of Hendrix, Clinton, The Clash and even a ‘peppered’ version of Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues. Highlights also include a slick take on If You Have To Ask that features a guitar duel between Flea and Frusciante, a rousing sing along on Otherside and, albeit brief, a delicious jazz-funk jam titled... er... The Jam.
Despite us being lead to believe that the concert is a document of their final show for the tour, it becomes clear that the footage presented here was shot over a number of nights. Either that or they are managing the fastest costume changes in concert history (Frusciante’s boxers change colour with magical regularity). Nevertheless, the action is virtually seamless (except for a clunky layer change at 51:20) and as viewers, we get the luxury of what I can only assume are the best versions of each track.
Around The World
Give It Away
Usually Just A T-Shirt #3
Suck My Kiss
If You Have To Ask
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Blood Sugar Sex Magik
What Is Soul?
Right On Time
Under The Bridge
Me And My Friends
Additional Live Footage:
Skinny Sweaty Man
I Could Have Lied
Sir Psycho Sexy
Search And Destroy
As mentioned before, the footage appears to have been shot over a number of nights and as such, picture quality varies. At times the picture is crystal, while at others (in particular the ‘crowd-cam’) it appears out of focus and a little washed out. Still, with the benefit of skilled, retrospective editing, these abnormalities are kept to a minimum and detract little from the overall viewing experience.
Some nice layering effects are used to keep all four players on screen at the one time and there seems to have been an emphasis made on keeping the action as close as possible. There are very few long-range shots of the stage from the rear of the auditorium adding to the intimacy of the performance and giving it more of a ‘club’ feel.
This disc gives you the choice of three formats: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and the much lauded DTS 5.1 Surround. Although the concert footage undoubtedly benefits from a DTS soundtrack, the volume must be turned up quite loud to properly simulate the true concert experience. Still, if you have understanding neighbours (or alternatively, if you dislike them) this is the preferred option.
Using all speakers, the bass and vocals stand out in the mix. Although this makes for some nice clarity in these areas it is at the expense of overall balance. Both surround options lend themselves nicely to the live atmosphere and are at their most impressive in the fan favourites where the audience opts to sing along (particularly Otherside and Around the World).
Despite an unfortunate sound surge during Under The Bridge (65:10) the sound is more than reasonable although sadly, not all it could have been.
If I could rate this disc on the strength of performance it would be difficult to award the Chili Peppers with anything less than full marks. Given that the electricity generated at one of their concerts would be impossible to replicate, this disc must be the closest alternative on offer.
For fans of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and for fans of live music in general, Off The Map is an excellent record of these funk rock pioneers in full flight. Far from the surf punk appeal of their early years, the Peppers have proven beyond a doubt their worth to a public that lives in the constant shadow of music industry mediocrity.
Accept no substitutes – these skinny sweaty men are the real deal.