Photos and words by Alex Kluft
The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave a historic performance at the 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. This was the first full length set with guitarist, John Frusciante in 15 years and the band’s first full performance since the release of their 13th studio album Unlimited Love (released April 1st). Their time slot was originally scheduled for the Foo Fighters, but was canceled after the untimely passing of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Members of the band including Dave Grohl and Hawkins’ wife of 17 years were side stage during the performance. This may be the biggest crowd I’ve seen at a Jazz fest, as the grounds were full from the front all the way to the bleachers in the back. The other closers that day included Charlie Wilson, The Avett Brothers, and the Legendary Count Basie Orchestra.
This was the group’s first Jazz Fest performance since 2016, which also included Pearl Jam’s set where Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer joined in. For RHCP’s set (2016) they were joined by The Meters’ George Porter Jr, Zigaboo Modeliste, and Ivan Neville for the final song “Give It Away.” Unlimited Love was the group’s second number one album in the U.S., with the other being Stadium Arcadium. The day the album came out, RHCP played 12 songs at the Fonda Theater, including the live debut of three new songs and were joined by the funk master George Clinton for “Give It Away,” who was one of the Walk of Fame presenters. The band also performed on Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon with one performance being on top of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. There was also a short set at Amoeba April 7th in Hollywood, CA, which is where their star is located. The group was started by high school friends/ Fairfax High alumni Anthony Kiedis and Flea. The band went through a number of lineup changes in the first decade, but the classic lineup, which is now together again, is Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante.
The band was inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 including both current and former members. The band joined Bruno Mars for the Super Bowl Half-Time Show in 2014. In 2020 it was announced that the band’s guitarist of 11 years Josh Klinghoffer, who recorded two albums with the group and was the band’s touring guitarist previously, had departed the group and Frusciante would return. The band will finally kick off their world tour in June and will come to the U.S. in July playing baseball and football stadiums. The Stadium Arcadium album (2006) and tour was the last to include the classic lineup before 2020. 2022 marks the 20th anniversary of Californication. All the group’s releases since Mother’s Milk (1989) and Stadium Arcadium have gone between Platinum and 7x Platinum. All the albums since Blood Sugar Sex Magik have hit the top five of the Billboard 200 and all except one went to number one in Australia. Just like Stadium Arcadium, Unlimited Love went to number one in 10+ countries. This was their seventh album produced by Rick Rubin and eight released on Warner Bros. Records/ Warner.
For this album and tour Flea left his long time endorser Galien-Krueger amps and moved to Ampeg. This 90-minute set included songs off the new album and classics over the last 30+ years. Flea kicked off the show with his silver Fender Signature bass and then switched to signature pink signature bass. Later in the show he played his L.A. Lakers bass.
It’s a tradition the set opens with a jam. First Flea came out and jumped across the stage, followed by Smith, and Frusciante on their instruments. All three started a jam which led into “Can’t Stop,” with Kiedis running out after the beginning. This was followed by the first single and opening song of the new album “Black Summer.” All together they played five songs off Unlimited Love. A few highlights during the 16-song set included “The Zephyr Song,” which was the first time Frusciante performed it with the group since 2004 and had only been played a few times again between 2016 and 2018 while Klinghoffer was with the group. Another would be songs from Stadium Arcadium like “Charlie”, and “Tell Me Baby. Personally the best part of all was seeing Frusciante performing “Under the Bridge.” The oldest song performed was “Nobody Weird Like Me,” coming from Mother’s Milk (1989), which was also the heaviest song of the set. The band performed at least one song off each album recorded with Frusciante, with the most being from Unlimited Love, and three songs each from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, By the Way, and Stadium Arcadium. From Californication only the title track was performed. All the classics and some of the new songs were sing-a-longs.
Rather than the usual closer “Give it Away,” “By the Way” was the final song for the first time since 2007. Instead, “Give it Away,” was the last song before the encore, which started with “Under the Bridge.” After the performance ended, Smith walked out to talk, which he’s done many times, but this was to honor Taylor Hawkins, and had the audience shout out “I Love Taylor.”