Three decades into their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career, the Red Hot Chili Peppers still seem to be striving for higher ground.
Wednesday night, for the first of three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden, the Peppers pulled out all the stops, showing how they have evolved into arena rockers without losing any of their punk-rock intensity.
“Peace and love and good stuff!” screamed bassist Flea before the band launched into the smash “Californication.” “That’s the power we have.”
And they certainly used it for a career-spanning concert, with a focus on last year’s outstanding album “The Getaway.”
The new songs reflect more of a new-millennium sense of funk, in part thanks to producer Danger Mouse. It all sounds sleeker and more laid back than the p-funk that fueled the Peppers’ early days.
And the band’s stunning light show, with hundreds of LED lights undulating from the ceiling like a funky amoeba, just adds to the mood.
The new songs also offer a showcase for guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who has the ability to go from scratch funk one moment and shredding arena rock riffs the next as he did in the new single “Dark Necessities.”
When songs like that and the wild “Go Robot” go over so well, it’s no wonder that the band is fitting about half of the new album into its show, playing different songs at each of its tour stops. But after a powerful version of “The Getaway” title track, the band kicked into a thunderous close of its main set with classics “Suck My Kiss,” “Under the Bridge” and “By the Way” that showed that the band’s versatility has been around for years.
Anthony Kiedis led the singalongs, while Klinghoffer punctuated his guitarwork with jumps and mid-air kicks and Flea leapfrogged around the stage without missing a beat that drummer Chad Smith pounded out. They all looked like they were having a blast and that feeling was infectious.
(The Peppers return to the Garden for shows Friday and Saturday.)
SETLIST: Intro / Can’t Stop / Dani California / The Zephyr Song / Dark Necessities / The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie / Right on Time / Go Robot / Californication / Sick Love / Search and Destroy / The Getaway / Suck My Kiss / Under the Bridge / By the Way // ENCORE: Goodbye Angels / Give It Away