I am not one myself to veer too far away from the M1 but this was an occasion that deserved exception. Although Dizzee Rascal did his best to inflict as much damage upon the historic Knebworth ambience as he possibly could, when our boys came on all sins were forgiven. It was the group’s first of only two UK gigs this year- they kicked off with new songs ‘Monarchy of Roses’ before launching into more recognisable classics like ‘Dani California’ and ‘Otherside.’ The “natural amphitheatre” (Jack Bennett Loose Lips guitarist) that is the Knebworth venue meant that everyone could get a clear view of the ageing rockers, even vertically challenged folk like myself got a chance to give their tip toes a break. Bliss.
There was definitely an air of excitement in anticipation for whether the new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer could possibly match the expertise of the much loved Frusciante. This was a worry swiftly quashed as the young guitarist clearly emerged as the most energetic (not hard I suppose when the rest of the band are pushing 50) and stylish member of the band. Dancing around the stage like a rock ‘n’ roll ballerina Kilinghoffer quickly usurped Frusciante’s legacy and introduced superb originality to ‘Soul to Squeeze’, ‘Californication’ and ‘Under the Bridge.’ Kiedis did not seem his usual cocky self, with the front man’s usually provocative onstage presence lacking vitality – not one crude joke for the crowd to take away with them. He showed signs of a mellowing rocker compared with other front men of his calibre looking like they’ll be chugging on to the very end (Jagger springs to mind), so there’s no excuse Anthony. The eccentric Flea did more than enough the keep the crowd smiling by playing ‘Pea’ (One Hot Minute album) and declaring his love for the UK crowd.
A contentious set list left some classics behind, it was a mixed bag for the crowd, but as anticipated we had no trouble getting going with timeless anthems ‘All Around the World’, ‘By the Way’ and ‘Give it Away’. Soon enough this one day punk-rock festival came into its own with 80,000 strong bellowing out wobbly versions of their favourite songs. It was a colosseum and the crowd was riddled with mosh-pits and you only wanted to be right at the heart of it. Trampled toes and bashed skulls didn’t come into it and the awesome vivacity of the night was not quelled by the hundreds of bottles being launched throughout the crowd as fans of all ages let it rain beer and water down upon them. Strange though that they did not give ‘Police Station’ some air time since it is one of their best from the new album I’m With You but this followed on from the theme of the night. ‘Factory of Faith’ was better digested than the others and it was refreshing to hear ‘Charlie’ from the Stadium Arcadium album.
For anyone who missed their historic Hyde Park gig in 2004, worry not. If the gig didn’t show they’ve got it in them for another similarly momentous performance then I must have received a more severe bottle to the head than first I thought. It was a great versatile gig but by no means perfect- ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘The Zephyr Song’ were dearly missed. Yet having seen the progression of Klinghoffer’s performance at the 02 earlier in the year I will be crossing my fingers that their next album and UK tour will really show us all what the new kid can do for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.