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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Red Hot Chili Peppers in, The Mars Volta out

Published: October 27, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last weekends Red Hot Chili Peppers/Mars Volta concert at the TD Banknorth Garden gave attendees a stark dichotomy of live concert approaches. On the one hand, the Chili Peppers slammed through almost two hours of hits, solos, and antics;

the band was clearly onstage with the prominent goal of putting on an entertaining performance, and it had the audience fully engaged and cheering its every move. At the other end of the spectrum, the Mars Volta spent the majority of its time meandering through new material, either unconcerned or oblivious to the complete and utter lack of positive response it was receiving.

Despite being delayed about forty-five minutes due to traffic issues, the Chili Peppers played an emotional, energetic set that focused mainly on their three most recent albums (Californication, By the Way, and Stadium Arcadium). The band opened with Cant Stop, a hit from By the Way, then broke into Dani California and Scar Tissue, both of which had the audience singing along to every word. The Chili Peppers did a good job of mixing more upbeat songs such as Throw Away Your Television and Right on Time with the more subdued melodies of Stadium Arcadium, and Snow, and the set was very nicely interspersed with musical interludes by the groups amazingly talented bassist, Flea, and guitarist John Frusciante. The instrumental breaks were excellent companion pieces to the Chili Peppers straightforward rock songs. At one point, the band even played the instrumental beginning of the Clashs London Calling as an introduction to one of their own tunes.

In addition to a very high level of musical ability, the Chili Peppers very obviously place an emphasis on showmanship. Drummer Chad Smith constantly flung his sticks into the air, while Flea and Frusciante ran and leaped back and forth, taking full advantage of a sparse stage. Frusciantes solos were a combination of his technical ability on the guitar and his talent for playing while nearly falling over due to his erratic actions. Singer Anthony Kiedis, for his part, was content to shuffle around his counterparts, miming punches, and joking in between songs about Fleas fictional interactions with former Guns n Roses frontman Axl Rose. Through both their energy and excellent sound, the band was able to build to an incredible finish, and had the arena roaring when they ended their set with By the Way. The immense cheers only increased when the band returned to the stage for an encore of Give it Away. It was definitely a spectacular performance, and the Chili Peppers are certainly an act worth seeing.

The Mars Volta, despite recently releasing an excellent album entitled Amputechture, failed to impress. The band had the opportunity to win a slew of new fans, as most of the audience was likely there for the Chili Peppers, but instead of sticking to live performance orthodoxy and playing some of its most marketable material, the band decided to play only three songs, two of which are unreleased.

The first was an excellent heavy rock song, with a memorable chorus and winning guitar solo over the bridge. However, the second song, a thirty-five minute incomprehensible mess of a jam session, turned the audience off completely. The jam essentially consisted of one bass riff, with various solos on top of it, and had no discernible chorus. The band seemed content to play the one riff to death, with no attempt to turn the song into anything more interesting. Lead singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala showed off some impressive dance moves, but didnt do very much singing, and the two-man percussion section, save for one short solo, was impossible to hear over the rest of the band. There was even a five minute section of the tune that was nothing but a flurry of feedback and fuzz that only remotely resembled music.

During this jam, the audience was deathly silent, and the attitude in the arena bordered on hostility. Many people left during the performance, clearly disgusted with the bands apparent lack of intent to play anything resembling a crowd-pleaser. The third song, Viscera Eyes, an excellent song off of the new album, seemed like a reward to those fans of the band that had suffered through the previous jam session without leaving. The Mars Volta is a group of amazing songwriters, and has a well-documented history of refusing to pander to crowds when it appears as the opening act, but it definitely missed an opportunity by not only failing to win over any new fans, but by so callously alienating the audience, making a portion of the audience actively hate the music. It was fortunate for all in attendance that the Red Hot Chili Peppers came onstage with a very successful set, because the Mars Voltas live show fell well short of showcasing the bands ample skills.