Red Hot Chili Peppers Auckland review: A lack of big hits and fits and starts make for a disjointed return for the rock legends

Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on stage in Auckland.
Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on stage in Auckland. Photo credit: Tom Grut / Live Nation

REVIEW: As opening salvos go, asking a crowd "Anybody here from Invercargill?" seems like a random one.

But for Californian surf rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers approaching their 40 years in the business, this early attempt at audience interaction was probably par for the course - as was following up the question by talking about time in mud pools in Rotorua.

It should have been obvious that there would be a local flavour to the Mt Smart stadium gig - after all, Post Malone, supporting the Chilis (but in truth completely blowing them out of the water with a taut and engaging set) was swathed in a 'I Heart Auckland' T-shirt that stood out as much as his tattoos.

However, far too often in the Peppers' 100 minutes on stage, there was a feeling more of an extended jam session going on than a tightly constructed concert that showcased a band at its best. 

Opening with the 'Intro Jam' and the ever energetic Flea proved to be symptomatic and symbolic of what was on offer on Saturday night in Auckland - a technically adept and superlatively musically crafted show that somehow occasionally forgot to include the entire audience, but embraced the super fans.

Perhaps it was due to Post Malone, who really set the bar high for Mt Smart. Stumbling on to a smoke-filled stage just after 6.45pm, it took the monitors to reveal that he was actually there, but the moment you saw him and his swagger, he was utterly captivating.

Engaging in humility, an extreme potty mouth, but bathed in gratitude as well as a brilliant light and pyrotechnic show, he prowled the stage like a caged animal, ensuring he got his steps count in and kicking those knees up high like a pony out to impress at dressage.

Post Malone wearing an I love Auckland T-shirt
Post Malone on stage at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium - with a winning the crowd over T-shirt. Photo credit: Tom Grut / Live Nation

Yet he struck the right tone for every moment he performed. 

Whether it was gifting the stands with the sunshine that poured forth during 'Circles' or smashing a guitar just moments after asking the audience if "you guys mind if I play guitar", playing it, then leaping off stage and giving it to the audience, Post Malone just simply had the X Factor from beginning to end. 'Better Now', 'Goodbyes', 'Rockstar' - they all came and went with utter aplomb in a set which could have lasted all night.

"Thank you so f***ing much" he said after many songs, mixing the gentleman with the foul mouth - but in truth, his time went too quickly. Bowing to the audience and telling them he wasn't "scared to raise my daughter with so much love," Malone found his way into everyone's hearts.

Post Malone singing and showing off his tattoos.
Post Malone won over the Auckland crowd early on. Photo credit: Tom Grut / Live Nation

As he left urging us all to "have a fantastic night and don't do anything I wouldn't do" there was a general consensus that he was on too early for the night and had owned Mt Smart Stadium from the moment he came on to the second he went off.

By contrast, the Chilis showed up and doled out professionalism, even if those looking to hear the band's greatest hits would have been more disappointed.

Approaching retirement age, you couldn't fault the energy on stage - even if the show lacked a certain coherence and left portions of the audience conflicted and at times, distracted. 

From singer Anthony Kiedis' mesh-shirt clad freewheeling dancing to Flea's endless bouncing and pogoing, via drummer Chad Smith's powerhouse drumming, the band were at the top of their craft. Reuniting with guitarist John Frusciante, back with the band since leaving in 2009 and returning in 2019, the Chilis doled out newer songs with the tiniest sprinkling of older much-loved material.

Soulful vocals from Kiedis and harmonies with Frusciante proved potent at times and showed that age has not dulled them - if anything, their live craft during songs was tighter than ever before.

'Around The World', 'Dani California' were all fired out early on, but as the newer material poured forth, including the likes of 'Tippa My Tongue' and 'The Drummer', audience attention began to wane and the moshpits were only frequented by the fervent fans.

But it was what happened between songs that made for an at times bumpy ride.

Purple haired bassist Flea.
Flea led a lot of the jamming on stage during the Chili Peppers' show. Photo credit: Tom Grut / Live Nation

Despite lush visuals of swirling psychedelics, the Chilis' show seemed to rely a lot on being led by Flea's bass-filled funk openings and extended outros. Black outs on stage and a lack of interaction only added to a feeling of a concert that suffered from fits and starts, more than a fluid essential experience. It was somewhat heightened by the fact lots of the performance seemed to rely on Flea and Frusciante jamming while Kiedis left the stage between songs.

Perhaps one could graciously proffer those moments were to heighten the anticipation and give the crowd a moment to find their feet before vociferously receiving the favourites like 'Californication', but there were too many of them throughout, and not enough reward for patience.

Talent shone through, even if at times, it felt a little too crafted and less coherent and suited to an arena setting. Certainly when they wrapped up their show with an utterly incredible performance of 'By The Way', all flashing lights and thundering energy, there was a definite feeling of what could have been. 'Give It Away' closed off the somewhat meagre two song encore, started by Flea coming on stage in a handstand, and again brought the energy back to the show, leaving many disappointed when the lights went up. 

Not even Flea's parting exhortation to "Be kind, be gentle and tally ho!" was enough to satiate those wanting more.

But then for many artists with newer material, the eternal challenge is to not simply perform a soulless greatest hits package and phone it in.

There's no denying the Chilis definitely didn't just phone it in, more a nagging sensation they could have dug a little deeper into their back catalogue and smoothed out some of the bumpier edges. 

The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Post Malone play their last NZ gig at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium on Thursday January 26.