The Red Hot Chili Peppers filled the U.S. Bank Arena slinging the hits and a few deeper cuts to a frenzied crowd. It’s hard to believe it’s been over thirty years since I was handed a copy of Freaky Styley (released in 1985); even harder to believe that a band can remain relevant and continue creating work that still speaks to a multi-generational audience.

Their ongoing success is by no means a stroke of luck. If the RHCPs were still doling out their late ‘80s brand of slang-driven, rap-funk, innuendo-laden, punk rock jams, we wouldn’t be having this conversation; we’d dip into their best of album for a quick memory and move along. But the RHCPs have matured over time. Seventy-five percent of their lineup remains the same as when Mother’s Milk was released in 1988, but the man on the guitar has played a pivotal, frenetic-steering force on the evolution of the band—a who’s who of talent, sometimes crashing under its own momentum. They came out blazing with Hillel Slovek who died of a heroin overdose in 1988. John Frusciante picked up the reins to marshal in the Blood Sugar Sex Magik standard of pop music. Uncomfortable with commercial success, he was in and out for the next few years, replaced momentarily by Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro for a darker, heavier One Hot Minute (1995). Frusciante came back to create the second dawn of the RHCPs marked by a newfound sense of direction, introspective storytelling, and an Anthony Keidis who was developing his singing when most front men might be comfortable riding along on past successes. Releasing Californication in 1999, arguably the band’s biggest commercial success, the RHCPs followed with By the Way (2002) and then the double album Stadium Arcadium (2006). 2009 saw Frusciante back out and John Klinghoffer, long time touring guitarist and collaborator, taking over the lead spot.

On stage, the RHCPs seem as natural as can be—haven’t missed a beat. I give a quick rub of the eyes to make sure I’m not sitting in Riverbend watching them crush the 1992 Lollapalooza stage. How can they be doing this still? I have taken fifty shots of Flea tonight bouncing around on stage. Every one has his feet eighteen inches off the ground. Is he on a pogo stick? How many fifty-plus year old front men do you care to see strut around shirtless on stage? Whatever their secret, the fountain of youth is on their side mixed in with what must be a healthy dose of self and desire to improve. It’s reassuring to watch a group evolve and grow and still bring it. Eleven albums and thirty-plus years later, they have claimed their spot in the musical landscape.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed at the U.S. Bank Arena on Friday, May 19, 2017 touring their 11th studio album The Getaway with opening acts Jack Iron and Irontom.


originally published at Polly Magazine