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WEST COAST REPRESENTING WITH ICE CUBE AND RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS

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By John Johnson, Photos by Chaz Dykes of Chaz D Photography

Although it was a slightly muggy Florida evening last Friday, it very well could have been a July at the Hollywood Bowl, as two California icons of the music world, rolled through town. And even though both groups hail from Los Angeles, at first glance this pairing might have been perplexing as Ice Cube himself pointed out. But alas, the LA Native, founder of NWA and hip-hop royalty opening for the alternative funk rock goofballs, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, meshed phantasmagorically.

As ominous clouds floated off in the distance, classic rap tunes filled the air and two giant hands slowly inflated center stage to reveal the west coast “gang” signs. The majority of the diverse crowd was in place and gyrating accordingly as Cube’s recognizable growl emanated from the sound system to ask “Is Tampa in the mother fucking house?”. The “House” being the Midflorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, and judging by the roar from the assembled, yes, Tampa did in fact seem to be in the mother fucking house. The 55-year-old actor, producer, songwriter and rapper, born O’Shea Jackson, with his ever present furrowed brow tucked under a black ball cap and donning a black jersey with the number 24, did not come to disappoint.

Kicking off his sixteen song set with “Natural Born Killaz” was proof of that. Pacing from one end of the stage to the other, while giant screens flashed scenes from his movies, the rock and roll hall of fame inductee knows how to work up an audience. The forth song in caused an extra stir as Cube reminded the congregation that it was indeed “Friday”. Other crowd pleasers were “Check Yo’ Self”, “You Know How We Do It” and “Vaseline”. But around song twelve, he confided to the masses, that the administrators of The Amp (Tampa concert goers call it that) had said they could not perform any NWA songs. This of course was not accurate, and was clearly yet another professional ploy to rile up the partiers. It worked tremendously and the horde exploded, bouncing in time as he burst into “Straight Outta Compton”, followed by “Gangsta Gangsta” just around the time the sky opened up. Thankfully, the deluge was less than expected and only put a minimal damper on the festivities as Mr. Cube (no one calls him that) closed his set with the apropos “It Was a Good Day”.

It was in fact a good day, yet it was far from over, as the four-piece wild boys from Hollywood were about to take the stage. And at 8:47 the Red Hot Chili Peppers did just that, took it over for the next two hours. The first three minutes consisted of a sort of sound check with drummer Chad Smith, guitarist John Frusciante and living cartoon character on bass, Flea. The name Michael Balzary was never going to quite cut it for a guy who bounces and gyrates tirelessly. The aptly monikered Flea, a former trumpet player, with close cropped stubble, shirtless tattooed torso and long blue kilt proceeded to beat and pluck his many stickered basses from every point on stage. As the intro jam came to a close, the trio was joined by low-key charismatic crooner Anthony Kiedis as they burst into a personal favorite “Dani California”. I love the tone of the riff that John F (I would call him Frusciante, but that’s too hard to spell), has at the outro to that song, but the live version fell flat, but only slightly. Kiedis, shirtless and dressed in bedazzled white jorts, his long tresses cut decades ago has opted for a thick brown mustache instead. The very fit 61 year old complimented his bandmates for the opening jam as they rolled into “The Zephyr Song”.

Flea stopped for a moment to acknowledge a few “beautiful” children that were in the audience, that were hoping to get him to sign items, but he sincerely reminded them “We gotta do this right now”. Then he proceeded to aptly plunk the opening bass lines to the newer tune “Aquatic Mouth Dance”, which also contained some slinky strumming from John F, who is in my opinion the perfect guitarist for The Peppers. They have had several, one being Dave Navarro, who although a rock star, belongs with Janes Addiction. No, I believe John F to be just as funky and freeform on guitar as Flea is on bass, and that suits their unique funktastic style perfectly. Which, conversely, was highlighted in the opening riff of song six, “Snow (Hey Oh)”, followed by the upbeat “Eddie” and the ramped up “I Like Dirt”.

Certainly not to be outdone by John F and the seemingly affable Flea, Chad Smith is probably one of the more underrated drummers from their generation. Maybe due to the fact that Flea and John F are as good as they are, or maybe he flies under the radar purposely so as not to be compared to the guy that acted in Elf. I intentionally averted using the actors name out of respect for Mr. Smith due to the numerous interviews I’ve seen where he’s expressed his disdain for the continued comparison to Mr. Ferrill (oops). I digress, back to the show. The audience, consisting of many families experiencing the show in trademark RHCP asterisk merch, were treated to favorites “Soul to Squeeze”, “Californication” and “By the Way” to name but a few. The latter leading them offstage for only a few moments. The encore contained only two cherished numbers, the addict ballad “Under the Bridge” and the Kiedis’ tongue rolling bombastic “Give it Away”.

Full disclosure, having seen them back in their heyday, I was expecting the elder statesmen of funk to just phone it in. Thankfully I was wrong, and even though “Suck My Kiss” was left out, I was more than pleasantly surprised that the Red Hot Chili Peppers can absolutely still bring the funk.