After twenty-four years, this photojournalist finally had her opportunity to see the band that was notoriously accused of lighting the fuze that enflamed the crowd at Woodstock ’99. As a native Roman, the hype for Woodstock ’99 was huge here in my hometown leading up to and afterward. We later learned that it was the mix of heat, horrible conditions, and terrible planning by the promoters that contributed to the final outcome of the festival. For years the Red Hot Chili Peppers were blamed for inciting the crowd that night. What we found out later was the band did what they were paid to do, put on an awesome show. The final song, “Fire,” was not chosen and played to further ignite the flames, it was actually at the request of Jimi Hendrix’s sister as a tribute.
Fast forward to April 2023, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers were scheduled to return to central New York at the JMA Wireless Dome, in Syracuse, and I knew this was a show I must cover.
I admittedly pre-gamed some last week to get a feel for what was to come as I am not too familiar with all of their music. As I went through their several decades of music, I did recognize a few mainstream songs and picked up a few new favorites while listening. I noted one thing that stood out in all their music, their musicianship was stellar. The bass, percussion, and guitar were so in sync with each other that it was beyond impressive. It was more than just playing, it was an intense conversation and I couldn’t wait to see a live version of it all together.
Arriving a bit late to the party, I caught the final song of opener King Princess, a Brooklyn native, and musician known not only for her talent but her insightful knowledge of the music world and her foothold in the direction she wanted for her career. The one song I heard sounded great, and their stage presence was impressive.
Next up was The Strokes, an NYC-based band, I looked forward to seeing these guys as they came highly recommended. They did not disappoint. A unique mix of indie, rock, and new wave I really connected with their sound. It kind of brought me back to the late ’80s and some of the bands I grew up with. (Side note: check out their webpage, it definitely brings you back to the late ’80s and ’90s.). I can see why this album won Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammys. They are unique and forward-thinking, and have no problem utilizing sounds and bits that have influenced them through the years to make music with their very own stamp on it.
Next came the main act, The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They came out with fierce energy doing handstands and jumping around on stage, and that energy was met and doubled by those in the crowd. The intro was the perfect melding of the conversation of instruments I mentioned before. It was intoxicating, sexy.
I was pumped as they started off with “Can’t Stop,” “Scar Tissue,” and “Snow.” Shooting the first three songs from down in the pit, I did my best to get what I could see and then I quickly put away my equipment and headed to my seat to enjoy the show. What I saw along the way was a sea of fans of all ages singing every single word as the band played, moving in a wave down below in rhythm, and the packed crowd of 35,000 were mesmerized by them.
Sitting behind a group of 20-somethings, I noticed that with every new song they began, they would cheer and throw their hands in the air and hug as though it brought back memories they all shared surrounding the music. A few rows down from them was a young boy around 10 and his father, again singing to each other every word and hugging as though it was a moment they would never forget. Talking to the group in front of me on my way out, it was their first time for a few of them and the second for the others, but they were so happy to be there and experience the night. The crowd was nothing like what I envisioned. I don’t know if I expected a rowdy mosh pit or a more angry crowd, but it was extremely enjoyable watching not only the show but the effect the band was having on each person there, including me. At one point Flea yelled to the crowd “…sometimes I get overwhelmed seeing so many of you that care about us. Thank you for coming and caring!”.
I would be remiss to not mention that the production of the show itself was top-notch. The light show that matched the songs was spot on, and the sound was amazing both on the floor and up in the stands where I sat. I loved the psychedelic lighting that matched the songs, especially the lighting for “Eddie.”
The attention to detail in the production of the show, the choice of opening acts, and the sheer energy of these guys are undoubtedly why they are known for their live performances. I truly enjoyed watching them and they were fun to shoot too.
Setlist: Intro Jam, Can’t Stop, Scar Tissue, Snow ((Hey Oh)), Here Ever After, Suck My Kiss, Tippa My Tongue, Soul to Squeeze, Nobody Weird Like Me, Eddie, Don’t Forget Me, Carry Me Home, Californication, What Is Soul? (Funkadelic cover), Reach Out, Black Summer, By the Way.
Encore: I Could Have Lied, Give It Away