The Red Hot Chili Peppers unveiled “Return of the Dream Canteen,” their second full-length album of 2022, on a rain-soaked Saturday evening in a Denver stadium, which may not have been the ideal setting, but the show must go on. The rain began just minutes before the long-running quartet was scheduled to perform at Empower Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League. In anticipation of lightning, which would have abruptly ended the concert, venue officials temporarily delayed the band’s arrival. The volume of the crowd grew exponentially louder with each passing second until it sounded as if a herd of broncos were descending upon the stadium. But after a brief delay, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante — now on his third tour of duty as a Pepper — kicked off the North American leg of the “Unlimited Love” tour (which is named after their earlier album of this year, released in April).
After an electric “Intro Jam” from the band, Kiedis exploded onstage as “Can’t Stop” from the group’s 2002 album “By The Way” was played, followed by “Dani California” and “Charlie,” both from “Stadium Arcadium” in 2006. Approximately 40 minutes into the performance, Kiedis and Flea announced that their new double album, “Return of the Dream Canteen,” will be released on October 14 via Warner Records. The album, recorded in familiar conditions — with longtime producer Rick Rubin at Shangri-La Studios in Malibu — appears to be the result of an unusually prolific period for the band, who typically release albums several years apart. Flea announced from the stage, “We have a brand-new double album packed to the brim,” to which Kiedis responded, “It’s fucking good news, man. Have you got a song in mind?” Flea responded in jest, “The single could be titled ‘Tippa My Tongue.'” I cannot say for certain.”
While the band has performed at numerous European festivals since Frusciante’s return in 2019, and paid tribute to the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins during their set at the New Orleans Jazzfest in May, this is their first North American tour since his return. Fans may have wished for more from “Freaky Styley,” “Mother’s Milk,” or their biggest-selling album, 1991’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” but the Chili Peppers are in their fifties and sixties and probably don’t want to relive those early years more than necessary. The Peppers were preceded by the virtuosic bassist and singer Thundercat, who admitted he “drank too much coffee” before his set but nevertheless proceeded to perform funkadelic magic for a likely bewildered audience. While Thundercat has multiple solo albums and credits on projects by Erykah Badu, Mac Miller, Kendrick Lamar, and a laundry list of others, some in attendance still regarded him as Marty McFly’s 1950s teenage audience did in “Back to the Future” when he impersonated Chuck Berry. He might as well have quoted Michael J. Fox’s famous line, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your children are going to adore it.”
And in an almost surreal musical and thematic choice, given the Chili Peppers’ masculine sound and vibe, the Los Angeles sister trio Haim performed immediately before them. The cover art for Haim’s most recent Grammy-winning album, “Women in Music,” depicts Este, Danielle, and Alana standing in front of rows of sausages in a meat shop (get it? despite a significant disconnect with the Pepper’s bro-heavy audience, the group performed hits such as “My Song 5” and “Want You Back” with relative success. People, however, could not stop discussing Este’s infamous, contorted “Bass faces,” which spawned memes nearly a decade ago. It is probably safe to assume that the implicit feminism in their lyrics also fell largely on deaf ears.