Celebrating 20 years of Fuji Rock

Lao Tzu said ” a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. That first step for Fuji Rock just might have been the new legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers performance at Fuji Rock 20 years ago which cemented the festival as one of the most daring and artistically creative music festivals in Asia.

The band didn’t have to play that night but still chose to go on as a typhoon swung overhead lights while electrical wires posed a similar danger underfoot. Frontman Anthony Kiedis sport a very large cast which he was ordered to keep dry under doctor’s orders. Few can doubt what the Red Hot Chili Peppers did for the festival that night, and it’s hard to say the band is even capable of delivering a low-energy set. A quick scan of set lists shows the band mixes it up each and every night, with Fuji Rock being no exception.

Weather wise, it couldn’t have been a more perfect setting with a crowd stretching high with an audience stretching high into the tree line and not a walkway anywhere to be seen. While everything was in place for memorable 20th anniversary performance, there were missteps and errors. Something I attribute to Lao Tzu who also warned that even the final steps of a journey must be taken with great care because this is when we become over confident.

When the stage lights dimmed and a Jackson Brown song could be heard in the background, a sound man’s go to tracks when it comes to setting the mood for an audience. This track soon gave way to some experimental pre-recorded horn arrangement and then the band took to the stage for a brief intro which segued into “”Goodbye Angels” and then “Dani California.”

While the front of the house was definitely rocking, and those in the mid-bowl to back bowl were craning their ears to hear Chad Smith’s drums. A slight wind had picked up and was blowing across the stage, potentially messing with the sound mix, but a comment from Kiedis alluded to something being amiss. This didn’t stop his fine vocals which were showcased on “Scar Tissue” which deviate wildly from a previous set at Jishan Rock Festival two days ago.

Today’s performance was a darker affair and the band’s decision to stay with free-form set list and lack of pre-recorded visual affects is a daring move when too many other festival headliners have already pre-programmed their performances. About halfway through the set the hits would begin to roll out such as “Californication” which was quickly followed by “Under the Bridge”. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers approach Rock and Roll Hall of Fame status they continue to challenge the norm, and Kiedis isn’t fond of pandering to the audience with adroit patter. In fact, he said little more than “thank you” and the now obligatory mic drops to end the night.

Some wanted the band to relive old times or reaffirm their shared experience some 20 years ago, but reminiscence isn’t part of this band who is still looking forward. Though their seps may be clumsy they are still true to themselves, and after they played a new song from their new album at the end, finishing up with “Give it Away”, Flea did come forward and thanked the crowd saying “Peace and love, and cuddly hugs.” Though he’s probably said this before, it did sound authentic.

Text by Sean Scanlan Posted on 2016.7.24 22:14