concert reviews

Red Hot Chili Peppers and Gnarls Barkley at the Verizon Center, Washington, DC, Thursday 25 January 2007

It's clear that after 23 years together -- with varying lineups -- the Red Hot Chili Peppers have honed their ability to write radio-friendly, mid-tempo pop songs. As expected, those dominated their nearly two-hour set on Thursday night at Verizon Center. The surprise lay in the unpolished feel of the performance: Most songs were delayed by long pauses, and at mid-set guitarist John Frusciante delivered a momentum-shattering, solo acoustic cover of Cat Stevens's "How Can I Tell You."

Once the group actually settled into any of its own songs, though, its musical prowess shone through, including Frusciante's blazing guitar solos and Anthony Kiedis's throaty, balloon-like vocals ("Hey," "Scar Tissue"). Most striking were Michael "Flea" Balzary's rapid-fire bass lines, from his fast finger work on "Nobody Weird Like Me" to his guitar-like strumming on "Don't Forget Me." But even such obvious talent couldn't counterbalance the show's disjointed feel: A number of captivating instrumental jams found Frusciante and Balzary facing each other at mid-stage, hunched over their instruments and oblivious to the audience, as if in the midst of a rehearsal.

By contrast, opener Gnarls Barkley presented a tight, 40-minute set propelled by Cee-Lo Green's big, booming voice and Danger Mouse's electronics wizardry. The duo (and its backing band, string section and supporting singers) remained energetic despite the crowd's lethargy. Predictably, the audience perked up for their smash single "Crazy," perhaps foreshadowing the group's undeserved destiny as a one-hit wonder.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 27 January 2007; Page C13
.: Selected discography: Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2006); By the Way (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 2002); Californication (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1999); Blood Sugar Sex Magik (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1991); Mother's Milk (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1989); The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1987); Freaky Styley (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1985); The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1984); St. Elsewhere (Gnarls Barkley, 2006).