In spite of having just been here twice last summer, the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS decided to return to Finland once again this year. The Getaway 2017 Tour came to Kaisafest in Helsinki’s Kaisaniemenpuisto on July 29th, 2017… or perhaps Kaisafest was named because RHCP were returning. Either way, with a few openers on board and a big stage set up, we decided to go and see what the American rockers had to offer!
I wouldn’t really call myself a fan of RHCP. I used to listen to them in my teen years, and they’ve certainly got a few good tracks. I enjoy their funky musical style a fair bit, but I’ve never been big on Anthony Kiedis‘ vocals – sometimes they work for me and sometimes they don’t. Regardless, they are one of those bands that’s work checking out once, so… why not, right?
The park’s set-up was both interesting and not that awesome at the same time. For one, you had to pay extra to access the K18 drinking area, which took up a solid 80% of the area… which means that most people probably paid it. This didn’t stop people from smuggling booze into the cheaper area either though. On one hand, it did mean there was lots of room for the drinkers, but on the other hand, the area available to the under-18s and those uninterested in paying to be in front of the stage were shafted to a place hidden beyond the toilets, without much access to the stage unless you showed up very early. A bit of a ripoff, if you ask me. They also boasted a fancy tented VIP area that had a dining room. Goodness knows how much that cost, but I hope it was worth it, because from within the tented area, you couldn’t really see the stage.
The stage itself was rather unusually embellished – the back-center had a large iron semi-circle (same make as the Heartagram that used to be at Nosturi, for the locals), with a few smaller circles above and on the sides, which had lights all around them. As well, before the show we caught some more light risers going up, with the light techs sitting right up in the rafters of the stage, working the lights manually. That’s some dedication, right there.
The show started at 21:31 sharp, as everyone sans Kiedis came on stage for a warm-up jam. At first I wasn’t certain if this was the show, or if it was just a really good final sound check. In hindsight, it could’ve been both. The show officially kicked off with “Around the World,” and immediately I was not impressed with the vocals. I’m not sure if the sound was unbalanced, but Kiedis and whoever was singing backing vocals were totally out of balance. Over the next few songs this became a consistent problem – Kiedis was either totally out of tune, or he and the backing vocals were completely out of sync with each other. The problem persisted until about “Aeroplane” (give or take a few songs), when they seemed to finally get in the groove of things.
Second up was “Dani California” from “Stadium Arcadium” (2006), and the last single that I liked enough to be excited to hear, though Kiedis completely failed on the high notes midway through the song. “Scar Tissue” worked pretty well live, though I’ve personally always hated that song. Among those greatest hits, they also played “Californication” (the last song to still have some minor vocal struggles as far as I recall), “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” “Aeroplane,” and “Suck My Kiss.” The crowd wasn’t afraid to show their enthusiasm in any way – nearly everyone there was dancing. I saw preppy blonde girls trying to headbang, and moms rocking out with their kids, and older couples dancing away. Everyone was having a ton of fun. I even saw a few girls get angry because the guards were making them get down from their friends’ shoulders – sad, but pretty standard practice in Finland.
The band wasn’t afraid to jam a bit either and play with their music – Chad Smith got an outro drum solo (and a personal introduction) at the end of “Scar Tissue,” as well as “By the Way.” “Californication” had a long guitar/bass faceoff for an intro, while their cover of FUNKADELIC‘s “What is Soul” had a purely bass intro, though I can’t say I much liked the song otherwise – it was a bit boring and the vocals were just strange. Lastly, of course, Josh Klinghoffer got his own solo during the cover of the PIXIES “Debaser,” which opened up the encores. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
As for the band, well, if you didn’t look at the screens, you’d wonder if these guys are in their teens, particularly based on how bassist Flea was dressed. The only word I can use to describe it is “flamboyant.” These guys are in their 50s now, but their attire and hair (though perhaps not Kiedis‘ thick black ‘stache) all suggest that they haven’t aged a day since their inception (1983 – man, has it been that long?). Their interaction with one another was frequent and good, but the energy seemed to come and go at random. Flea had the most enthusiasm, running to and fro and acting crazy, but even then, he wasn’t like that the entire show. Klinghoffer on guitar was completely on and off, and Kiedis was not much of a frontman – though I’m not actually sure if the band considers Flea their real frontman. If they don’t, maybe they should. Chad Smith, however, was perhaps my favorite part of the band in a live context. He had a great deal of energy and clearly enjoys what he does, as he was all-in, from start to finish (and really does look a lot like Will Ferrell!).
There was a small amount of stage banter, but most of it was bland and/or boring. Flea did most of it, saying hello, talking about peeing his Underdog sheets while discussing how much he loved Underdog as a kid, and commenting on how the pinkness of the setting sun matched the pinkness of someone’s heart, or something to that effect. Most importantly though, he thanked the crowd wholeheartedly for their continued support.
After they said their farewells following “By the Way” (a perfect song to end the set on, incidentally), they returned to play three more tracks, starting with a cover of “Debaser” by the PIXIES. This was followed by another new song from “The Getaway,” “Goodbye Angels,” and then they ended the night with “Give it Away.” I had hoped to see some fireworks or pyrotechnics of some sort during the encore, but on that front I was sadly disappointed. But, I guess that stuff isn’t for every band.
On the whole, this was an interesting show and worth seeing once to check off the bucket list. As for the overall quality-to-cost ratio, I definitely don’t think it was worth the 90€+ price tag. You can see bigger and better bands, with higher quality stage setups and better general performances, for less or equal to that. While the stage and the screens were cool, visually the band offered a mediocre+ show, and musically they pulled through in the end, but at least for me, they only got their shit together vocally once they had already played all of my favorite songs.
One aspect that I do have to give them considerable praise for, however, is the fact that if you look at their setlists from this summer, at least for the past ten gigs or so, there hasn’t been a single repeat set. Every show has featured a differing mix of hits and covers, and I was fortunate enough to get to hear everything I wanted to hear, which isn’t always the case at shows like this.
Overall? I think if you like the band, you’ll like them live. The music holds the standard you’d hope for, and the energy is easily enough if you’re too busy dancing to give them your full attention, and at least on this occasion, most of the people in the crowd fell into that category. I do hope they clean up the vocals a bit, but otherwise, it was worth the one-time go. For myself personally? I doubt I’d go again outside a festival, but I’m glad I went this once.
1. Intro Jam
2. Around the World
3. Dani California
4. Scar Tissue
5. Dark Necessities
6. Wet Sand
7. Me & My Friends
8. Go Robot
10. What is Soul (Funkadelic cover)
12. Blood Sugar Sex Magik
13. Sick Love
14. Suck My Kiss
15. Soul to Squeeze
16. By the Way
17. Debaser (Pixies cover) (encore)
18. Goodbye Angels (encore)
19. Give it Away (encore)
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Marco Manzi