Why were The Red Hot Chili Peppers playing air guitar?
What did Flea say?
The Super Bowl controversies continue? Was the game somehow rigged? Should the NFL pay taxes? Was Joe Namath wearing a real mink coat and if so where was PETA? As we move past the tenth anniversary of Janet Jackson’s infamous “nipple-slip”, the half-time show once more is drawing negative attention.
This time the hub-bub focuses on Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers who was apparently miming to a pre-recorded backing track during Sunday’s performance. ABC News Radio revealed that Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid—who was watching the game–tweeted: “That guitar is plugged into NOTHING.” Various news sources who recorded or photographed the performance have released various pictures showing that not only is there no cable coming from Flea’s bass but there is also no cable connected to guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s pink Stratocaster.
The truth is that the NFL prefers Super Bowl halftime show acts — as well as some national anthem singers — to prerecord their music and to use only live vocal microphones during the event. In a response just posted on their website Flea confirmed this stating: “When we were asked by the NFL and Bruno to play our song Give It Away at the Super Bowl, it was made clear to us that the vocals would be live, but the bass, drums, and guitar would be pre-recorded.”
In truth, putting together a full concert-ready stage in a short period of time, as well as the possibility of unforeseen technical difficulties, might make this policy valid if not a near necessity. Earlier online reports of this event that Flea might have implied in an earlier tweet that both he and objected to the NFL’s policy and intentionally did not plug in their instruments hoping to get caught. A more recent remark by Flea proves this to be wrong.
Flea said: “I understand the NFL’s stance on this, given they only have a few minutes to set up the stage, there a zillion things that could go wrong and ruin the sound for the folks watching in the stadium and the t.v. viewers. There was not any room for argument on this, the NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period.” He was also quick to add, however, that they generally disapprove of miming a perofrmance.
He stated: “The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it. We take our music playing seriously, it is a sacred thing for us, and anyone who has ever seen us in concert (like the night before the Super Bowl at the Barclays Center), knows that we play from our heart, we improvise spontaneously, take musical risks, and sweat blood at every show. We have been on the road for 31 years doing it.”
He added: “(W)hen this Super Bowl gig concept came up, there was a lot of confusion amongst us as whether or not we should do it, but we eventually decided, it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it. (W)e the Red Hot Chili Peppers all love football too and that played a big part in our decision. We decided that, with Anthony singing live, that we could still bring the spirit and freedom of what we do into the performance . . . Josh, Chad and I were playing along with the pre recorded track so there was no need to plug in our guitars . . . ”
“Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded?” Flea asked, “Of course . . .and this would be a non-issue. We thought it better to not pretend.”
He concluded: “It was like making a music video in front of a gazillion people, except with live vocals, and only one chance to rock it. I am grateful to the NFL for having us. And I am grateful to Bruno, who is a super talented young man for inviting us to be a part of his gig. I would do it all the same way again.”
(Image courtesy of Larry Busacca/Getty Images)