Dallas Halfway through the Red Hot Chili Peppers' set Tuesday night, it came flying out of the floor seats.
A mostly full water bottle, its cap removed, struck lead singer Anthony Kiedis on the shoulder, sending a large arc of water splattering to the stage. Kiedis scarcely missed a beat, directing security to "find that [expletive]" for an after-show get-together. (Presumably, Kiedis wasn't talking about a meet-and-greet.) It was an odd, discordant, raw moment -- a momentary burst of adrenaline -- in an otherwise polished, precise evening of music. (The concert was a make-good for a March postponement.)
For nearly two hours, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers dished out the hits and showcased tracks from its latest LP, last year's I'm With You. The sold-out crowd, predictably, ate up staples like Under the Bridge, the Peppers' iconic cover of Higher Ground and Suck My Kiss, yet didn't clear the room when fresh tunes like The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie were aired out.
Kiedis, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer (the latest in the band's restless rotation of guitarists) are an impressive collection of musicians -- on this tour, RHCP is augmented by percussionist Mauro Refosco and keyboardist Chris Warren -- whose proficiency sometimes seemed to hold them at a distance.
While the interstitial jams (Flea, Smith and Klinghoffer all took turns dishing out instrumental flights of fancy) helped cohere the wide-ranging set, much of the night felt like pros cranking out another show, rather than the creation of anything unique to the city where they were performing. I wouldn't go so far as to call it workmanlike -- I don't think any sane person could classify a RHCP show that way; Flea alone elevates an evening -- but there was something amiss, hard to put a finger on.
The fleeting weirdness with Kiedis' heckler aside, the night moved swiftly and, for the most part, was devoid of any stage banter beyond some gibberish and perfunctory thanks. (Flea did inquire as to the well-being of the Bronco Bowl.) Musically, it was one of the most invigorating displays I've seen on stage this year, a reminder that this band, more than most, has built a multi-platinum career out of muscular freak-funk excursions, a killer commercial sensibility and the willingness to indulge its ambitions.
But an edginess, an undercurrent of unpredictability -- the sort of aura Red Hot Chili Peppers has deftly cultivated over nearly three decades -- was mostly absent. Maybe whomever threw that water bottle was onto something. (For those who missed out or want to relive the evening, RHCP is making its shows available for download each night.)