MusiCares Salutes Anthony Kiedis
Words/Red Carpet Photos By Reverend Justito
Live Photos By Sylvrtail
Club Nokia @ LA Live: 05/08/2009
Thanks to a friend, my wife and I were fortunate enough to attend the 2009 MusiCares Benefit honoring Red Hot Chili Peppers front man, Anthony Kiedis. MusiCares supports musicians trying to beat their addictions to drugs and or alcohol. With tickets for the benefit being rather expensive, we were very blessed to be able to witness an amazing night of music, even if one of my favorite bands failed to show up and the venue lied regarding their camera policy. Despite these small setbacks, it was truly a great night for a great cause; one that I will not soon forget.
While my wife and I were lucky enough to catch the tail end of the Red Carpet Ceremony the evening truly opened with DJ AM mixing some very random songs together. Not only did he manage to remind me of Color Me Badd’s classic early 90’s jam “I Want To Sex You Up”, he somehow managed to mix Weezer into Tom Petty. I don’t follow DJ’s often, but I clearly see why this guy is one of the best around. After a video montage and a few speeches by people who work for MusiCares, the evening’s host — Comedian/Best Selling Author Greg Behrendt treated the audience to about 15 minutes of stand up. His hilarious stand up segment covered everything from leaving burritos in his child’s crib to making pudding in his pants in front of Jim from “The Office”. With a heavy focus on getting old, Behrendt reminded me a lot of me, so you know he was great.
The first musical act of the night was former Thelonious Monster member Bob Forrest (who you may know as Dr Drew’s right hand man on Celebrity Rehab), who was joined by his son Elijah and long time studio/touring guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. After mentioning how he was not feeling well after a mix of dinner, coffee, cream puffs and Red Bull, his son launched into a song that I believe is called “Waiting Around To Die”. As Elijah played a soft acoustic medley with Klinghoffer complementing on electric, the song was interrupted by monstrous bass thunder by none other than Flea (who was not on stage at the time). The musicians were left with no choice but to abandon ship and joke about what happened. As soon as the problem was fixed, the three piece was able to perform the delicate number as planned. Chad Smith, Flea & Ivan Neville took to the stage for the Bob Forrest lead number “Memphis”. Flea looked on in admiration as Forrest’s thick voice belted out the vocals. I was so sucked in, I was shocked when they wrapped it up and existed the stage. It was almost as if I had blinked and missed it.
Within seconds of wrapping his set, Bob Forrest and Behrendt announced that Neil Young was one of Kiedis’s favorite artists as the crowd erupted in cheers. While Young was unable to make the event, he managed to tape a performance of “The Needle & The Damage Done” in honor of his friend Kiedis. Drinking tea and being armed with an impressive collection of over the counter cold/flu meds Young made a few quick jokes before launching into the depressing yet beautiful acoustic ballad. Though sick and via video, the emotion Young has with his raspy voice and crisp acoustic guitar is enough to make even the most hardened soul shed a tear. It could be the superb PA inside Club Nokia, but with your eyes closed it really felt as if Neil was up on stage pouring his heart out. Despite the fact that Young was not with us, it was intense and wonderful to be able to listening to Young perform personally for Kiedis.
Up next, we were treated to a surprise performance by former that dog member Petra Haden, accompanied by acclaimed Canadian jazz pianist, Chris Gestrin. One word could be used to describe her set: that word is fear. The petite singer freaked out about the lights, and seemed very tense as she launched into a cover of Elliot Smith’s “Satellite”. After apologizing about the lights (apparently it was just one light upsetting her) and admitting how nervous she was, Haden dedicated her final number to Anthony Kiedis. Covering the Peppers song “Porcelain” somehow Haden managed to make her version even softer than the original. I personally thought the fear in her voice added to the tension within the music, only making the song better.
The highlight of the night was a pulsating set by rock & roll royalty Iggy Pop. Backed by Chad Smith, Flea and Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) Iggy led his new band through a set of classics. Opening with “Search & Destroy,” for the first time all night, the crowd got off their rumps and grooved the best they could amongst the stadium style seating. Anyone who has seen Flea perform knows he is a beast. I truthfully think that Flea was levitating as he was beyond exciting to be playing with the golden rock God. As the crowd roared, Jonsey launched right into one of the Peppers biggest hits, “Under The Bridge”. The punk legend struggled on the songs complicated opening riff, but it didn’t matter; the crowd (myself included) went nuts After wrapping the first verse, the band kicked right into a jam that sounded a lot like the MC5 classic “Kick Out The Jams” even though it was not that . With Flea dropping more fat bass bombs, right at the songs end, Jones managed to blow out the head of his Marshall half stack. A quick improve jam ensued while roadies worked, Iggy flowed and Flea freaked out hard upon the four string. The group closed with “The Passenger” which became a crowd sing-a-long. Iggy pranced across the stage throwing water bottles, high stepping and just kicking all kinds of backside. As the band existed the stage, Mr. Pop left with an important political mention. With the Grammy Association sponsoring the event, he dropped a hint that it was time he won a Grammy Award. After watching him steal the show, I happen to agree.
As soon as Iggy exited the stage, it was time to honor Anthony. Receiving the Stevie Ray Vaughan Award, Chad Smith, Bob Forrest, Flea and a friend whose name I don’t know all paid touching tributes to the front man who has struggled with addiction longer than he has written hits. After almost two hours of tributes, Kiedis finally appeared on stage, and admitted that he felt guilty for accepting the award as it belonged to all those who supported him during his life long battle with drug addiction. He acknowledged that the Lakers had won their playoff game after someone screamed it from the balcony and wrapped up a brief and humble acceptance speech by introducing his new band – The Insects.
Featuring Chad Smith, Flea, Josh Klinghoffer, Ivan Neville and Ronnie Wood, the band (minus Kiedis) launched into an instrumental by The Meters (I think it was The Meters, although I vaguely recognized it). A solid way to set the mood, Kiedis joined the all-star band for a cover of The Yardbirds1965 hit “For Your Love”. I love the Peppers, but live, Anthony Kiedis always struggles. I was shocked at how well he sang the number. Ronnie Wood led The Insects on the next cover – “Spoonful” by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf. With a huge smile on his face, the aging rocker wore tight black jeans that predate the word hipster and soulfully wailed on his vintage Fender guitar. The supergroup (to whom Kiedis assigned insect nicknames to all but Flea) closed the event with a cover of the Kinks jam “All Day And All of The Night”. Watching the hodgepodge of addicts on stage, I couldn’t help but smile. The energy and good spirits coming from the stage was powerful, even if the song was far from perfect.
As the house lights came up, many stood on in confusion. Sure, some pretty remarkable stuff went down upon the stage blocks from where Kiedis has scored his fix time and time again. However, a major act never hit the stage. The Mars Volta were billed as a part of the show (I assumed this is how absent RHCP axeman John Frusciante would make an appearance) yet never played. There was not even an announcement during the evening, mentioning the lack of the Latin flavored prog rock band. While the venue tried to encourage all fans to leave, displeased chants for the El Paso band rang through the venue. I understand why audience members would be upset, especially with a steep ticket price. However, it is only a minor dent in an inspiring and epic evening of once in a lifetime musical collaborations. Not only that, all proceeds (even the non-alcoholic drinks served at the venues bar) go to helping those who need to break the chains of addiction. Overall, it was truly a great evening that I was very blessed to have been able to witness.