Red Hot Chili Peppers "Unplugged" at the Super Bowl Halftime Show
The Red Hot Chili Peppers had a different kind of "unplugged" performance at the Super Bowl, and it has nothing to do with acoustics - they mimed their parts.
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RHCP bassist Flea himself admitted to syncing with a pre-recorded track, tweeting "No trickery. No choice, but no trickery".
Among the first to spot the unplugged guitar and bass during the live performance are musicians themselves, the news is then quickly spread thanks to social media and the internet. Various pictures and clips of the band's performance then confirmed that the Josh and Flea were indeed not plugged in to anything, not even a dummy wireless pack or cable.
Some peole could not believe that the lively Red Hot Chili Peppers would pull a mime, citing explanations that the guitar and bass may have built-in wireless capabilities, even suggesting Bluetooth. But all the speculations were put to rest when Flea himself admitted the incident and explained their side of the story through their website.
Since Flea, Josh and Chad are known for putting on great live performances, why would these veteran musicians run tracks on a song that they've been playing for years? According to Flea:
"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. 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."
To the defense of his band, Flea added: "The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it. The last time we did it (or tried to) was in the late 80's, we were thrown off of 'The Top Of the Pops' television program in the U.K. during rehearsals because we refused to mime properly, I played bass with my shoe, John played guitar atop Anthony's shoulders, and we basically had a wrestling match onstage, making a mockery of the idea that it was a real live performance. We mimed on one or two weird MTV shows before that and it always was a drag. 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 continued: "So, when 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. We had given this a lot of thought before agreeing to do it, and besides many a long conversation amongst ourselves, I spoke with many musician friends for whom I have the utmost respect, and they all said they would do it if asked, that it was a wild trippy thing to do, what the hell. Plus, we the RHCP 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, and of course we played every note in the recording specially for the gig. I met and spoke with Bruno, who was a beautiful dude, a real talented musician, and we worked out something that seemed like it would be fun."
And so RCHP recorded the track for a day as they would when they play it live with their relatively new guitar player Josh Klinghoffer. Thankfully, Anthony did not have to lip-sync, unlike many other Super Bowl performances. The band decided not to use dummy cables to let the public in on an "open secret" - that one of the best bands on earth had no choice but to play over a pre-recorded track on what is considered as the most watched show on TV.
Flea summarizes: "Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded? Of course easily we could have and this would be a non-issue. We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance. It was like making a music video in front of a gazillion people, except with live vocals, and only one chance to rock it. Our only thought was to bring the spirit of who we are to the people."
Check out Flea's entire message at the Red Hot Chili Peppers website.
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When you consider how much time and effort you put into getting your rig to sound just the way you want, it makes sense to ensure your guitar cables are also up to the job - after all they're an important part of the tone chain. Also remember that occasionally things will go wrong, so always carry at least one spare cable to gigs and rehearsals.