Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Hampden Park, Glasgow, 23 Jul

Red Hot Chili Peppers make their long-awaited return to Scotland, bringing all the staples of a classic show (minus one or two songs)

Live Review by Laurie Presswood | 26 Jul 2023

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Sunday night appearance at Hampden marks the end of their six weeks touring Europe, and of a 12-month wait for fans after this gig’s eleventh hour cancellation last year. The anticipation is natural but it’s a pity the crowd let it blind them to the brilliance of The Roots’ support set; they never give back much of the joyous energy coming at them from the stage.

From the first inch of Chili Pepper that emerges, they give us a little bit of everything special about their shows: polished yet cheeky, and exciting without the hedonism of their younger years. As Chad Smith smashes a great gold gong, 60 year-old Flea enters with a handstand. He’s undeniably the most energetic force on display tonight, though nearly matched by sousaphone player for The Roots, Damon Bryson (aka Tuba Gooding Jr.)

The four men are rare among their peers for their vulnerability, and one of the joys of seeing them live is being invited into the emotional intimacy they have with one another. Anthony Kiedis talks to John Frusciante between songs, admitting he cried during the previous number reliving the memories of writing it together. Not long after, Flea takes the chance to apologise to members of the audience he had flipped off earlier in the night.

Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers behind his drum kit in Glasgow.
Image: Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Hampden Park, Glasgow, 23 Jul by Rory Barnes

Then, after what has been such a triumph, the end comes as quite a surprise. Hampden have billed the show as ending at 11, which means that when the Chilis walk off at half ten without having played four out of five of their biggest songs, the crowd think they’re about to witness a rare double encore. The reality makes for a dampener on what has otherwise been an unbelievable night of music.

Of course, the fact that Red Hot Chili Peppers care enough to constantly change their set is the very reason that their fans love them. But if you compare tonight’s setlist with the one for their London leg you’ll notice the biggest hits haven’t been evenly distributed. It’s frustrating, even after a carefully balanced evening with three songs selected from each major album (it wasn't a case of getting rid of the old to make room for the new). Scottish fans deserve to hear the songs they love just as much as their capital counterparts – god knows they paid as much.