Red Hot Chili Peppers Spice Up Wheatland on a Sunday Night

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Toyota Amphitheatre, Wheatland
June 2, 2024

Photos by Paul Piazza

The Red Hot Chili Peppers recently played Wheatland’s Toyota Amphitheater on their World Stadium Tour. The tour had started out in stadiums in early 2023, but has now shifted to a variety of venue sizes. The amphitheater, which opened in 2000, is an outdoor space about an hour outside of Sacramento. It was pretty full of cheerful fans on a balmy Sunday night in early June.

The band had actually swung through the greater Sacramento area only a few months earlier this year. They had been invited to play the first anniversary show for Lincoln’s excellent The Venue in February of this year. Naturally, there were some in attendance who were enjoying their second local show by the internationally popular band in less than four months.

Flea and John Frusciante

Founded by both vocalist Anthony Kiedis and bassist Flea (Michael Balzary) in 1982, the Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are charging headlong into their 42nd year of existence. The band’s original guitarist Hillel Slovak perished after an overdose in 1988 (“Under the Bridge” is written in his memory) and the original drummer, Jack Irons, left shortly after that. For a while now, the group has been rounded out by the powerhouse funk/rock drummer Chad Smith, and gifted guitarist/songwriter John Frusciante.

On this evening, they powered through an 18-song set that featured a pair of songs each from their recent albums, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, as well as a fair amount of songs that were culled from the album Blood Sugar Sex Magik through the latest albums. Nothing was played from their first four albums. The band performed four songs off their album Californication, followed by three from both Blood, Sugar, Sex Magik and By the Way. An incredible total of over 30 million units have been sold by those three albums alone. Of course, that was in the days when people were still mostly buying albums, CDs, and tapes, and people weren’t streaming almost everything.

Anthony Kiedes

Both Kiedes and Flea have penned very readable autobiographies. Smith continues to collaborate with others when the Peppers are on hiatus. He recently recorded with Iggy Pop for his Every Loser album and around the same time wrote and recorded a pair of tracks for Ozzy Osbourne’s Patient Number 9. He is also going to be featured in the upcoming Spinal Tap sequel. Frusciante has had three separate tenures with the band. He has been a heavy contributor to the band’s best selling work, but has periodically had to separate himself from the group with lengthy breaks. A few different guitarist have filled in for tours over time.  Frusciante mostly prefers to work on smaller solo projects when left to his own devices and puts down the guitar to focus mostly on electronic music.

Frusciante is also the band’s only member under sixty. Yet after one watches this group move and performs with impressive dexterity, it can easily be said that one can never underestimate their unlimited youthfulness. This is a really physical performance.

Anthony Kiedes, Flea, Chad Smith

Of course, there were a few visible signs of physical wear and tear, which would seem natural. Front man Kiedes was a bit hobbled and spent the evening navigating around with a large orthopedic boot on one leg and his other knee was braced. It would have been a reasonable decision if had sang from a chair and explained his situation to the crowd. Instead, he swung the booted leg around and kept his balance as he roamed the stage with impressive range. Smith had his shoulder taped up like an athlete and it didn’t seem to bother his playing either. His grooves were solid.


Of course Flea is another story. The diminutive bassist continues to astound with limitless energy throughout the show. In fact, he got the whole place going before it even started with an earlier pep talk to the crowd and then when the band emerged for their set, he flipped up to walk out on his hands. This spontaneous handstand walk seemed to even surprise his bandmates. Naturally, the crowd responded with instant levity and elation. From there, the shirtless slap funk bassist, donning only a yellow Lakers-colored kilt with a purple belt and purple socks bounced around in his black Saucony running shoes through the night while smacking grooves out on his instrument. As a matter of fact, the hyper bassist only took up running marathons a few years ago. He was at his manic best on this night.

Despite all of this, the band somehow finds the chemistry and resolve to carry on and pull it together quite efficiently for showtime. They rarely perform any of the great pre-Blood Sugar Sex Magik songs, but lately have revived the groovy gem “Soul to Squeeze,” which was a great single that was released after the Blood, Sugar album and first featured in the Coneheads movie. This song has some subtle innuendo in the lyrics regarding Kiedes lengthy battle with addiction related relapse.  It’s kind of joyful and very sad at the same time. And how many bands are playing music off the “Coneheads” soundtrack these days. Heck, how many of the younger fans even know who the Coneheads are?

Ken Carson

Opening the show was rapper Ken Carson, a protege of Playboi Cardi. The surprisingly lengthy, one-dimensional solo performance that he put on for the early crowd was a little disheartening for music lovers in the crowd, considering that other tour dates will feature robust opening acts like DOMi and JD Beck, Seun Kuti, and Otoboke Beaver. Ice Cube is even on a few tour dates as the opener. This young man just didn’t seem ready for the big stage, despite his Spotify numbers. Fortunately for him, the crowd politely glanced at their watches and waited for it to end. People were just biding time apparently.

Perhaps someday Carson will become an engaging live performer. But on this night, it was pretty evident by the way, the crowd was pretty much just there to see only the headliner. And afterwards, they seemed to leave pretty pleased as they exited into the Wheatland night after the one-two punch encore of “Under the Bridge” and “Give It Away,” the band’s biggest hits.