Red Hot Chili Peppers Bring The Funk to Nats Park in DC

By Stu Kelly / September 10, 2022

What can be written about the Red Hot Chili Peppers that hasn’t already been said? For decades the band has captivated fans with their signature blend of funk and rock and roll. For a band that’s amassed an impossible level of success, a dedicated international fanbase, and a global footprint that reaches each corner of the planet, it certainly hasn’t come easy or without them overcoming adversity. At the end of 2019, RHCP sent shockwaves among their fanbase when they announced the departure of guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and the reunion of renowned virtuoso John Frusciante. The COVID-19 pandemic stalled the momentum of the colossal announcement. Still, it wouldn’t be long before the band detailed an incoming studio album featuring Frusciante, titled Unlimited Love, their first with him since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium.

Armed with a plethora of new music, the band embarked on a global tour with a sense of feeling inspired, refreshed, and invigorated. Over halfway through the tour, the band surprised fans once again with the news of a second full-length studio album, titled Return of the Dream Canteen, which will officially be released on October 14 this year. On Thursday, September 9 the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought their signature sound to Nationals Park in Southeast DC. The Californian quartet was joined by Thundercat and The Strokes, who each provided plenty of entertainment to a largely captivated crowd. Thundercat kicked things off around 6:30 and the psychedelic acid-jazz trio was met with plenty of fans who came into the venue early to get things underway. Together the trio strung together a wild setlist and made the most of their opening time slot. One of the highlights in their set was an extended jam strategically placed inside of “How Sway.”


The Strokes opened up their set with “Meet Me in the Bathroom” off of 2003’s Room On Fire. Frontman Julian Casablancas joked with the crowd that they weren’t going to play “the hits” and then pretended to hear requests from the audience. The non-existent cheers were met with Casablancas saying “nope, not that one.” The band’s set was full of peaks and valleys, but overall it was a moving set and it was evident the crowd size grew significantly to catch The Strokes. Highlights included “Bad Decisions,” “The Adults Are Talking” and “Reptilia.” By 8:30 p.m. the stadium was completely full and the crowd was primed for the headliner’s set of music. The energy inside of the ballpark was palpable, a feeling that hasn’t fully been replicated since the Nationals‘ miraculous 2019 World Series run. 



Once the lights when down, the crowd’s screams and cheers of anticipation were overpowered by Chad Smith, Flea, and John joining together for the band’s coveted “intro jam.” The Chili Peppers fully uphold the ritual of the intro jam. The integrity is designed to open doors of exploration. A way to break away from the hits the listener is familiar with on the radio. The Red Hot Chili Peppers found plenty of creative moments to make room for improvisation. The “Intro Jam” for the Chili Peppers usually lands in one of two places. Californiacation‘s “Around The World” or By The Way‘s “Can’t Stop.” Opting for the latter, Frusciante lead the charge with his piercing guitar solos, walking his fingers all the way up the neck of his vintage Fender. Once Anthony Kiedis joined the stage, spinning around in large circles chaotically, another wave of screams surfaced from the crowd.


The opening power chords of “Can’t Stop” are iconic. Easily recognizable and pumping with energy, it’s not uncommon to hear it everywhere from an MMA fighter’s walkout song or strangely placed in a TV advertisement. Nonetheless, it’s a beloved fan favorite that showcases everything quintessential to this current formation of the band; Anthony’s vocals leading the charge, Flea and Chad locked into a rhythmic concoction only they can fully comprehend, and John not only providing his out-of-this-world adept guitar playing but also his perfectly harmonized backing vocals. 

As expected Flea brought the energy from the start of the show all the way through the encore (where he came back on stage with a handstand). The low-note engineer is no doubt a rare breed. It’s impossible to put into words not only how important he is not only for RHCP but more importantly music in general. RHCP tipped their hat to their previous work with “Dani California” and “The Zephyr Song” next. While AK omitted the last chorus, John made up for it with a spellbinding solo after a few confusing glares at his bandmates. Once he got the green light from Chad, John absolutely ripped up a stellar solo. The first track off Unlimited Love surfaced next with “Here After After” which found its way into “Charlie” and “These Are The Ways.” A playful version of “Snow ((Hey Oh))” showcased John at his best and it even followed with a tease of Donna Summer‘s “I Feel Love,” another one of his many random enshrined contributions to the band. 


“Parallel Universe” blended beautifully into “Soul To Squeeze” and the latter proved to be a nice lander gear into a ballad. The soft and sweet nature of this song inspired a full sing-along from the crowd. It truly was a magical moment where time almost slowed down. Earlier this day, Queen Elizabeth II passed away peacefully surrounded by family at Balmoral Castle. The band playfully teased The Clash‘s “London Calling” inside of “Right On Time” in an almost sly tribute to the passing of Great Britain’s queen for the last 70 years. “Otherside” had the largest crowd participation of the evening with the Californication single sending a wave of emotion through the building. 


Together the band kept the new material in full swing with “The Heavy Wing” -> “Black Summer.” The latter was the first single they announced after the reunion of John Frusciante and the subsequent new album Unlimited Love. The rest of the band members attest that Frusciante came prepared with a riff of music that “had his fingerprints all over it,” which ended up evolving into “Black Summer.” RHCP closed their set with another intro jam bleeding into “Californication” and eventually their penultimate single “Give It Away.” After a short encore break, the band returned and fully teased the intro of “Under The Bridge” before pulling an audible and playing Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik‘s “I Could Have Lied.” The title track of 2002’s By The Way album closed out their encore with a wave of whiplashing energy that invigorated the sold-out audience. When it was all said and done the audience’s energy felt satisfied and yearned for more. Chad Smith took some extended time on stage relishing in the crowd noise. He then took time to pose next to his kick drum which proudly sported a tribute to the late Taylor Hawkins


Intro Jam
Can’t Stop
Dani California
The Zephyr Song
Here Ever After
These Are the Ways
Snow ((Hey Oh)) (followed by a jam of “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer)
Parallel Universe
Soul to Squeeze
Right on Time (with “London Calling” by The Clash intro)
The Heavy Wing
Black Summer
Give It Away


I Could Have Lied (preceded by a tease of “Under the Bridge”)
By the Way


The Strokes

Red Hot Chili Peppers 

About the author

Stu Kelly