In 2017, I was able to photograph the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Amway Center in Orlando for another magazine I was writing for at the time. It was a flawless experience, and I walked away with some of my personal favorite concert shots I have ever captured. Knowing that former guitarist John Frusciante – who was absent from the lineup at said show five years ago – was back in the fold, had me even more excited to see the band again.
But a series of unfortunate personal events overshadowed the band’s recent Orlando show at Camping World Stadium this past Thursday, September 15. Beginning with…the photo pass. While I thought I had firmly secured one to shoot the band at least a good month before the show, I came to find out shortly prior that my request was never actually submitted. Strike one.
Then, the actual day of the show, while en route to it (in the pouring rain nonetheless) with the family, our vehicle decided to start overheating and eventually stall out on us completely. That was strike number two.
And lastly, even after having a friend of the family give us a ride and arranging towing all the same, we still had to wait nearly two hours in the car after arriving to the stadium thanks to the thunderstorms that continued to rage and delay the outdoor show from starting on time. That was absolutely strike number three of the night, and might have been enough to turn some people around.
Once we finally arrived and got to our seats (soaked mind you), everything we had endured up to that point slowly became worth it. Opening the stage was bass master Stephen “Thundercat” Brunner, who simply goes by the moniker Thundercat these days. I was lucky enough to not only see him perform on stage with Suicidal Tendencies in 2010 and even meet him afterwards (see attached photo below). Gracing the stage with a huge cat head on the stage behind him, Brunner went through his best licks possible with a quickness, playing a handful of songs and solos before exiting.
Early 2000’s brooding rockers The Strokes followed, and were another act on the bill I was looking forward to seeing (in this case for the first time). But their sped-up, six song set didn’t leave a lot to the imagination, and it just felt as though the band was being rushed off stage as they went through tracks like “The Modern Age,” “Bad Decisions,” “Under Control,” “Juicebox,” “The Adults Are Talking,” and of course their most popular hit to date, “Last Nite.”
And finally, the Chili Peppers took stage well after the ten o’clock hour, and played what felt like an exhausting-ly long set that lasted well over an hour and a half, starting with an onstage jam that just included Frusciante, bassist Flea, and drummer Chad Smith, before frontman Anthony Kiedis joined the rest of the guys for a hyped up rendition of “Around the World.”
The group wasted no time giving the audience what they came for, playing an onslaught of hits both new and old from then on out in the form of “Dani California,” “Scar Tissue,” “Aquatic Mouth Dance,” “Snow ((Hey Oh))” and “These Are the Ways.”
One of my personal favorite moments came when they slowed things down and the rest of the guys stepped aside to allow Frusciante a moment to perform “I Remember You” by the Ramones with nothing more than his voice and guitar. It was a touching moment and fitting tribute to the band’s late guitarist Johnny Ramone, who had passed away exactly eighteen years prior on September 15, 2004.
While this seemed to confuse a good portion of the crowd, I enjoyed it much more than the following forgettable new track from the band, “Wet Sand.” But the guys quickly got back on track, playing a couple of numbers absent from their set the last time I saw them; “Soul to Squeeze” from 1993’s Coneheads film and soundtrack, and “Me and My Friends” going all the way back to 1987’s The Uplift Mofo Party Plan album (as far as they reached in their early repertoire).
By the time the band reached tracks like “Throw Away Your Television,” “Tell Me Baby,” “The Heavy Wing,” “Black Summer,” “Californication,” and “Give it Away,” (with another solo from Flea thrown in there for good measure) I had heard more than enough Chili Peppers music live to honestly last a lifetime. But we stuck with it until the band reappeared for an encore of “By the Way,” a decent enough track, but not really what comes to mind when I think of a “closer.”
Despite all of the setbacks and issues we encountered on the way, I’d say the fact we were able to still even make it was a success, and I know my teenaged son was thrilled to not only see them for the first time, but also get his first official tour shirt that night. And special thanks to local photographer Bailey Guinigundo, whose live shots made this article so much more special than it possibly could have been without them. And to our friend Kurt for coming to the rescue with a ride (without that none of it could have been possible). Thanks again guys!