After more than three decades on the stage, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are no strangers to controversy. Usually, that controversy surrounds drug scandals, or claims of public indecency; but never has the integrity of their music been called into question.
That is, until Super Bowl Sunday.
The veteran rockers shared the stage with Bruno Mars for the Super Bowl halftime show – The most watch music event in television history, with over 115.3 million viewers according to Nielsen. (In case you’re wondering, only 111.5 million people watch the actual Super Bowl). But as the two acts were performing together, a few more observant viewers noticed that bassist Flea and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s instruments weren’t plugged in to any amps.
Pre-recording vocals or instruments is common for major events to avoid any possible technical or weather issues, but this kind of scandal seems to be an annual tradition for the Super Bowl. Let’s not forget the uproar when it was revealed last year’s Super Bowl halftime show performer Beyonce lip synced the national anthem.
Guitarist Joe Bonamassa was quick to call Flea out on twitter, tweeting:
— JOE BONAMASSA (@JBONAMASSA) February 3, 2014
But Flea was quick to reply:
Now, he’s gone a step further and posted a message on the RHCP blog explaining that the NFL made the decision and they had no choice in the matter:
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.
Only their vocalist Anthony Keidis sang live alongside Bruno Mars. The drums, bass, and electric guitar were pre-recorded to avoid any technical issues; which is understandable when you consider the entire stage and sound mix for the halftime show had to be set up in less than 10 minutes.
In the late ’80s, the band were kicked off Britain’s ‘Top Of The Pops’ television show for not miming properly. “I played bass with my shoe,” Flea explained. And while they have mellowed as most of the band are pushing 50 years old, their ‘why fake it’ attitude continues to this day. The could have plugged the instruments into something to make it look like they were live, but they consciously chose not to:
For the actual performance, Josh, Chad, and I were playing along with the pre recorded track so there was no need to plug in our guitars, so we did not. 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.
While nothing could ever match the energy of a true live performance, I’d rather have pre-recorded instruments than feedback and a shoddy mix for 15 minutes.
Watch Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform below: