Two Hard-Rock Veterans Keep Crowds on Their Feet

Red Hot Chili Peppers

At Madison Square Garden in New York.

Darker themes may have permeated the Red Hot Chili Peppers' music in recent years, but that didn't prevent the band from putting on a rock-and-roll party at the Garden. The Peppers, making their first New York appearance in several years, demonstrated that even after being together for a decade, they haven't lost their ability to drive their audiences into a collective frenzy.

The band members dressed conservatively (for them) on this evening, with no strategically placed athletic socks or giant light-bulb heads. Flea's thermal underwear was the wildest fashion statement.

The Peppers played much of the music from their new, musically varied "One Hot Minute" (which has several songs containing profanity) from Warner Bros. It wasn't long before bodies started sailing over people's heads in the arena's giant mosh pit in front of the stage, where 1,000 seats were removed.

The band, whose mixture of rock, funk, heavy metal, and punk defies categorization, specializes in lengthy jams punctuated by furious eruptions of noise. But many of the new songs, such as "Aeroplane" and "Transcending," also display a surprising tunefulness.

Their wildly popular ballads lamenting the loss of departed friends ("Under the Bridge," "My Friends") weren't neglected and were delivered in heartfelt renditions.

The Peppers haven't lost their musically playful side, often beginning their numbers with riffs copped from such songs as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Come as You Are." Flea dedicated a rendition of David Bowie's "Sound and Vision" to his young daughter ("It's her favorite song," he earnestly informed us); that number segued into the Peppers' wildly raucous, popular cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground," which drove the crowd wild. The propulsive "Give It Away" was another moshing favorite.

All the band members seemed in top form, with Flea proving particularly muscular in his bass playing and relatively new member Dave Navarro fitting in perfectly on guitar.

Special guest Iggy Pop, performing during the encore, provided ample proof that if they stay in as good a shape, the Peppers may have many long years of performing ahead of them.

Bob Seger

and the Silver Bullet Band

At Madison Square Garden.

A Midwestern work ethic can really pay off. Rocker Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band gave a solid two-hour, blowout rock-and-roll show.

Seger, touring for the first time in nine years, in support of his new "It's a Mystery" CD (Capitol), hasn't changed his everyman persona. Clad in black jeans, white T-shirt, and vest, he led the band through a high-energy retrospective of his career. And although they have only been playing live again for a month or so, the band had enough power and tightness to suggest that they had never been away.

Seger's new album has been less than a breakout success so far, so it wasn't surprising that he charged up the show early on with his anthem, "Old Time Rock & Roll," which would otherwise have made quite an encore. It got the crowd on their feet, and the rest of the evening followed a predictable pattern: rapturous responses to the old classics, respectful attention for the new songs. The new material, ranging from ballads like "I Wonder" to all-out rockers like "It's a Mystery," displays a more sophisticated side to Seger's songwriting.

Amazingly, most of the original Silver Bullet Band was on hand, and it forms one of the tightest units in rock. They were augmented by some serious ringers: Kenny Aronoff (from John Mellencamp's band, among others) and Billy Payne (from Little Feat) on keyboards. Clearly, Seger was not taking any chances with this tour.

With his voice becoming increasingly hoarse during the show, it was a good thing he had this band to depend on. Tim Mitchell dazzled on guitar, and the aptly named Alto Reed earned the show's VIP award with his amazing work on a variety of horns. His solo on the classic "Mainstreet" drew cheers, as did a drum solo by Aronoff.

The highlight of the evening was a lengthy rave up on "Horizontal Bop" that featured the band in all its glory, and included some nifty synchronized movement.

The crowd stayed on their feet for "Katmandu," and the encore set was a series of Seger classics: "Night Moves" (featuring that arena-rock staple, the mirrored ball), "Hollywood Nights," "Against the Wind," and "Rock and Roll Never Forgets."

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