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Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea has spoken out on his band's official website, responding to widespread reports that he and his bandmates were not plugged in when they played the Super Bowl halftime show with Bruno Mars this past Sunday. While he admits that the Peppers didn't play their instruments live, he insists that this was an unusual circumstance and that normally, the group's "stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it."
USA Today was the first major outlet to notice that the Flea (real name: Michael Balzary) and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer were not plugged in during their performance of "Give It Away" at East Rutherford, New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. What gave it away? A series of close-up photos of their cordless instruments, compared with shots of other Peppers concerts at which the musicians clearly were attached to amps.
Soon, the rest of the Internet took notice, too:
— 1310 Ticket Radio (@TicketRadio) February 3, 2014
— JOE BONAMASSA (@JBONAMASSA) February 3, 2014
Flea explained in his open letter to fans that when the NFL insisted that the band (other than frontman Anthony Kiedis, who did sing live) mime to a track recorded especially for the Super Bowl — to ensure there would be no technical difficulties during the world's most-watched television event — they had mixed feelings about doing so. But they ultimately decided that this was too good an opportunity to pass up.
"When this Super Bowl gig concept came up, there was a lot of confusion amongst us as whether or not we should do it, but we eventually decided, it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it," Flea explained. "We had given this a lot of thought before agreeing to do it, and besides many a long conversation amongst ourselves, I spoke with many musician friends for whom I have the utmost respect, and they all said they would do it if asked…We decided that, with Anthony singing live, that we could still bring the spirit and freedom of what we do into the performance."
As for why Flea and Klinghoffer didn't plug in, to make their performance seem more authentic, Flea explained: "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."
This wasn't the first time that RHCP had mimed on television, although they were equally reluctant to play pretend in the past. "The last time we did it (or tried to) was in the late 80's, we were thrown off of 'The Top Of the Pops' television program in the U.K. during rehearsals because we refused to mime properly," Flea recalled. "I played bass with my shoe, [then-guitarist] John [Frusciante] played guitar atop Anthony's shoulders, and we basically had a wrestling match onstage, making a mockery of the idea that it was a real live performance." He also referenced a legendarily lip-synched 1980s performance on the dance show "Club MTV," during which he and his bandmates didn't even bother to go through the motions of a traditional performance, instead smashing their instruments while the song still played in the background.
"We take our music playing seriously, it is a sacred thing for us, and anyone who has ever seen us in concert (like the night before the Super Bowl at the Barclays Center), knows that we play from our heart, we improvise spontaneously, take musical risks, and sweat blood at every show. We have been on the road for 31 years doing it," Flea concluded.
The next Red Hot Chili Peppers date on the books is March 29 at the Lollapalooza Chile festival in Santiago, Chile...where they will presumably play completed plugged-in.
Additional reporting by Craig Rosen