COLUMN: 'Dazed And Confused': Red Hot Chili Peppers At Halftime
The Critical Curmudgeon
Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 21:01
Everybody, get excited! No, not just because this weekend is the much-anticipated Super-Sportsball Sunday, wherein the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos will compete to see whose foam-finger is larger in this dire annual battle for the Championship Hat. May the best man do the seventh-inning stretch! No blowing kisses below the belt! Go sports!
No, the reason I’m so excited for this weekend is that Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers either just pulled the best prank on the music media since Vanessa Hudgens’ pop career or blatantly announced that 100 million American football fans are about to be subjected to the most hilariously unenjoyable Halftime Show of all time.
For those who don’t know, Bruno Mars is headlining this year’s Halftime Show, and he asked the Chili Peppers to open. It seemed like an odd choice for Mars, but they accepted. Here’s where it gets awesome: when Smith was asked last Monday by Artisan News what the band is going to perform, the drummer responded (completely deadpan): “We’re gonna play Led Zeppelin’s live version of ‘Dazed and Confused.’” Since he said that, practically every music news source has quoted him. Halftime Show set lists are usually kept secret until game day, so everyone was eager to report the tip. It’s basically common knowledge now that the Chili Peppers will be preceding Bruno Mars with a Led Zeppelin Tribute.
What does not seem to be common knowledge, however, is the fact that Led Zeppelin’s live version of “Dazed and Confused” is a famously 30-45 minute-long odyssey through some of the most soul-jarring, psychedelic devil-noise anyone has ever dropped acid just to sit through. This fever-dream of a music piece—as it was recorded, perhaps most recognizably, on How the West was Won—contains a whopping eight minutes of bow-solo paired intermittently with Robert Plant’s inhuman wailing. The traditional live version is an epic-scale track so preening, heavy, and outrageous that at one point in the video accompaniment to the Song Remains the Same concert, the picture literally cuts away from the band’s playing for five minutes of external footage, wherein we see Jimmy Page scaling a mountain, meeting a wizard, transforming into a fetus, aging rapidly, and finally becoming said wizard all while the music continues to play. Seriously, that happens. And, honestly, at that point in the song, it seems to make perfect sense.
Are the Red Hot Chili Peppers actually going to attempt a revival of one of the most notoriously avant-garde rock performances ever? Almost certainly not. For one thing, Anthony Kiedis does not have the vocal range to cover that piece: Plant spends half of the song drawing out notes at least an octave higher than anything Kiedis has ever hit in his life. It’s also doubtful that Josh Klinghoffer, John Frusciante’s friend and replacement in the band since 2009, could muster up enough lead-guitar chops to freestyle anything close to what Page managed to do. Besides, despite the fact that some insufferable Classic Rock radio DJs have been trying to wedge RHCP songs alongside ’60s and ’70s icons lately, the fact of the matter is that Led Zeppelin and the Chili Peppers do not belong in the same genre. One is a heavy-blues jam band, and the other is a funk-rap/rock group, popular mostly in the ’90s. Both bands produced some high quality music in their day, but it really isn’t fair to compare them at all.
That’s why I think Smith was joking. Anyone who is halfway rock ’n’ roll-literate knows what a “live version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Dazed and Confused’” consists of, and it is the opposite of being Halftime Show-appropriate. It’d be like a Top 40 radio station suddenly playing The Wallin its entirety. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been known to have a wacky sense of humor: directly after the announcement that they would be joining Mars, their bassist, 51-year-old Michael “Flea” Balzary, tweeted “Anyone wanna see my c–k at the Super Bowl?” to the general public’s dismay. Knowing Flea, that might actually happen.
If I’m wrong, then surely Red Hot Chili Peppers will be playing a watered-down version of a Led Zeppelin song. Perhaps Smith meant to say that the band would be doing its own live version of the “Dazed and Confused” studio recording, which is a mere six and a half minutes. Or perhaps he was serious, and this Halftime Show is going to be a beautiful disaster. Either way, this is the first time in years that I’ve been excited for Super Bowl Sunday.