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Cut the Red Hot Chili Peppers Some Slack

photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella

If you saw their brief performance during the Super Bowl halftime show, it was obvious that the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren’t really playing.  The following day, controversy erupted when several sources published a picture showing that Flea’s bass wasn’t even plugged in.  Now, the Peppers are scrambling to protect their reputation.

Here’s why we should cut them some slack.

1.  It wasn’t their decision.  Due to strict time constraints and a number of other circumstances, the NFL requires that every artist must pre-record their performance.  The only LIVE element of the show is the vocals.  Admittedly, the Chili Peppers weren’t thrilled about those rules, but we all make compromises.  The opportunity to play to the biggest single television audience ever was too great to pass up.

2.  The performance wasn’t technically lip synched.  According to a statement released by the band, Anthony Kiedis sang live during the Halftime Show.  While the rest of the band recorded a special abbreviated version of “Give it Away”, which played in the background.  Flea also claims that, despite the fact their instruments weren’t plugged in, they were playing along to the song.

3.  They weren’t the first rock band to do it.  Nobody’s giving Bruno Mars grief because his band wasn’t playing live.  In fact, these days, we almost expect that most concerts from pop artists rely on choreographed dancing more than actually singing and playing.  Of course, we hold rock bands to a higher standard.  And we should.  But if Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen and the Who can do it, the Chili Peppers shouldn’t be blamed for following suit.

4.  They earned the right.  The Peppers have been playing for over 30 years.  They’ve paid their dues.  Say what you will about their music, but they have worked hard to maintain their credibility over the years.  These guys have performed with nothing but socks covering their junk, for god’s sake.  They deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Furthermore, Flea plays more notes on an unplugged bass than Gene Simmons has in his entire life.  Even when he’s not really playing, Flea is still one of the best bassists in rock history.  His funky grooves are heads and shoulders above the typical bass lines in most rock songs.  Plus, he’s a dynamic performer on stage.  Most bass players look clumsy and awkward on stage.  Flea’s bass is, by far, the most important instrument in his band and he looks like a badass playing it.

5.  At least they showed up.  That’s more than we can say for the Broncos.

Bottom Line:  The only complaint we should have about the Chili Peppers Super Bowl performance is that it wasn’t long enough.

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