Red Hot Chili Peppers @ Super Bowl 2014

The Super Bowl Halftime Show is a marvel of swift, mechanistic spectacle-creation. Think of the logistics involved: Both teams leave the field, and then a state-of-the-art stage, complete with crazy light displays, is immediately assembled as thousands of onlookers take the field. And all this happens without in any way damaging the valuable playing surface. And everyone, along with all the equipment, is off the field within half an hour so the football can start again. With all those moving parts, who has time to actually plug in a guitar?

As Fansided points out, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who guested during Bruno Mars’ official pop-star coronation last night, did not have plugged-in instruments; both bassist Flea and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer were flailing at disconnected instruments. And Vulture notes that there was no cable plugged in to a wireless pack. We know that Flea knows how to slap a bass, but now we also know that the bass-slaps coming from our TV were not the bass-slap sounds coming from the bass that Flea was slapping. Also, Antony Kiedis’ leggings looked goofy as fuck, and they didn’t play “Abracadabralifornia.” A crushing disappointment all around.

Relive the magic below.

UPDATE: Flea has explained why the guitars were unplugged in a post on

Dear everybody,

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.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it. 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, I played bass with my shoe, John 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.

We mimed on one or two weird MTV shows before that and it always was a drag. 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.

So, 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. 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, that it was a wild trippy thing to do, what the hell. Plus, we the RHCP all love football too and that played a big part in our decision. We decided that, with Anthony singing live, that we could still bring the spirit and freedom of what we do into the performance, and of course we played every note in the recording specially for the gig. I met and spoke with Bruno, who was a beautiful dude, a real talented musician, and we worked out something that seemed like it would be fun.

We recorded a track for the day, just banged one out from our hearts that was very like in spirit to the versions we have been playing live the last few years with our beloved Josh on guitar.

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.

I am grateful to the NFL for having us. And I am grateful to Bruno, who is a super talented young man for inviting us to be a part of his gig. I would do it all the same way again.

We, as a band, aspire to grow as musicians and songwriters, and to continue to play our guts out live onstage for anyone who wants to get their brains blown out.



Comments (123)
  1. I imagine it was pre-recorded but I saw the Chili Peppers on Saturday and I noticed they both use wireless packs for their guitars so…could be?

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  3. I still can’t figure out which syllables in “Abracadabralifornia” to properly stress.

  4. I wonder what nickname Chad gave that phallic tom-tom

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  6. I’m still waiting for a GIF of Anthony’s oh-so-careful dismount from the upper stage at the beginning of the concert.

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  10. i once saw a dude sending an e-mail without his computer plugged into the modem – can’t believe he’d fake that

  11. Having played guitar in a pop backing band on TV before, I can vouch firsthand that most of the instruments are usually prerecorded. Drums are frequently live and vocals are usually live, but guitars, basses, keys, etc, are often canned. I have mimed guitar at a football halftime show, on American Idol, X Factor, Dancing With The Stars, and the American Music Awards. I think the only onse where we were fully live were The Today Show and Good Morning America. It’s just the way it is with most TV broadcasts.


    Nothing connected. No cable, no battery pack. There is one picture that shows Flea with a battery pack on his belt loop, and his bass connected. This is not a picture from the Super Bowl (notice the absence of silly tights on Keidis, or silly silver jacket on guitarist.

  13. Jesus, what ever happened to good ole’ fashioned lip-syncing? Now we have to take away Flea’s god given right to slap-a da bass AND make racist coke commercials? I thought this was America.

    Seriously though, the whole night was goofy as fuck.

  14. Bruno’s bassist posted this:

    “All instruments at Super Bowl half time shows are prerecorded. Have been for a good many years. It isn’t feasible to soundcheck everyone in the amount of time they have and too many things can go wrong. You might be able to take two minutes to fix something at a regular concert, but two minutes at the Superbowl is millions and millions of dollars down the drain. The NFL isn’t willing to take that risk”

  15. I heard it’s not even a real flea, it’s just some guy.

  16. Was Prince really plugged in during his crazy ass guitar solo????? I need to know!!!!!

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  18. hmmmm….. what surprises me is that people think any of these things are live at all. tons of rehearsals, tons of backing track to ensure your career isn’t f’ed in one go. so in short.

    the vocal mics seemed live, the first drum kit that bruno played seemed live, the rest seems like they all could have been pre-recorded, as joel frost pointed out above, even bruno’s bassist confirmed it.

    it’s not as if it made a difference either way as most can’t tell the difference with the fast cuts on television.

  19. A few years back mtv/Springsteen addressed this.

    “The Super Bowl performances are all on tape….There is no way you can set up a full band in five minutes with microphones, get all the settings right, and expect to get quality sound,” Neuberger said. “The Super Bowl has been doing that for years with virtually all the bands.”

    In reference to Yo-Yo Ma;

    “There were too many variables keeping the instruments in tune while playing outside in cold weather,” he said. “You can’t control the environment, so the smart decision is to record the performance and play along with it.”

    • You nailed it on the head, I just wish he would have stuck a wireless on there for looks, sometimes the magic is in the ignorance, I would have liked to have watched this performance with out the reminder of that knowledge. If everybody is just gonna let it hang out, there isn’t much point of the performance.

  20. There exist guitars and guitar mods that allow the wireless pac to be inserted into a cavity in the back of the body. You wouldn’t be able to see the wireless pack in these cases. Not saying that’s what happened here, but you can’t be sure.

  21. Lemme tell ya what else wasn’t plugged in……. that Broncos offense haaahaaahaaa see ya guys.

  22. I have to speculate that God himself did make Flea’s patch of hair into a corresponding shape to George Costanza’s bald spot.

  23. There’s a metaphor for Peyton Manning’s performance yesterday, but I’m too tired from shoveling snow all day to figure it out.

  24. a collective lol at all the slightly confused smart-asses with the “OMG HAVNT U EVER HERD OF WIRELESS” comments.

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  26. let’s all go home, folks.

  27. I believe is true what people say about pre-recorded instruments. or maybe Flea’s bass is a new prototype that has a wireless unit integrated, like that guitar signature model from Dillinger escape plan guitarist Ben Weiman, and that guitar can use a cable too in case of a failure of the wireless unit.

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  29. What I can’t understand is that it was the evening of February 2nd – the middle of a Polar Vortex – in the middle of wintertime, and these two Cali dudes still couldn’t be bothered to wear any shirts or jackets? Why? What’s the deal, man? Brrrrrrrr……….

  30. Yeah right, you certanly sound official there mr. BIG


    [ARGUMENT 1]: In today’s world, musicians have wireless systems that don’t require them to plug into anything! I’M A MUSICIAN. TRUST ME.

    [ARGUMENT 2]: I have common sense and they obviously weren’t playing live.

    While [ARGUMENT 2] is obviously more accurate than [ARGUMENT 1], I hereby postulate a notion I will call [TRUTH]

    [TRUTH]: In today’s world, people play backing tracks and call it live music.

  32. Wireless or not, they should have unplugged their guitars after One Hot Minute came out and split up. 2014 reunion tour and a setlist without that crap from Californication onwards.

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    • The fact that there’s a board somewhere filled with “professionals” who care enough about what some random internet commentators are saying about audio equipment to repost and laugh about it is extremely pathetic. You didn’t even use all your expertise to tell us if Flea was playing live or not? You suck at this.

    • Your level of smug is downright impressive.

    • Chris, I want to like you based on your side of the argument, but now I am going to pretend to believe that there are secret built-in wireless systems just to be on the other guys’ side.

      That said, I will upvote your post if you promise to be nice, change your name to Minstrel Gigolo and stop posting about this.

    • Ben Weinman from Dillinger Escape Plan has a built in wireless in the control cavity of his guitar. Check out his rig rundown video if you can’t believe it. It is a real thing and has been done.

      Maybe you should check your own self before calling other people idiots. It’s about 6:30 in to the video. His guitar also has magnetized cover plates. Consider yourself educated.

      • Yes Tom I have seen this interview. This is not common and is definitely not the norm to have a wireless transmitter plugged inside the guitar/bass. The samson system used is prosumer level at best and a couple hundred dollars. The systems have a available 6 frequencies to choose from and there range is very poor. 20′ to 30′ at best. Especially since he is hiding the transmitter antenna inside a wood guitar with a metal access door. Probably works ok for playing at a local bar. Also the sound quality you get out of these models is terrible. The professional wireless transmitters touring musicians use from Shure and sennheiser cost thousands of dollars, have hundreds of wireless frequencies to choose from and have a range of well over a 100′ feet. You can see pics from the RHCP show at Barclays the night before and Flea is playing the same bass with a Shure UR1 belt pack transmitter that plugs into his bass. This is the norm. Flea and the band have admitted to playing to their pre recorded tracks and Flea was actually quoted saying ” I don’t pretend to be plugged in”

        • If you’ve seen the interview you know that it sounds fine. And if you know anything at all about DEP you know that they are way too famous to be playing the local bar.

          • Actually if you look at most of there current and past dates they are smaller venues overall. With 6 frequencies to choose from, chances of finding a open frequency is very small which means interference and dropouts.

      • That’s just adorable. To give you a hint, what he has in his guitar is NOT a professional wireless system. It’s something someone in a club would pick up at Gtr Ctr for $200 and use. It’s actually this:

        You could NEVER use that in an arena setting. In the RF world there’s this wonderful thing called intermodulation and it often takes a lot of frequency juggling to keep things from interfering with each other. I unit like this would never have the flexibility you need in that situation.

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    • That’s cool. You ever tour with anyone that made good music though?

      • You mean like when I did shows with Phoenix or Jonathan Butler Trio or Oysterhead or Ratdog or more like when I stage managed at Bonnaroo? And, Yes, I have the photos and tour passes to back it up.

        • Come on dude you’re probably fifty or something. What are you doing arguing with teenagers and college students? Do you want a pat on the back for being really good at audio engineering? Congratulations, you’re an expert in audio engineering, with experience with the latest and greatest in pop country music as well as other popular genres and venues. Maybe if you hadn’t felt the need to be an asshole to the people on here you could’ve actually taught people something interesting. Notice other music industry types giving out helpful advice in these comments. Then notice you and your lame attitude and even lamer soul patch. Most of these people are music consumers, not creators, and them learning more about how their favorite bands make and perform music would have been a boon all around. Instead you have to act like every cliche in the dickish condescending Guitar Center employee handbook.

    • [works at guitar center]

    • Are you playing a character???

  34. Red Hot MilliVanilli Peppers

  35. It’s entertainment people. These guys can play! Logistically everything cant be live. This is not a concert.

  36. this discussion came up in a group of local experts lol. internal wireless systems can’t possibly exist…
    but then again… i doubt flea was using one.

  37. So the consensus here is they prerecorded the show using guitars with special wireless packs you can put inside your instrument?

  38. Plugged in or not, this performanced murderstomped the superbowl worst than the Seachickens did the Bronco’s. I loved it!

  39. You guys… You’re missing the key point,
    which is not simply that guitars weren’t amped in any way,
    But flea had no monitors.
    At all.

    No in ears – no nothing.

    Definitely not a real performance.

  40. Next thing you’re gonna tell me is that there aren’t really hundreds of Super Bowl ticket holders so jacked to see Bruno Mars that they rush the stage and so they have to pay people to do that.

  41. It took all of 3 seconds of watching their guitarist running around the stage battle axing his guitar before I said, “That guitar isn’t even plugged in.”

    Although I’m thankful this thread exists because RHCP defenders are HILARIOUS.

  42. What about when Bruno Mars dropped his mic down, his lips weren’t moving and words played out of the TV?

  43. Flea is such a cool dude and true gentleman. He stated his case clearly and with love and respect of the audience who love the Chilli Peppers. Also, he is a good athlete. The Broncos should of let him throw the ball. They would of had a fighting chance.

  44. Class personified. Keep rocking “oldman style” Flea!

  45. Who invited them, anyway? Talk about seizing the moment and shaking the crap out of it. Bruno and his band aced what would have to be live entertainment’s biggest test, despite their killer performance being nearly obliterated by stupid pyrotechnics and inappropriate Illuminati messaging. The inclusion of the Chili Peppers, looking as if they were just dumped out of a beaker of formaldehyde, only served to make Bruno and co. look and sound even better. Anyway, here’s a song for you, Mr. Mars. Tom Jones wanted it once, but now he’s a little long in the tooth to be able to pull it off. Feel free to use it:

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