Mostly Mild Chili Peppers

Loss of lead guitarist Frusciante shows in middling concert.

This was supposed to have been an unforgettable concert, if only because of its scarcity value. Try to search your memories for when there was last a real rock performance for the masses here. To dispel all doubts, I don't mean the rather dubious performances by Guns 'N' Roses or Linkin Park or the technocratic spectacle by the heavy equipment concern known as Metallica. What I mean is a rock concert by a first-rate band that hasn't gotten all fat and smug and has come to Tel Aviv to put an audience of tens of thousands into a state of rock euphoria.

Red Hot Chili Peppers looked like the ideal candidate for ending this drought of rock for the masses, and indeed it drew a huge crowd of 50,000 people to Hayarkon Park, the tickets having sold out on the afternoon before the concert. Everything was ready for a winning, glorious performance.

But the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren't glorious and if their concert was winning, it wasn't by a knock-out. It was better than the Guns, Linkin Park and Metallica performances, and it didn't disgrace the Chili Peppers brand, but it wasn't the surpassing performance for which we had hoped. It didn't deliver the kind of thrill that leaves the eyes moist with excitement; the euphoria remained in the realm of the imagination.

Perhaps, on second thought, the hope of experiencing euphoric rock wasn't realistic. Perhaps the Chili Peppers in their current incarnation are no longer a great band. They were a great band in the original configuration with guitarist John Frusciante and vocalist Anthony Kiedis bookended by great musicians (Frusciante and bassist Flea ). Now, without Frusciante (his replacement Josh Klinghoffer, who came onstage with a broken leg, is a good guitarist but without his predecessor's stature ), all the depth and all the sting were concentrated on Flea's side, and even though he played amazingly well, he didn't have the strength to radiate his greatness onto the band as a whole.

Hang on - what about Kiedis the vocalist? In my opinion he never was the most important side of the Chil Peppers quadrilateral and the performance in the park didn't cause me to change my mind. On the contrary. I came into the concert indifferent to him and left it with some reservations about him. He doesn't sing all that well and here and there he even misses the right note, nor does he radiate a personality worthy of mention. He ran and leapt about as is expected of a pantherish vocalist like him, of the sort who doesn't know what a shirt is, but his singing muscles proved to be less developed than his biceps.

The first numbers in the performance were too hesitant (the best example of this being the pale rendition of the wonderful song "Otherside ), but about half an hour into the concert it went into a much more focused and sweeping zone, signaled by the first notes of "Can't Stop," and its bold punk flow (fruit of the bass-percussion meld of Flea and Chad Smith ) was maintained in the next four or five songs, up until the early "Me and My Friends."

At that stage it seemed the Chili Peppers were heating up more and more to the boiling point and were about to burst into a string of hits. The hits of course came, but the temperature in fact dropped. "Under the Bridge" was slotted into the wrong place and did not exploit its emotional potential, the rendition of "Higher Ground" was heavy and disappointing, Kiedis was not brilliant in "Californication" and apart from a lone high in "By the Way," the string of hits did not rise above middling. So too the encore "Give it Away," which seemed to tell the story of the entire concert.

In my mind's eye I had seen 50,000 people hopping in frantic unison and losing their sanity for the duration of four minutes to the sounds of this wild piece of brilliance, but the rendition at the performance was standard and the masses did hop, but they didn't lose it, and the song itself will remain etched in memory in the phosphorescent gray of its clip and not in the colors of the mild experience afforded by the performance in the park.

Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hayarkon Park, Tel Aviv, September 10