This year's Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Bruno Mars and special guests The Red Hot Chili Peppers was the most watched ever, so it was only a matter of time before a few sleuths noticed a key detail: the Chili Peppers' instruments appeared to not be plugged in. Conspiracy theories began making the rounds almost immediately thanks to the keen observation of Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid on Twitter.
Even Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses weighed in on the issue: "Maybe they all had microchips installed in their asses and not only pick up the frequencies of their instruments but get Direct TV and the internet too! Like Google Glass... Google Ass!"
So, at the risk of painting himself as a Google Ass for all time, Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea took to the band's website and wrote a letter admitting that, yes, the band was pretending to play, per the direct orders of the Super Bowl organizers, who didn't want to risk the sound getting messed up. The band recorded a special live track beforehand and mimed playing their instruments. Anthony Kiedis singing was the only live part.
In some cases, this might be cause for outrage (who are these guys, who can't even play their own instruments?!). In fact, one fan responded to Flea's post in the comments suggesting that he didn't know how to feel about his RHCP tattoo anymore. But, in fact, this was the most Red Hot Chili Peppers thing the Red Hot Chili Peppers could do because we are talking about a band whose entire career has been a series of surreal stunts. In fact, the last time the band tried miming a performance, Flea "played bass with [his] shoe, John played guitar atop Anthony's shoulders, and we basically had a wrestling match onstage" So what was this? Let Flea explain:
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.
Surreal, trippy, references to Bruno Mars as a "beautiful dude"? Sounds about on brand. And as Flea explains, the band decided not to plug in to make it clear that they weren't pretending. The efftect? "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."
Seems like the right move, honestly. Everyone knows the gospel of Californication is spread through shirtlessness as much as groovy bass lines.