On July 15th, 2016 I was thrilled with a visit from my Moncton friends Derrick and Lisa, a concert-loving couple who had come to Ottawa specifically to see Lisa’s favourite: Duran Duran, who would be performing at Bluesfest the following evening. And while Derrick is a massive (and I mean massive) Van Halen fan his penchant for FM radio royalty in general was enough to get us onsite on this night as well. Though the lineup was sufficiently bereft to allow for enough cool backyard beverages on a warm summer’s evening to have easily have carried the day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were the mainstage headliners and you’re not going to get any more neo-classic rock than that.
Lack of a festival pass and any true real interest in the band, m’lady took one for the team and drove the crew to LeBreton Flats, dropping us off and bidding us adieu. I couldn’t really blame her. We had seen the Peppers together a few years earlier in San Francisco and found the band’s performance rather blasé. Like, sure they hit all the right notes at all the right times and did an adequate amount of jumping around and all, but it sure seemed like RHCP had lost their edge, and edge had always been their main commodity. Their music sounded like it was born on a used brown couch that was found on the sidewalk and carried into to a $50 a week boarding house where you share a grimy bathroom down the hall, and now it was being played by guys who depart their posh rockstar mansions in chauffeur-driven Rolls Royces. Success had long since rounded their edges off.
And that’s pretty much how it sounded again this time as I took in the show from the calm and easy confines at the back of the concert field, an area that was certainly lacking in any sort of edginess but was steep with shockingly good company and thick with festival beers. All the words coming from the stage were still the same though, so we had fun singing along to the more familiar ones and everyone had a good time.
Which I suppose is the point of seeing a band who peaked in a whole different millennium.
We did not have the same experience the next night. Duran Duran never had an edge to lose, plus we caught some of Holy F***, a band so edgy you could easily call it razor rock.