Flea: “Yeah, I Faked Playing at the Super Bowl”

Watching the halftime show this past Sunday, I tried to figure out what was being played live and what was tracked.  It appeared to me that while the vocals were live, almost everything else seemed to be a little too perfect.  And then there was lack of microphones, cables and wireless transmitters for all the instruments.

Turns out I was right.  There was fakery going on with the instrumentation.

And I don’t really have a problem with this.  A performance like this in from of 100 million people is incredibly complex.  Consider:

1. The entire stage area has to be set up in a matter of minutes.

2. There’s no time for a soundcheck beyond the last rehearsal, which might have been days earlier.

3.  Audio needs to be mixed for both TV and the stadium itself.  Plus you need a monitor mix for the performers.  Doing all that on the fly is next to impossible, especially since the addition of tens of thousands of bodies into a stadium changes its acoustic properties.

4. It was cold.  Instruments can wobble out of tune in seconds.

5. You have one shot to get it right for the entire planet.

If that means tracking the instrumentation, so be it.  If I were Bruno Mars and the Chili Peppers, I would have insisted on the same thing.  “Just keep the vocals live,” I’d say.

Flea has reacted to criticisms that he didn’t appear to be actually playing anything.  His response:  “Yep.  We faked it.  But here’s why.”

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.

Read the rest of his message here.  And if you’re interested in what Axl Rose had to chirp about, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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