Back when the Red Hot Chili Peppers were an obscure punk-funk band releasing albums with titles like Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987), only the most Nostradamus of music critics would've predicted they'd one day be Rock & Roll Hall Of Famers, as beloved for melodic rock as anything else, and selling out arenas while in their mid-50s.

Extraordinary. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis will be 57 this year, so too his childhood best friend and superstar bassist Flea. Drummer Chad Smith – who joined the band in 1988 – recently hit 57, while the baby of the group, guitar virtuoso (and fitting replacement for the much-loved John Frusciante) Josh Klinghoffer is 39.

The point being, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are veterans; a heritage act even. Three-quarters of this 6x Grammy-winning, 80-million record selling outfit are the same age the Rolling Stones were circa the year 2000. I'm pretty sure those geriatric jokes along the lines of "the Rolling Bones" were super tired even then.

Chad Smith, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, performs at Spark Arena. Photo / Getty Images
Chad Smith, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, performs at Spark Arena. Photo / Getty Images

In short, The Chilis are no longer young men and haven't been for a long time, but to see them live in 2019 is a revelation.

Advertisement

For a start, Kiedis is still jujitsu-ing himself across the stage with the same energy as a 20-year old. And not just the same energy, but – save for what looked liked knee brace beneath his shorts – the same physical condition. Once the shirt came off, as fans almost certainly knew it would, the moustachioed Kiedis was shown to still be in the possession of a torso of a much younger man. If Adam Levine and the Biebs can look this good minus a shirt at 56 they will be very, very happy.

But, whereas Levine's dispatching of clothing at the recent Superbowl felt calculated and awkward, with Kiedis, you never get the sense he's anything less than genuine. The same goes for the rest of the band including Smith on the drums who ended a flawless night by handing out drumsticks, hugging fans and farewelling the sold-out Spark Arena with exaltations of how blown away he was with the enthusiasm of those 12,000 Kiwis.

Moments earlier Flea – who like Kiedis, has lost none of his trademark bouncing onstage physicality – had encouraged us to return for the second show and finished by saying, "Be kind, be sweet, be gentle. Thank you so f**king much!" The Chilis seemed genuinely moved by the reception they'd been given.

Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, performs at Spark Arena. Photo / Getty Images
Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, performs at Spark Arena. Photo / Getty Images

Sure, there were some anguished cries when the house lights came up and the crowd realised this was to be an Under The Bridge-less gig, but with the Chilis mixing up their 90-minute set-list every night, there were gems Auckland got that Australian cities a few days ago did not.

Some of those gems included the dark balladry of Scar Tissue, which was an early crowd-pleaser and a reminder that for all the youthful rap-rock and punk-funk that were the foundations of this band, it was their maturing gifts of lyrics and melody that have sustained their career.

Scar Tissue was also an early indicator that Kiedis has arguably never sounded so good live. Whether it's late-career singing lessons or the benefit of years of sobriety, he is vocally far stronger than in the past and now has the pipes to match his stage presence.

It was a night with a palpable sense of excitement, where the almost constantly standing crowd seemed as enraptured by songs as melancholy as Dark Necessities and Californication as they were by frenzied numbers like By The Way and Give It Away.

And if you've woken up still frothing about Under The Bridge, go again tonight and you just might get it.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's Weekend Collective and blogs at RoxboroghReport.com.