Flea explains why the Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t play live during the Halftime show


I missed this when I watched the SuperBowl Halftime show, but some eagle-eyed viewers picked up on it. Apparently, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out to do “Give It Away” with Bruno Mars, they weren’t even plugged in. As in, the whole thing was pre-recorded, meaning that it’s not even like the RHCP even had to show up. A lot of people pointed to this photo in particular of Flea “unplugged” (as it was) as the crucial evidence. Page Six says that the RHCP prerecorded their bit days in advance, and that Bruno’s band used a recorded track but Bruno sang live. A lot of people were shading the RHCP pretty hard about it, but Flea wrote an open letter explaining the situation:

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.

We mimed on one or two weird MTV shows before that and it always was a drag. We take our music playing seriously, it is a sacred thing for us, and anyone who has ever seen us in concert (like the night before the Super Bowl at the Barclays Center), knows that we play from our heart, we improvise spontaneously, take musical risks, and sweat blood at every show. We have been on the road for 31 years doing it.

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.

We recorded a track for the day, just banged one out from our hearts that was very like in spirit to the versions we have been playing live the last few years with our beloved Josh on guitar.

For the actual performance, Josh, Chad, and I were playing along with the pre recorded track so there was no need to plug in our guitars, so we did not. Could we have plugged them in and avoided bumming people out who have expressed disappointment that the instrumental track was pre recorded? Of course easily we could have and this would be a non-issue. We thought it better to not pretend. It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance. 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.

I am grateful to the NFL for having us. And I am grateful to Bruno, who is a super talented young man for inviting us to be a part of his gig. I would do it all the same way again.

We, as a band, aspire to grow as musicians and songwriters, and to continue to play our guts out live onstage for anyone who wants to get their brains blown out.


[From the RHCP’s blog]

This was a really well-written explanation, right? I guess I’m used to the ham-fisted BS non-apologies of the younger pop stars and celebrities, so when we get a chance to hear from a grizzled rock star who knows what he’s talking about, I’m taken aback. Anyway, I believe Flea. I think the NFL made the call about performing live and that issue is non-negotiable. I don’t think the RHCP deserve shade for it – they made the call to go with the NFL’s rules and they didn’t pretend to do it live.



Photos courtesy of WENN.

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57 Responses to “Flea explains why the Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t play live during the Halftime show”

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  1. blue marie says:

    I have absolutely no problem with this, if you’ve ever seen RHCP you know it’s not a common occurrence. Hell, if I was given the option to do it, I would in a second. (I think I may drink too much at Superbowl parties cause I never even noticed)

  2. mia girl says:

    This is a super high stakes live-broadcast event where running the risk of tech errors is too great.

    I’ve got no problem, and not surprised at all that most of the music is performed live days earilier and pre-recorded for the actual half time show. Mars and Kedis were singing live, so that does give some authenticity to the performance. I suspect Mars’ drum solo at the beginning was also live. Now, if this is an actual concert I pay money for, then I do expect it all to be live.

    Related, I’ve heard they even make Marching Bands that perform at the Super Bowl per-record and then mimick playing.

  3. Abbicci says:

    Flea has the best Holiday sweater ever!

    I have nothing but love for RHCP and I am glad Flea took the time to write that piece instead of telling everyone to go pound sand. Sure he might put his junk in a sock, but the man knows music better than Katy Perry knows her boobs.

    • paola says:

      ‘but the man knows music better than Katy Perry knows her boobs’

      I love you so much for this statement! Made me laugh really hard :D

    • gg says:

      Flea is nothing less than an extremely talented musical genius and I love the RHCP. But I hated that whoever was doing the choosing chose this song. They are not a rap band and it’s their only rap song, which is very old, they sound weary of performing it, and Anthony, bless him, phoned in the lead vocals. Maybe he was just out of breath from all the excitement but I couldn’t understand a word and I knew the words. Sounded like he lapped the entire stadium before he got out there. Don’t know if they picked up any fans because of this performance.

    • Tara says:

      He does!! Is that Krampus or Bellsnickle? I want one of those sweaters!!!

  4. paola says:

    This is the reason why they are rockstars and all these dummies we see these days are not.
    They know how to speak to their fans and they know how to explain things without bs.
    You have to be true to your audience.
    Love them.

    Plus their performance was seen by more than 115 millions in the US, more than Madonna’s or Beyoncè’s. It means people still know what talent is.

  5. Tessa says:

    Flea did a solo at a RHCP concert I went to in the late 90′s. I can still feel it in my bones. He’s one of the greats of all time. He can do no wrong in my book. And playing the game for the Super Bowl and just having fun and doing what he was asked was the right thing. No one questions if Flea can play the bass. It’s not like wondering if Britney Spears can carry a tune. He is a legend.

  6. Ellie66 says:

    Aww I love these guys! :) the show was great and the RHCP are the best! Bruno is excellent! Best half-time show in a reall long time. (And yes Beyoncé show too)

  7. aphideater says:

    I don’t care, I just want his sweater.

  8. magpie says:

    That was a great letter from Flea and they get no shade from me.

  9. agentscully says:

    I think he offered a very articulate explanation and I understand why the NFL don’t want to risk a bad half-time show due to any potential sound issues. I certainly wouldn’t shade the RHCP for it, after all, they may not have had any actual sound coming out of their instruments, but they were still technically playing them as if they had been plugged in/mic’d up. This wasn’t like their previous Top Of The Pops performance Flea mentioned where they made it obvious they weren’t really playing (I remember Nirvana did this on their TOTP performance as well); Flea and Josh were still doing all that finger-work on their instruments and Chad was still bashing away on the drums.

  10. Fangirl says:

    A year ago today , the 5 Feb i was at the RHCP concert in Cape Town Stadium….ahhh good times, FLEA is the man!!!

  11. Hillshmill says:

    Completely agree. If you’ve ever been to any large scale concert, you know how much time and effort it takes to set up a stage, check the equipment, check the instruments, check the audio, and everything else. They simply can’t do that on a temporary stage that’s wheeled out and used for 30 minutes. If the NFL wants a good sounding halftime show, this is the way it has to be done. It’s never been a secret. Even matching bands are regularly pre-recorded so they can properly dispense the sound to the stadium.

  12. Miss M says:

    I love them even more for not pretending.

    ps: Isn’t Bruno Mars voice amazing?!

  13. BendyWindy says:

    I was shocked that the vocals were live. I thought the NFL made it all lip-synch a long time ago. It was a great show, lots of fun. I’m glad they did it.

  14. smee says:

    Well-said, Flea!

    My husband is a professional musician and I’ve know from experience that no matter how talented you are or how much you’ve practiced, things can go really wrong during a live performance and sound TERRIBLE. They didn’t want to mess up their one shot at the Half Time Show at the Stoopid Bowl, so I get it.

  15. ldub says:

    well written explanation coming from a very talented/seasoned musician, whose still cute (imo/lol), in an AWESOME sweater.

  16. Frenzy says:

    I’m a big RHCP fan so I don’t care! Plus Anthony is an age defying rock God!

  17. GiGi says:

    I love that he was just honest – so refreshing these days. And I think the logic behind it is sound. It was still an amazing show – honestly the best halftime show I’ve seen.

    *As a sad “GiGi is so behind the times” aside – I just realized that I enjoy Bruno Mars last week, after years of my husband trying to convince me. So I watched the halftime show yesterday (on Tivo) and then thought, “This would be an AMAZING concert!” So I google it and – yes! Bruno Mars is coming with Aloe Blacc in June. Fantastic! Except that tickets went on sale on Monday. The day after that stellar halftime show. And of course sold out in minutes. So now I’m either not going or stuck paying loads for tix. Things like this make me feel so old.

    • mia girl says:

      @Gigi – I say you pay loads for the tickets.
      I’ve seen Bruno Mars and his band live and it was one of the most fun times I’ve had at a concert. I’m not typically into pop music, but this guy is more than a singer, he’s a real entertainer.

  18. QQ says:

    I HEART Flea and i NEEEDDD That sweater to be able to live!

  19. Amy Tennant says:


    I don’t think they’re still making it, but you have a name to go to ebay with now :)

  20. Tx says:

    No issue here! It also probably helps that we all know RHCP and Bruno CAN and DO perform without recorded tracks, so we’re willing to give them a pass considering the situation.

  21. P.J. says:

    WOW. If I didn’t already love and admire Flea before-the man is a career-long philanthropist, champion for the environment and incredible musician-I am in love with him now. THIS is how you do it young, disrespectful, hot head, false, ungrateful pop and “rock” stars *cough* of today 😊

    No only did he take the time to write out a lengthy, heartfelt response to this potential mess (when really, he didn’t have to say anything at all), he managed to do so in a way that explained the logistics of everything beautifully while also maintaining respect for all involved, not placing blame and placating the audience all at once. Well done Flea! And thank you. (I was someone who was ready to bark about the issue after I saw the plug-less footage on tv last night until reading this.)

    Side note: I was lucky enough to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers live, in the 3rd row at a huge music festival when I was about 18 back in their hey day in the 90′s and let me tell you: every word he has written about their totally kick-a*s, out of this world live shows is 100% true ❤ I was there with a bunch of girlfriends and to this day, their performance that night is a stand out memory for us; it was like their album exploded onto the stage right in front of us only so, so much better ☺ (Ladies, just imagine seeing a shirtless, ripped, sweaty, long-haired Anthony Keidis belting out “Give it away, give it away, give it away now” up close when you’re EIGHTEEN. *Swoon* Cyprus Hill and Filter were also there. Lol.)

  22. Kristen says:

    How old is Flea? He’s so hot!

  23. Jackson says:

    I love that letter. Totally down with what he said.

  24. Jag says:

    Props to Flea and the RHCP! Anthony DID sing live, so anyone saying the entire thing was pre-recorded is incorrect. I love that he unplugged because that was giving respect to their fans – showing that they weren’t actually playing live. These guys are the gold standard in my book!

  25. Gabby says:

    They didn’t even try to use fake short wireless plug-ins. I really applaud them for not even attempting to deceive fans. Totally understandable and we know Flea can play those riffs live any day.

  26. pru says:

    I love RHCP, have been a fan for years, seen them live, & enjoyed them on the half time show.
    But I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed they did this — feels a bit like bowing down to the man.

  27. Jen says:

    For 3 years I worked for a company that was hired by the NBA and NFL to produce those halftime shows and I can promise you that 95% of the time those performances are live vocals over a backing track. There is nothing wrong with that practice and people enjoy it all the same. The artists usually fight back but there are regulations and time constraints that are involved. Also, its rare that the artists are paid for these performances. They usually agree to to doing it for the publicity for upcoming albums or tours. The teams also will supply them with the B-roll footage that can be used in future band/artist promos and demo reels.

  28. mommak918 says:

    Huge RHCP fan here…love those guys. Anthony can still rock out shirtless and Flea is such a BA. Love their honesty and they truly love their fans and the music. They are great in concert…id takr them any day over Beyoncé or Madonna. They know punk, Miley.

  29. Source says:

    Beyonce is supposed to be a singer. She didn’t sing.

    At least here the singing was live, so it wasn’t like they didn’t even have to be there. And RHCP didn’t try to hide it or give some BS press release about it.

    People would have had more respect for Beyonce if she’d just danced to her own music. It still would have been a show, and she wouldn’t have gotten shade for trying to pretend she was singing.

  30. Samantha25 says:

    I’m surprised this was such a scandal. Considering that it was outside, in the middle of winter in NJ, it seems obvious that the show would be pre-recorded. Bruno and RHCP still put on a great show.

  31. Scarlette says:

    I’m a sound engineer that has worked with many bands in the Bay Area. The Super Bowl half time show has been lip synced for years for the exact reason Flea talked about. It was super cool of him not to mention also that many, many other big acts (U2, Aerosmith, etc.) have all mimed at the half time show.

  32. Denise says:

    As always, Flea is AWESOME. I believe anything that comes out of that guy’s mouth. Even if he’s naked but for a sock on his wang as he’s saying it.

  33. paul says:

    are you people high????????????? the whole point of playing live IS BEING LIVE!!!!

  34. Moi says:

    What an intelligent and classy letter. My best friend was at their show the night before the Super Bowl in NYC, not her first RHCP show (she’s even met them, grrrr), she said they were amazing as always. I tried to get tickets the last time they were in Austin and the show sold out in minutes. It’s always been some sort of circumstance keeping me from seeing my RHCP for the past 22 years, but my day will come! Seeing them live is on my bucket list. ❤️❤️❤️

    P.S. After I watched Bruno Mars perfom Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”, I’ve been in awe of him, and he just continues to blow me away.

  35. Adrien says:

    Nah! RHCP gets a pass. It was Bruno Mars moment anyway.

  36. LilyT says:

    Props to flea for a well written and timely explanation. He seems badass.