Red Hot Chili Peppers Revealed Unplugged Gear Usage on the Super Bowl Half-Time Show

At the same time, the band didn't mute the vocals.

Ultimate Guitar

Red Hot Chili Peppers have confirmed that their instruments were not plugged in during their Super Bowl performance on February 2.

As NME notes, the band appeared as guests of Bruno Mars at the half-time show at New Jersey's MetLife Stadium. The performance attracted the largest audience in the history of the sporting event, pulling in 115.3 million viewers.

During the show, many social media users commented that the band's instruments did not appear to be plugged in. Blues guitarist blues artist Joe Bonamassa tweeted: "Flea… I mean we all know, but for god's sake at least try to humor the children." Living Color guitarist Vernon Reid writing: "That guitar is plugged into NOTHING."

In a long message on the Red Hot Chili Peppers website, bassist Flea explains that the bass, drums and guitar were not amplified or plugged in, but the vocals were.

He writes that the band were offered no other option by Super Bowl organisers NFL, and following careful consideration decided to go ahead and appear at the event in spite of having to mime.

"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 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."

He adds that the decision not to pretend to be plugged in was deliberate. "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."

111 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is how to mime:
    Way Cool JR.
    Just one more reason to love Iron Maiden! Them dudes are just so awesome. The people in the crowd looked completely mind f*ked.
    Guns N' Chains
    It obviously has to be taken as a joke to spite someone or something because it is obvious none of them are live. Sucks.
    Or, the could have swapped places like Muse did on that italian show, it would be awesome.
    Or should of done a Nirvana
    Danjo's Guitar
    If you read what flea wrote, they have already done that, they actually got kicked off that exact show because they refused to play along. Given the circumstances I don't think its a big deal that they decided to do it.
    Squeeze swapped places for a mime long before Muse. Can't find the clip but I think it was TOTP or Old Grey Whistle Test and Jools Holland was on drums.
    That actually kind of makes sense from the Peppers' point of view. Too bad the NFL doesn't believe in letting performers perform! Edit, upon reading it, it all makes sense. I think they should make that recorded backing track available for download or purchase!
    From what I understand, there just isn't enough time available for musicians to sound check for super bowl halftime shows. During super bowl week there's so much going on in the stadium, that there's barely any time leftover for the hundreds of performers and backstage hands to rehearse and coordinate these shows. So due to how much is going on besides the music being performed itself, live instruments must be sacrificed. If they DID plug in, it would most likely sound like complete crap. It is unfortunate though, I would much rather get rid of all the crazy stage set-ups, dancers, flashing lights, props, and all that other extra stuff to hear a great live band like RHCP actually play.
    I agree. Sound projection in a stadium is one of the most difficult things to get good. Even if they had a 10 hour sound check, it's a boxed in place and big, thus you need to be loud. This would mean huge reflections, which distort, phase issues, hearing annoying delays at certain spots etc. It's just a really hard environment and requires an almost (if not done already) scientific approach in terms of the acoustics and sound directions.
    Yeah, one guy I was arguing with earlier said that they should've at least done a line check, but even that takes time and, due to the reasons you've stated, it would be impossible to get the sound right in that short amount of time.
    This. Flea pointed as much out in his full statement on the subject; they have a few minutes to set up a stage, and each person actually plugged in is another dozen things to go wrong, and another however-long of soundchecks if they want it to sound decent.
    Guns N' Chains
    I agree with your ending comments but backtracking to your earlier comments, what's the point of live music then? Why in this day in age people/artists/bands are so afraid to perform their actual song LIVE baffles me. If the NFL/SuperBowl organizers can't understand live music is an art, why even bother? I know its for entertainment but its "fake" entertainment that has been rather bad over the last few years (minus Slash).
    The problem, my friend, is that the superbowl halftime show is not about "the art of live music". Its about retaining the most amount of attention possible to the televsion screen for about a 10 minute period while the game has stopped. Its a beer and bean dip distraction. If the networks thought that showing monkeys fling poop at each other for 10 minutes would draw better ratings, they would in fact be doing that instead. If I want to see some great artists perform some great live music, the super bowl halftime show is not where i'm looking to see it.
    Prince played what was arguably the best Super Bowl halftime show yet, and he was one of the only ones (along with the Stones - who sounded terrible) to actually play live.
    Like Springsteen's simple stage. My favorite Halftime show since JT and JJ....
    I can't believe people are making such a big deal about this. It's the NFL's rule.. meaning THEY ARE NOT THE FIRST NOR THE LAST TO DO IT. THE SECRET IS OUT FOLKS. Why isn't anybody going on about Bruno's band (which was fantastic) blowing their trumpets into the air without mics? Come on people. Oh and Vernon Reid is STILL in Living Colour, UG.
    Jacques Nel
    Probably can't blame them if they had no other choice. Better than Rihanna...on her South African tour she lip-synced all the way through.
    It's not like it wasn't obvious, but props to the band for coming clean right off the bat.
    I think the whole point was to make it obvious, no? So they wouldn't be accused of lying etc.
    Miming is lame. But the chili peppers did the show, with live vocals, and gave their all on that stage even if we couldn't hear their instruments. It was still an excellent show, and I enjoyed it. I respect that they chose not to plug in. They didn't try to fake it, they deliberately chose not to plug in even a wireless pack. The peppers weren't looking to fool anyone.
    They also recorded a version of that song during the day or the day before as well, so it's not like they had the original album version playing in the background either, that was as live as they could've gotten under the circumstances. Props to them.
    They played a different New York show the day before the Super Bowl. It was probably the guitar, bass, and drums from that performance.
    Too big a risk to have something go wrong. I can understand the NFL's position on this. At least RHCP were honest about it, although it was blatantly obvious
    The London Philharmonic Orchestra had to do the same thing at the 2012 Olympics. You don't hear anyone calling them fake-ass bitches. Why should RHCP be any different?
    Although im not familiar with the london orchestra you mention, you're entirely right. Some will go as far as to say that they're fake as hell for doing what they did, but in all honesty if I had the opportunity to just rock the hell out in such a crowd to such a funky ass beat, you bet your ass ill be as into the groove and show as humanly possible. Given the circumstances that he superbowl undergoes, its only just, and RHCP dont deserve any discredibility from something they worked so hard to come to - come on guys, these the chili peps, theyve been around forever and SOMEONE stepped up and was like "Yo, these dudes are the bombest, they deserve to play this as much as i do" and they took that offer up. Knowing the chili peps, and form their statements, they wouldve played it live anyways; would it have been just as energetic on stage? Who knows, but regardless, for the sake of entertainment they did their job and proved their legacy once again. Yeah, this was a bit of a long post, but ive seen so many comments on the web about these guys sucking ass because of this one show that im just fed up with all this out-of-nowhere hate on such an inspirational band, long live red hot!
    Seriously though, we all know miming is lame - regardless of who does it. And most of the time, whether its a pop star, an orchestra or a rock group, the main driving factor behind it is $$$$$. RHCP giving that statement is just them trying to keep an ounce of credibility after they undoubtedly sold a little of their souls to do the halftime show. I dunno though Im from the UK, maybe we don't 'get' the superbowl.
    how did they sell "a little of their souls" for the couple minutes they performed? all they did was record the instruments for one song, becuase like flea's letter said, the NFL don't want the sound of the performance to suffer because of how quickly they need to set up the stage and rearrange it. If they were doing this for an entire tour, and we just found out then I could understand an outrage. but they did it for one song, as part of a show that they were "special guests" of for the actual act.
    I agree with this - good point about it only being a one off. But if an artist (particularly a pop artist) mimes, everyone loses their minds. Why are the goalposts being moved for them? I personally don't really care one way or the other, it just seems a bit hypocritical.
    Because when pop artists do it, it's in many ways an admission that they can't perform their own material (whether it's beyond their ability or just impractical to recreate is another issue). We all know that RHCP can play the shit out of their stuff live, so that means they're actually capable of performing what they record. We can forgive them for miming one song for what is essentially a dream come true 'performance' for many artists. Flea hinted that they probably wouldn't have done it as the main act, but since it was just for one song as a special guest, they could have fun doing it and still be able to live with their decisions later.
    Also, here is a fun fact for you, artists dont get paid for the half time show.
    Because they'll earn bigtime $$$$ from this regardless.... It's like saying, omg Pepsi didn't get paid to play their ads!
    Yeah, because anyone who plays anywhere on TV or in a stadium practically drowns in money! Hell, they must've gotten money for uh...for uh..yeah, they're rich! They got paid mad dollars!
    I am not generalizing, you are. You're a simpleton if you think playing in front of 115.3 million viewers won't boost their popularity. Their management will be able to ask more money for them to perform anywhere else + probably a significant increase in records and merchandise sales.
    cuz the London Philharmonic doesn't have a reputation in a community of musician where being REAL is as important as the music you make. i think they should have done what other bands do and passively protest by making it even more obvious like other examples on here have mentioned.
    The Spoon
    Playing the super bowl half time show on the condition that they wouldn't be plugged in? Hell yeah, that is a once in a lifetime thing you don't pass up. They were totally honest about it too, I don't see why anyone is mad at them.
    Pretentious know it all fans who can't understand why a band would play unplugged for one song on the biggest stage in the USA. That is who. They don't get that it's one freaking song that they were honest about. The SB half time show is not about live music, it's about have a performance carry the energy throughout the intermission. It's funny because you don't see people complain about bands miming their music videos, yet I don't see how this is any different. It is not a real live performance, it is a show that lasts for 10 minutes between halves. The difference between this and pop stars is that performing/ acting like you are performing for a small bit is much different than routinely faking live performances.
    The Spoon
    I completely agree, it makes literally no sense why fans are suddenly "losing all respect" for a band because they mimed a song ONCE. They've been playing this damn song for years, everyone knows they can and do play it, yet suddenly one instance of not playing for real makes them fake sellouts. In the music business, if you only do things where you have to get everything you want and nothing less, you are not going to get very far and you'll miss out on a lot of experiences as well. RHCP had the opportunity to play the freaking super bowl. If you like football or not, you'd have to be stupid not to take that deal. Think of all the experience and exposure you gain from taking that deal. To throw it all away because you have to be a "tr00" musician is such a dumb teenager mentality. But yeah...I agree with everything you've said.
    "It's funny because you don't see people complain about bands miming their music videos, yet I don't see how this is any different." That is the most retarded comment I ever read on here.
    The fact that they didn't have their guitars plugged in is better than if they did. Obviously it wasn't their decision so its better to explain what happened instead of trying to hide it like a lot of other artists do.
    This is a very common thing. My guitar instructor did a performance with his band on an NBC show and he described that they went into a studio to record the instruments, but the vocalists actually sings live. Just a lot easier for everyone involved given that with a bunch of live instruments something could go wrong.
    Way Cool JR.
    Things can still go wrong even prerecorded. I would rather see something go wrong with a full live performance. That's what's so great about seeing live performances, anything can happen. When things go wrong when it's prerecorded the band usually just ends up looking like a bunch of fools. There's nothing worse than seeing people having to stop playing for some reason and the music just keeps playing like nothing's even happening. It just takes all the magic away from a live performance IMO. I would rather hear them on an off night with some screw-ups than a perfect recording just playing along with it. That's just the way I would prefer it.
    Yeah I'm not exactly promoting the concept... But sounds like they weren't given the choice. At least Anthony got to sing. I think it would be unfair for the other members to turn it down when Anthony can sing and they get to have some fun and free promotion. They're not doing this at their concerts, that's for sure. They're very talented musicians. That being said, they are a bunch of goofballs and it's cool they opted to not even put on wireless chords to prove a point that they were faking it. Not as good of an idea as Muse's prank, but pretty cool.
    The chance of failure of prerecorded is much less than the chance of failure in full live show. And this isn't just a concert the promoters are putting on, it's a full show as part of the Superbowl. Even a high school band concert can be complete madness to setup, so imagine running one of the most watched television events (I think it may be the most but I don't remember). The logistics are just really difficult to get the whole stage onto the field and a performance setup within minutes. I think it can be forgiven for things like this.
    When I was watching the performance, it did seem off to me. It didn't seem like Flea or Josh were actually playing their guitars to the song. They got up there and just started going crazy, like over the top to where it just didn't even seem real.
    Events like this shouldn't book bands who are well known for improvisation and generally being extremely musically talented if they're not allowed to play live. It's disrespectful, and the band are silly for allowing themselves to be treated like that. RCHP haven't been the same since Frusciante left, anyway.
    Please, RHCP weren't the same after Hillel died either, and mothers milk wasn't that great. Then along came BSSM, Californication, By the Way, Stadium Arcadium, all amazing albums. I'd take Im With You over Mothers Milk, and as Josh gets more comfortable with the band and himself, the albums will continue to be great.
    If they had reject to play , they would have been remembered as band that have lot of self-respect. (they would have been much more loved and respected by others)
    For everyone saying they didn't have a choice but to do this, of course they did, its called saying no, for the sake of your own artistic integrity. But money is more important.
    I think it's silly that they couldn'tjust play, but anyone who has seen the Chilis live knows that they certainly can jam all day. They could have improvised the whole set and still rocked! it doesn/t make me lose respect for RHCP, but...NFL... if you have the opportunity to have Red Hot Chili Peppers play for you, why on Earth wouldn't you let them jam it? Fuck the corporate world, beeyotch!
    I'm sorry but miming, lip syncing, etc. is never going to be acceptable. Regardless of the reason. You're a musician. Aside from it being your job and source of money, aren't musicians passionate enough about what they do to actually, you know, do it? Ridiculous.
    What didn't you understand about them not having a choice? This wasn't a concert, it was halftime entertainment.
    you just dont get it dude, the bowl thing is just a clown circus and they were offered the chance to play for 100 million people so why not have a little fun? plus they played only like 40 seconds so no big deal. They would never do this on live shows of course, so stop making a federal case out of something they couldn't even control.
    Excuse my scepticism but when he said "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" I think he meant: "we got offered a shed-load of money to pretend to play guitar for 5 minutes or so and seriously, who in their right mind would say no to that" Fair play, I'd do the same.
    Captain Insano
    The superbowl half time show is basicly like a live music video - it's not like a music video is fake because there not rEally playing it.
    I can't figure out why this is such a big deal! It's a halftime show for the Super Bowl...Not a real concert!
    yes, but its the fact that its on the biggest tv event in AMERICA. millions of people saw this, fans who were there went wild, then we find out it wasnt even legit.
    Springsteen had the best half time show! On topic though, I could care less that they weren't plugged in, because what was amazing was that Anthony Keidis was on. There's a lot of times where Anthony doesn't sound too hot, and we accept it, because he's Anthony Keidis and he's a cool mother****er. I mean, we know that Flea, Josh, and Chad are gonna kick ass regardless, it's good to see Anthony really tear it up.
    "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." That is very disturbing/dissapointing Flea.
    You realize he just meant fake it with a cord in his bass right? He clearly explained that they didn't have a choice; they had to prerecord it, which doesn't surprise me...I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL made every artist do this. Honestly, Flea's explanation does nothing but give me more respect for the chills. He was basically saying "I could have lied" and plugged in while playing to the backing track (sorry for the pun...had to), but the point remains the same. Flea and the rest of the band have enough respect for the music and fans to explain the situation. Props to them and regardless, that was one of the best halftimes in recent memory!
    Well I did misinterpret that... Thanks for clearing that up.I hate flip flopping but I was wrong. I understand the situation better now. Respect to RHCP.
    lol. how so?
    I was being a little over dramatic. But I just feel if you're going to perform "live". Play your instrument. They're up there because they're great musicians not dancers.
    It was going to be playback either way. I rather have them not plug in their instruments and pretend.
    Yea I was wrong and misinterpreted Flea. I thought he was saying they could have easily plugged in and played live. I see they still wanted to show people it wasn't live and still put on a good show. Then be straight up about it after.
    If it really was the NFL insisting that RHCP fake it because they didn't want to deal with sound issues, then that's the NFL not understanding the whole idea of "live entertainment." They might as well just play music through the goddamn stadium PA for a half hour and not bother with human beings at all. If it was RHCP deciding to phone it in, then I have even less respect for a band that I already had little to begin with. Either way, this whole event was BS.
    Grey Dread
    You're assuming the vocals were live. However, live music is what people were expecting to see. That wasn't live music.
    Disagree. People were expecting to see a Super Bowl Halftime Show. Which is exactly what they got.
    That means you DID jump around the stage pretending to play. What monkeys you are.
    Lame but they had to what if the temp was below zero or it was wet snow. Electronic equipment dosent perform its best in that weather.
    They should have pre-recorded the vocals also, because they really sucked.
    It's hilarious how everyone is super understanding of the lip syncing matter now and the NFL is to blame. In past years every single user here was giving the half time performers a hard time because of lip syncing and no excuse was enough for UG users. It's funny how things change. Just goes to show how most users here are just sheep full of shit.
    The realest thing to do? Uh how about actually play live. I get its a big opportunity but now theyre getting called out on it.
    Emperor's Child
    They could've done a Muse...Muse - Sing For Absolution Live (or not)
    I thought the WHOLE SHOW was just stupid. A few things made no sense: A.) why the hell was bruno mars headlining? why not the chilli peppers? -1 for the nfl. B.) why is the nfl not letting the performs perform? seriously? was bruno's band even plugged in? C.) none of it made sense, not one full song was played, just bleh.
    Rebel Scum
    Ha, I knew they couldn't be playing live after seeing how far Josh was playing his guitar whilst thrashing it about wildly and not missing a note. If you believed that amount of skill you'd think he's the second coming of Jimi.
    I have a feeling that this, plus the fact that Flea didn't have his bass plugged in at all tells me that they wanted to show people that it wasn't a live performance, almost none of the artists that have played halftime have done it live, so I hope this brings a lot of clarification to people who never knew about it before.
    I pooped