Debate over the Red Hot Chili Peppers "unplugged" controversy has been simmering for the past few days following the Super Bowl. It intensified when Flea confirmed that only the band's vocals were performed live, and the rest was pre-recorded. Folks were understandably upset, but when it comes to events like this, can you really expect anything authentic about the music?
After all, the halftime show is meant to be a spectacle, an extravagant performance piece designed to appeal to the most people, offend the fewest and last less than fifteen minutes. There is no time for a sound check. It is tightly controlled both to ensure a speedy, flawless performance and to prevent any, uh, wardrobe malfunctions. Given that, you should just assume that even vocals are pre-recorded.
Regardless, if the Peppers could have played the entire halftime show live, non-conventional settings like the Super Bowl -- or even awards shows -- aren't always conducive to great live performance. Take the 1995 VMAs, for example, where a winded Rob Zombie, whose vocals were live, could barely keep up with his band, which was presumably playing live -- not that White Zombie would ever be chosen to play at a Super Bowl halftime show.
In reality, this event is clearly made to appeal to fans of mega-popular artists who likely lip synch or otherwise fake their live performances. Anyone who is disillusioned by the fact that Flea was not actually plugged in should reevaluate their expectations.
In his response to fan criticism, Flea emphasizes that "The Red Hot Chili Peppers stance on any sort of miming has been that we will absolutely not do it," but he justifies a Super Bowl exception with live vocals: "It seemed like the realest thing to do in the circumstance. It was like making a music video in front of a gazillion people."
Given that sort of logic, that must mean that world air guitar champions should probably be considered among the "realest" musicians on earth. Flea and the Peppers -- a band that once declined to license its music to Glee -- would have been better off simply saying, "We wanted to play the Super Bowl. Fuck off," don't you think?