Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea played air bass, was unplugged (Photo)

Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist Anthony Kiedis perform during the Super Bowl XLVIII half time show at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Hot Chili Peppers joined Bruno Mars on stage during the halftime show of Super Bowl XLVIII performing their hit single “Give It Away.” While we’ve seen live singers at televised events “lip sync” it is generally believed that musicians are actually playing their instruments. RHCP bass player Michael “Flea” Balzary was “playing bass” during the show even though his guitar wasn’t even plugged in. The other guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, didn’t appear to have his instrument plugged in either.

flea bass

For those questioning whether it was a built in wireless transmitter, here is Flea playing the same guitar less than a month ago. Flea was playing the National Anthem at a UCLA Bruins basketball game and as you can see, the guitar is plugged in.

Jan 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea plays the National Anthem before the game between the UCLA Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats at Pauley Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Below you can see guitarist Klinghoffer’s guitar. This is the best angle our database has, but here is a close up.

Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Recording artist Bruno Mars performs with the Red Hot Chili Peppers during the during the half time show in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

[UPDATE:] An article from Firago Music pointed out this interaction between a fan and Flea:

 

[UPDATE:] Flea confirms Red Hot Chili Peppers didn’t have guitars plugged in at Super Bowl halftime show in letter to fans

Topics: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Super Bowl

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  • Andrew Foley

    Wireless amps…look it up guys…

    • geeksandgears

      You have to have a wireless transmitter plugged into the 3/4″ jack in order for a wireless amp to work… look it up.

      • Jarrett Lewis

        Internal wireless units exist :) Sorry, buddy.

        • geeksandgears

          I can’t seem to find these ANYWHERE other than DIY taking apart a normal system and installing it manually. It doesn’t matter, either way, because instruments have been pre-recorded at the Super Bowl for quite awhile now.

        • standardsdt

          None exist, I already tried looking them up buddy. Flea does not own one buddy. Oh and buddy that bass is the same exact bass he played at a show on Saturday and guess what? He had a wireless pack plugged in buddy!

          • Scott Green

            eat your words sucka

          • standardsdt

            That’s custom made number one. Number two again as my link shows Flea’s Bass does NOT have it sucka!

          • Whiners.

            Taking into account how many the-same-looking-basses flea definitely owns, I would not assume it’s always the same bass nor that all of them have the exact same stuff.

          • Brandon

            Yyyyyyeah…if Ben Weinman has one do you really think Flea doesn’t have the capabilities and resources to make the same thing happen? Is Ben Weinman a bigger name than Flea all of a sudden?

          • standardsdt

            Flea confirmed he was forced to go unplugged. I never said Flea doesn’t have the capabilities. I said he flat out doesn’t have one made for himself. He is always plugged into a wireless pack.

            https://twitter.com/flea333/statuses/430535925550952449

          • Brandon

            I get that, not saying he used one at the Super Bowl, I’m just saying it’s a bit presumptuous to assume he FOR SURE NOT A CHANCE NO QUESTION DOESN’T HAVE ONE, I know you’re a close personal friend of his but I wouldn’t be surprised if he has rooms full of gear that even you didn’t know he had. even if an artist has endorsements it’s very naive to think that other companies don’t approach them with cool little things for them to try out that they’re not promoting. I talked to Tosin Abasi a few years back when he was playing a guitar that wasn’t his signature Ibanez, just because it was cool. He’s an artist, he’s gonna enjoy new gear no matter where it comes from. He just can’t talk about it.

          • Nathaniel Corning

            how can you say they dont exist? the comment above you litterally posted a video of someone demoing one and explaining it…

          • standardsdt

            And if you re-read my comment I said in reply to that comment, that it was custom made. So at retail they do not exist. Besides Flea confirmed that he was forced to not plug in and to fake it.

            https://twitter.com/flea333/statuses/430535925550952449

        • Rod Simpkins

          Please enlighten me as to where i can get an internal wireless sistem… I’m a touring pro bass player… I would love to know.

          • Rod Simpkins

            Post a link to some ..ANY… manufacturer that makes them…
            and WHY would he not use it ‘all’ of the time… In every single live shot i have pulled up… he has a transmitter pack on… or a cord… coincidence?

          • Vikram Shankar

            It’s a DIY solution but quite easily done. Check out Ben Weinman of the Dillinger Escape Plan.

          • Rod Simpkins

            The only problem i have with that…is Ben is using a prototype that is not in production… on a signature guitar that was made specially for him…and as far as i can tell, a one of a kind… and Flea is endorsed by a wireless company that does not make internal systems they would frown on him using a different system on such a high profile show as the Superbowl…and not only that… he uses wireless packs in every other situation in his life…and on every single live show that you can find… right up to a couple days before the Superbowl…with that same bass.

            It’s more then likely that in the biggest known Lip syncing show on earth… that the music would be canned and not live. He was an actor that day…not a musician. with that said… he still stands as one of the baddest dudes to ever pic up a bass.

          • http://www.TomMatz.com/ Tom Matz

            I actually took apart one of my old Samson wireless’s in 1985 and re-built it inside of one of my old Charvels. I added an on/off switch on the front of the guitar to save the battery. It worked well, and at gigs I start with a cable (even though it did nothing), then pull it out in the middle of a song and keep playing. It was a cool idea, but limited the range slightly and I couldn’t see the status. I use packs on my straps now.

          • David Fischer

            What was cool about having a cable in your instrument that did nothing ? As a semi pro musician, I am very curios…

          • http://www.TomMatz.com/ Tom Matz

            Back in the 80′s it was just fun, and NOBODY used a built in wireless. One of the 1st songs, I’d get into a solo in front. Stop, rip the cord out and then keep playing. Freak people out a bit, just in good stage fun.

          • Mike

            FINALLY somebody who sounds like they know what they’re talking about! hat’s off to you sir :)

          • Jarrett Lewis

            Ben uses the same old Line 6 system everyone else does.

          • Vikram Shankar

            I’m well aware that at least the musical backdrop at the Super Bowl is canned. I was just pointing out that it is possible to do internal wireless routing – and Ben’s not the only one to have done so.

          • Guest

            Internal wireless systems, at this point, are not on the market. It’s a custom thing. If you’ve got a wireless system and know a bit about electrical work you could figure it out.

    • standardsdt

      Except there was no wireless pack plugged into the input jack. That is the only way you can get an audio signal from the Bass or Guitar to the amps.

    • jonathan

      You still have to have a wireless unit connected to the jack.

    • TrollStomperBoots

      It’s not a “wireless amp” but a wireless receiver you’re referring to and guess what? The t-r-a-n-s-m-i-t-t-e-r needs to be plugged into a source. IE: Bass or guitar.
      They frauded.
      Big time.

      • Chad Koza

        This is Ben Weinman’s signature guitar. It has a built in wireless system in which there is an input jack INSIDE the guitar in which the transmitter is plugged into. It also has an EXTERNAL input jack, so you can ALSO play it with an instrument cable if he chooses to do so. Not saying they didn’t fraud, but the completely wireless system does exist.

        • cb19

          Good video, thanks for that. The only issue is that he is using a hollow body guitar with a custom set up. Flea’s bass is not hollow and all the electronics inside are not easily accessible by just cutting a hole in the back, it would need to be completely rewired or a series of compartments cut into it for the wiring and could affect the sound of the bass. I have yet to find an off the shelf internal wireless system and at this point don’t see the advantage of one, only negatives, so why use one?

    • Jeff Isles

      They have built in wireless units now that don’t plug into the jack. You can’t see them. That said, he is probably playing to a track. So what.

  • Randal Sanden Jr.

    RHCP were actually holograms onstage, they all died in a plane crash in 2003.

    • http://www.rtwholesale.com/ Star Carlton

      I saw John Frusciante the other day – he was “naked in the rain” – and he ran “under the bridge” to seek “Higher Ground”

    • Randal Sanden Jr.

      audio made for tv,
      It’s still them on the recorded tracks, it’s not like flea had someone else play his part and then he’s just air jammin….

  • Alice Fish

    Flea’s custom basses are modified to have a second battery compartment attached to an internal wireless that is nothing more than a small board inside the bass that broadcasts at the signal his wireless receiver is hooked to. It’s pretty common.

    • holo

      That second battery compartment is called “active pickups”. Your “common” must be from the future. I’m not one to be argumentative, but making up things to which you don’t have a clue to, is called BS/lying.

      • Mike

        she’s a chick, cut her some slack…engineering and advanced design skills aren’t usually their strong suit

    • cb19

      so common that I’ve never seen or heard of one in my 25 years of playing bass professionally…

    • Rod Simpkins

      nothing common about that… the only units available are something that people fabricate themselves… I just came back from the NAMM show this past week in LA… i saw NO wirless manufacturer or guitar manufacturer promoting an internal wireless system. NONE.
      NAMM is the premier equipment show in the world… every major musician was there working for there endorsements…I was there working for mine as well… it’s not open to the public. if there was such a device (and i do think it’s a good idea) it would have been everywhere…. I didn’t see a single performer using such a thing…and nobody selling them…it’s most deff NOT common.

    • David Fischer

      Those cheap Chinese basses don’t have built in wireless systems

  • Amber James

    There are photos from the night before, same bass, and it’s plugged in….proof their performance was backed by a track…

    • Jeff Isles

      I am a weekend warrior and I have SEVERAL basses, two of which are identical. You don’t think Flea has about 10 of HIS signature model that look like this and have small difference? That said, OF COURSE THEY ARE PLAYING TO A TRACK. You idiots, it is a 5 minute show. Did you expect them to bring in an entire live performance truck and go through all the hassle of mixing a live performance in a giant venue for TV when they can put a cd in the player and call it a day?

      • Wade Andrews

        Finally! someone who gets it. Kudos to you bro.

      • Chad Koza

        Wait…so they brought and used their gear for sound check the day before, but didn’t use it for the actual halftime show?

        • Brandon

          I believe they usually record the rehearsal and play it back when they do the live show. Makes it more believable than if they had just played the album track or something like that.

      • David Fischer

        Ummmm…ya bro! That’s kinda the whole point of a LIVE performance!

    • Whiners.

      Not necessarily the same bass though. Same look, another model.

  • Larry Bates

    Just a question. .. Could they have done that due to sound issues in a venue that large?

    • ADWheeler

      YES!! Larry gets it!!

    • Greg Donald

      A good sound engineer can tune the speaker delay to ANY size venue. That’s kind of their job to know how to do that from one show/venue to the next.

      • Guest

        While you are correct..there is NOT enough time at the superbowl to wheel in the required equipment to fill the stadium. Think before you open your mouth.

        • kill the illusion

          then dont show live music! there is no excuses for this

          • jacob

            agreed what a joke the sound engineer and the air band shame on booth of you loooosers

        • jacob

          uuuum what

        • David Fischer

          Then why do it? I bet Paul McCartney actually played. And by your logic I suppose you think everyone bs’d Woodstock too huh? Jackass

          • Brandon

            Pretty sure Prince lip synced…didn’t make “Purple Rain” IN THE RAIN any less epic.

        • Brandon

          …and that’s…just….stupid.

  • corey kime

    Josh, the guitarist CLEARLY has a wireless system, you can see the stub plugged into his guitar and the batteryback on the back of his strap. Flea does not. BUT the bass he plays,the Modulus, was his signature bass and some of them have a wireless unit built in the back of the bass itself because Flea is very anti instrument chord. I played his signature bass at Mannys in NYC, The Modulus Flea bass.

    • Shane Saiyan

      That’s a tremolo bar laying across the jack on the guitar, not the output from a wireless transmitter.

    • David Fischer

      Flea is not Anti cord he is almost always plugged in as should anyone of his caliber should be. He’s above that bullshit. Wireless sucks I don’t even know what to say about signaless LoL

      • Brandon

        Not the Line 6 wireless, if you can hear signal loss I guess I need to get my ears checked.

        • David Fischer

          not loss so much as cloration

        • hawginTN

          Maybe you need to get your ears checked. Line 6 is well below standard for a touring artist. And most professional bass players still use a cable as it accurately passes low frequency better than even the best wireless systems do.

          • Brandon

            You’ve tried the G50? I’m NOT a Line 6 fan, never have been, but I tried out a friend’s G50 and was honestly blown away. It’s the first product from Line 6 that I’ve actually been impressed by. I used to use a nice Sennheiser system back in the day when I was in a touring band, and it was pretty organic and natural, but it added a bit of coloring that honestly never really bothered me. I always preferred a cable, but sometimes if you’re on a stage big enough it’s really beneficial to have that freedom to move around. Same goes for small stages, if you’ve got a lot of people crammed into a small space, not tripping over your cable is nice. I tried out the G50 on someone else’s gear, compared it back to back with a regular 15′ instrument cable, and the difference was so minimal that, on stage with other musicians I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I know my tone and know when it’s compromised. I plan on getting the G50 pretty soon so I’ll be able to actually give it a real test, but I have seen many touring artists using it these days. Between The Buried And Me & Kenny Wayne Shepherd have Rig Rundown videos showing that they use them. I played with Periphery recently and they were all using them, though I think they might have been the G90′s or something. To each his own, obviously, if you prefer a cable then use a cable. I’m fine either way.

    • Aaron Guerrieri

      CLEARLY, you are wrong as the bassist confirmed it on twitter when asked about it that he wasn’t plugged in or had a wireless set up. He said it wasn’t his idea it was the producers. So CLEARLY you just wanted this to not be true and CLEARLY just imagined seeing some kind of wireless system on his strap that didn’t exist.

  • Mike

    his phony guitar playing was as pathetic as that fake horn section in Bruno Mars’ first song…the trumpet, sax, and trombone weren’t even playing their instruments live, or even ATTEMPTING to make it look or sound like they were :( what a fraud

  • Nathaniel Corning

    Has anyone even bothered to use their ears? everyone is so keen to hop on the fact that their is no chord….but give the bass a damn listen, he plays it differently then on the album! not only does he change the bass line a little but he adds fills in different spots. and also if any of you actually play the bass and know how to play this song, he’s clearly playing it. so either way, the talent is there.

    • David Fischer

      except he wasn’t playing it live! Who gives a f#ck who was dancing around holding a bass if they’re not actually playing it?

      • Nathaniel Corning

        im almost positive he was playing it live. if you watch his fingers at the parts that are different than on the album, it matches what your hearing live. unless he recorded this bass part before hand and memorized where he added parts and improvised….but i dont think thats very likely. its 2014, transmitting signals is no daunting task by any means..

        • Brandon

          Actually man, that’s exactly what happened. At the Super Bowl, they have rehearsals, and they record the rehearsals. They’ve done this for a long time now. Watch Prince’s performance a few years back. All he had to do is remember exactly what he played at the rehearsal, which is what any band has to do when they shoot a music video. Parts always change from the recording stages, just watch any band live and you’ll notice differences from the album versions of songs.

  • Whiners.

    Would faking it make it better? lol.

  • Matt

    It is not “generally believed that musicians are actually playing their instruments.” Not when it comes to the Super Bowl. Not for a while now.

    http://m.spin.com/articles/springsteen-used-recorded-tracks-super-bowl/

    And to those saying “a good sound engineer could make it work.” Yes, they probably could if nothing went wrong. But when it’s the biggest TV event of the year with millions watching they don’t take any chances. Not to mention the fact the logistics of getting good sound with only five minutes to set up are difficult, even if you’ve set levels hours before during a dress rehearsal.

    I hate it, because I want to see musicians perform, but it is what it is. And it’s nothing new.

    • David Fischer

      It’s bullshit!

  • Brian Edward Fisher V

    Who cares

  • Steve

    I get that they were not playing live, that doesn’t surprise me, its hard to get everything wired and mic’d up right for only one song, its a bit of a hassle just for that…

    My only question is why didnt they at least have a wireless transmitter or an actual cable plugged into their guitars to at least fake the look?

    • Zeyn1111

      Exactly!!! Cause they didn’t fake anything I bet!

  • sa0sin16

    Flea has got nothing to prove,, he’s a bass god whether it’s unplugged or not. Unlike that guy from One Direction who plays unplugged guitar.
    http://www.rockmetalnews.com/2014/02/flea-unplugged-bass-at-superbowl.html

  • Ezmi Talamantez

    So what! He’s talented! Bottom line..you are at home eating nachos and watching it and their at the superbowl performing. Get a life!

    • David Fischer

      Except that whole part where he wasn’t actually performing. Get a clue!

  • Ezmi Talamantez

    *They are (thought I would correct myself before the grammar nazi’s invade my post)

  • Chris

    oh wah wah… they didn’t do it 100% live, who gives a you know what… they we’re on stage, rocking the superbowl with their own music, who cares what’s live and what’s prerecorded, it was awesome regardless and Flea is still the shiz. ;)~

    • David Fischer

      What’s Awesome about dancing around and NOT playing music? I did that when I mopped my kitchen yesterday. Give me a Effin grammy!

  • Morbid

    ROCK IS
    GAY

  • EL BURNA

    the best thing you can do folks is to watch their previous live performances and try to observe their instruments being plugged of not…and how they’ve sounded then go back and watch their performance during super bowl halftime..

  • mick

    i have installed internal wireless transmitters into guitars. the jack is there in case you get a flat battery you can quickly use a lead.

    next time you put a new battery in your wireless transmitter have a look at how much room you need for just the circuit board.

    i would investigate this more before making judgment.

    standard transmitter would require the area of a cigarette packet and about 1cm deep routed into the back of the body of a guitar. then a separate spot for a battery holder. not very hard at all. 50% of guitars already have enough room without routing.

  • mick

    i have installed internal wireless transmitters into guitars. the jack is there in case you get a flat battery you can quickly use a lead.

    next time you put a new battery in your wireless transmitter have a look at how much room you need for just the circuit board.

    i would investigate this more before making judgment.

    standard transmitter would require the area of a cigarette packet and about 1cm deep routed into the back of the body of a guitar. then a separate spot for a battery holder. not very hard at all. 50% of guitars already have enough room without routing.

    • David Fischer

      Then why does he (on the rare occasion that he goes wireless) have battery packs and transmitters on his strap all other times like the other 99% of musicians do when they go wireless?

  • Dave Underwood

    RCHP? Really?! Brilliant writing,…

  • Ian Miles

    According to Flea they had ‘no choice’ props to him to alerting us all http://firagomusic.com/blog/2014/2/3/the-red-hot-chili-peppers-had-no-choice-but-to-run-tracks-at-the-super-bowl

  • David

    I don’t want to live on this planet any more.

  • Chaeya Robles

    How dumb. Flea’s a badass bass player. It most likely wasn’t their call and there probably were sound issues or some technicality happened where they couldn’t pull it off and opted for backing tracks. Stop making a big deal over nothing and the silly “feeling lied to posts.” Flea doesn’t control the Super Bowl, and you have other higher ups who may not have wanted live music. Most of the old music shows from back in the day where all musical performances had to be done with backing tracks. I don’t care who and what band did it live before, it isn’t the same people every year and it isn’t in the same place every year. These guys aren’t less talented for it. Now, If it were a real concert then okay, but not the flippin’ Super Bowl that’s all about the game.

    • David Fischer

      talented or not what difference does it make if
      they’re not actually playing? I don’t think it takes much talent to NOT play music!

      • Brandon

        You seem personally hurt by all this. Honestly, look at it logically: there is no way it was their call to play to a track. Why would they choose to do that when it’s something that, to my knowledge, has NEVER happened in their 30+ year careers? At this point it’s expected that Super Bowl acts play to a track. They rehearse, lay down the rehearsal, then play to it at the actual event. If you were offered to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show, but the only stipulation is you have to play to a rehearsal track, you’re telling me your “artistic integrity” won’t allow you to do so? That has less to do with artistry than just being a stubborn jackass, I feel.

        See “Inside Llewyn Davis” for more info.

  • c_h_u_c_k

    Slash in the video of November Rain, anyone? ;-]

  • jacob

    what a disgrace to the music industry first a air band then someone payed someone not to do sound at a show that a real band was supposed to show up and play at . if you can’t find a sound engieneer to do real sound at a show don’t hire a band to come . ill never ever support the peppers again after this what a joke . if your not playing get off the stage .

  • Gary Briggs

    maybe he was using something high tech like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGwDaOJLSS4

  • Gary Briggs

  • Gary Briggs

    could have done a custom job like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGwDaOJLSS4

  • Gary Briggs

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGwDaOJLSS4 Oh look, A wireless internal system

  • Gary Briggs

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGwDaOJLSS4 What do ya know? A custom internal wireless guitar… it is NOT impossible

  • Nick Altadonna

    Their sound Engineer is Dave Ratt, who was present at the half-time show. He is a very well renowned engineer, one of the best in the biz actually. I would be sad to hear this is true.

  • Brandon

    I feel like Flea’s tweet kinda sums it up, but still…the UCLA picture doesn’t really prove anything because he’s close enough to his amp that he doesn’t need a wireless unit, hence why the cable runs from his bass to the amp and not to a pack. A guitar with a built in wireless would still have the capability to be plugged in directly.

  • Guest

    Jesus who cares if they played to a track….what do you think a music video is??

  • Greg Hodges

    So did the drummer actually play or was that fake as well? Serious question

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