NEWS- Wish you were {t}here- Red Hot Chili Peppers, John Paul Jones Arena, January 26

Red Hot Chili Peppers are rock 'n roll Peter Pans. Although all their members are in their 40s, their set at John Paul Jones Arena on January 26 screamed above all else, "I won't grow up!" But like the dagger Peter Pan uses to battle pirates, the Chili Peppers' perpetual youth is a weapon that cuts both ways.

On the one hand, high energy, jump-out-of-your-seat moments were plentiful. "Parallel Universe," featuring a downright Hendrix-esque solo from guitarist John Frusciante, achieved an intensity beyond anything imaginable from listening to the original version on  Californication.

"Me and My Friends," anchored by furious drumming from Chad Smith, was played with the kind of exuberance that showed why the Chili Peppers are the only band who can get away with an album title like The Uplift Mofo Party Plan. And while the Rolling Stones rarely play "Star Star" anymore, and you'll never hear "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" at a Paul McCartney concert, lead singer Anthony Kiedis delivered the lyrics to "Sir Psycho Sexy" with all the unapologetic raunch that made it one of the most fun tracks on BloodSugarSexMagik in 1991. 

But the trouble with a band that never grows up is that they treat an audience of nearly 16,000 the same as they would 100 or so friends at a California house party. With the exception of bassist Flea and his famously indefatigable jumps and gyrations, the Peppers lacked the kind of showmanship that can hold an arena audience's attention for two-and-a-half hours. 

The band opened with an unrecognizable and long-winded jam session until Kiedis deigned to join them onstage, and closed similarly when Kiedis decided to cut out early.

Frusciante did his best to fill long pauses between numbers with various noodlings and on-the-spot covers of Syd Barrett and Janis Joplin. 

And when Kiedis wasn't absent for a five-minute break of his own, he actually sat cross-legged in the middle of the stage looking bored while Frusciante and Flea vamped in Smith's sudden absence 90 minutes into the show. 

The root of both the highest highs and yawn-worthy lows is the freewheeling nature of the Chili Peppers' live delivery. True, the band shows an exuberance befitting a band half their age, but like a band in their 20s, they also appear to be unsure of how much navel-gazing an audience this big will tolerate. Hopefully, the next time they play JPJ, the Chili Peppers will use their loosey-goosey format to quickly change gears when they see fans aren't feeling so Red Hot.