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The Red Hot Chili Peppers are known for being an amazing live band. They always play live and refuse to mime for TV performances. The last time they were asked to mime, for the BBC's Top of the Pops in the late 1980s, they mimed so badly in rehearsal they were thrown off the show.
So why would they mime for the Super Bowl? Well, bass player Flea gives an excellent explanation here...
Given that this is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play at one of the world's most prestigious sporting events, I fully accept Flea's explanation that it was the right thing for them to do. The singing was live by the way, so that is at least a crumb of comfort.
The reason for why they were not allowed to play live by the NFL is something that I find truly shocking. According to Flea, "The NFL does not want to risk their show being botched by bad sound, period."
Since the Super Bowl is such a prestigious event, it is fair to assume that they could have had access to the best live sound engineers in the world. And apparently even the best live sound engineers in the world can't be trusted not to botch the job!
I for one don't believe this for a moment. Granted, things do go wrong with sound. Things can go wrong with anything. The NFL trusted the architects and engineers who designed the stadium that it wouldn't fall down during the game. They trusted the security company that the crowd would be handled safely. They trusted the grounds crew to prepare the field properly. They trusted the lighting technicians to illuminate the game. They trusted broadcasters (including their sound engineers and technicians) to beam the game to the world.
Anything could have gone wrong with anything during the game, but the only people they didn't trust to get things right were the live sound engineers. Apparently all they could be trusted to handle were the live vocal mics and playback of the backing track.
Anyone who cares about sound should be absolutely horrified at what has happened here. I am. I just wish there was something I could do about it.