Photo: Courtesy of The NFL/Todd Rosenberg.
So, it's highly/totally likely that the Red Hot Chili Peppers weren't playing their instruments during the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show. Critics have been voicing their opinion on whether or not the band was actually playing live — or acting to a backing track.
USA Today did a mini-photo investigation comparing pictures of RHCP's Flea and Josh Klinghoffer from the Super Bowl and their previous "live" performances. It doesn't take a keen eye to notice the lack-of-jack in either of the band member's guitars at the Super Bowl. Though no explanation or "statement" has been issued, it's likely the band was concerned with playing their instruments in the cold weather (the same thing Yo-Yo Ma faced during President Obama's second inauguration.)
It's also possible (this is something we'd buy over the former reason) that the band was making a commentary on the performative act of it all. Does it matter whether or not they were playing live when the music was enjoyed by a record number of people? It raises questions over what's more important: the image of the artist or the art of the artist. At the end of it all, they, along with Bruno Mars, put on an electric and memorable show. We already know Flea is a guitar god. Although, the least they could've done is humor the detail-oriented eyes out there and plugged-in without actually turning the instruments on. (USA Today)