Chad Smith ditches drums for guitar during Eddie Vedder show – and ticks off every guitar hero trick in the book

Chad Smith and Eddie Vedder
(Image credit: Jim Bennett/Getty Images)

During his time with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chad Smith has cemented his legacy as one of rock's finest-ever drummers. However, if things had played out differently – and if a young Smith had picked up an electric guitar instead of the drumsticks – we’d wager he’d have gone on to become a fairly successful six-string showman.

Why’s that, you ask? Well, during a recent show on Eddie Vedder’s Earthling tour, Smith briefly picked up bandmate Josh Klinghoffer’s Gibson Les Paul towards the end of an encore rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World, leaving Klinghoffer to assume duties behind the kit.

And while his technical chops may not quite stand up to scrutiny, his onstage antics and raucous crowd-rousing escapades were certainly a sight to behold. 

The impromptu instrument exchange took place during the band's show at Benaroya Hall on Tuesday evening (February 22), footage of which you can find below.

Credit where credit is due, Smith did manage his way round some basic chord shapes, though the real ingenuity of his six-string cameo came from the flawless stage moves and his spectacular hijinks.

Dragged to the front of the crowd by a Gibson SG-wielding Andrew Watt, the RHCP drummer swaggered and sauntered around the stage, utilizing an inch-perfect rock power pose before enacting some seamless back-to-back action with a Fender Jaguar-toting Glen Hansard.

There was also a nod to AC/DC’s crowd conductor extraordinaire Angus Young, with a smooth, hunched-over glide along the perimeter of the stage mere inches away from the front-row spectators.

As we say, Smith’s sensational showing was more style than substance – so much so that when he tried to act the part and stomp on Klinghoffer’s pedalboard, he got mixed up and started stamping on Glen Hansard’s instead.

“I was lucky to be there,” said one commenter. “It was hilarious. Chad and Josh switched instruments towards the end of the song. Josh really rocks on the drums… Chad not as much on the guitar.

“He even stepped on Hansard’s pedals towards the end, thinking it was Josh’s pedalboard.”

Smith, Vedder and Klinghoffer are in the midst of Vedder’s current tour supporting the Pearl Jam legend’s recent solo album, Earthling. The all-star trio are on the road with a squad of A-list collaborators, including guitarist/super-producer Andrew Watt, Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney and singer-songwriter Glen Hansard.

At the Earthling band’s opening shows, they covered some of rock’s greatest hits, including the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun, Prince’s Purple Rain and Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower.

The band will next be in action tonight (February 25) at The YouTube Theater in Los Angeles, tickets for which are available via Pearl Jam's website.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.