John Frusciante took to the stage with the Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time in almost 15 years on Friday night (April 1) – well, three stages, to be precise, with two TV appearances and a secret gig, which showcased two new pedalboards.
First up was a pair of performances on The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, during which the band tackled These Are the Ways and Black Summer, both of which are taken from new album Unlimited Love, released the same day.
For these single-song run-throughs, Frusciante employed a pedalboard that was noticeably stripped down compared with the infamous stage-dominating offerings associated with his previous RHCP tenure.
The bare-essentials rig included an MXR Super Badass Variac Fuzz, MXR Reverb, Boss DS-2 Distortion and SD-1 Overdrive (the latter branded with a QOTSA sticker, curiously enough), as well as his trademark Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble. A Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor and TU-3 Chromatic Tuner also cropped up, as well as the Ibanez WH10V3 wah pedal.
In an upcoming interview with this writer, Frusciante confirmed several of these pedals were used during the recording of Unlimited Love, with the Variac Fuzz providing the bulk of the record’s fuzz sounds, while the DS-2 was behind many of the Strat-into-Marshall distorted tones.
However, normal pedalboard service resumed for a secret album release show held that same evening at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles, during which Frusciante busted out a mammoth new pedal setup that recalled his epic rig at Slane Castle.
A candid snap of his pedalboard has been itemized by Instagram account jfgear, which lists a number of off-the-shelf stompboxes new to the guitarist’s rig.
These include the likes of the Boss DD-500 and Dunlop Echoplex, along with a wealth of MXR offerings, including the Carbon Copy, Phase 90, Dyna Comp, Micro Amp, Six Band EQ, Flanger, two Reverbs and the aforementioned Super Badass Variac Fuzz. There are a couple of discontinued cult classics onboard, too, including the Boss XT-2 Xtortion and the DigiTech PDS 1002.
Given Frusciante used a number of vintage digital delay units during Unlimited Love’s recording, the DigiTech is likely employed to emulate these sounds. The Six Band EQ, meanwhile, serves to balance out the EQ levels between his Strats’ bridge and neck pickups – much of the guitarist’s earlier material with the Chili Peppers is played using the bridge pickup, while the neck was employed for nearly all of Unlimited Love’s tones.
Otherwise, Frusciante’s rig was consistent with his usual RHCP setup, including his tried-and-trusted ’62 Sunburst, ’61 Fiesta Red and ’63 Olympic White Strats, as well as Marshall Silver Jubilee and Major stacks.
The band’s setlist for the Fonda Theatre show played host to a number of Chilis classics, including Snow ((Hey Oh)), Suck My Kiss and Can’t Stop, as well as live debuts of Here Ever After, Aquatic Mouth Dance and Not the One.
During all three of Friday’s performances, drummer Chad Smith paid tribute to late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins with bass drum skins bearing the word ‘Taylor’.
While Frusciante had previously played a private memorial show with the band back in February 2020, Friday’s trio of performances mark his first public gigs since rejoining the funk-rock icons in December 2019.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are due to begin their world tour in June, continuing through September. You can check out the full setlist from their Fonda Theatre show below:
- These Are the Ways
- Snow ((Hey Oh))
- Here Ever After
- Suck My Kiss
- Aquatic Mouth Dance
- Can’t Stop
- Your Song (Elton John cover) (John Frusciante solo)
- Not the One
- Black Summer
- By the Way
- Give It Away (with George Clinton)