Last month, Red Hot Chili Peppers released Eddie, a lyrical and guitar tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen. The band played the single for the first time at Austin City Limits last night (October 9) – and live footage of the performance shows John Frusciante delivering one of the most technical and emotional guitar solos of his career.
Eddie was already one of the strongest new musical offerings from the band since Frusciante returned to the fold, but Sunday evening’s performance took the track to new heights.
While the songs’s composition nod to the band’s more mellow By the Way offerings, Frusciante takes heed of frontman Anthony Kiedis’s lyrical tribute and channels the more virtuosic, altogether more EVH side of his playing for his leads, whose virtuosity hark back to his debut with the Chili Peppers on 1989’s Mother’s Milk.
His first solo drops at 2:50 in the video below, opening with a blinding two-hand tapping sequence, followed by whammy bar dives and some typically lyrical pentatonic phrases.
From then on, the rest of the track is pretty much one continuous Frusciante showcase, with variations on the track’s melancholy theme followed by a barn-storming concluding solo.
Everything in the Frusciante arsenal gets a showing here, but the energy and fire is upped to 11: these are undoubtedly some of the fastest pentatonic runs of Frusciante’s career, while the tapping sequences – both legato and tapped bends – are relatively unexplored territory for the guitar hero. In short, it’s one of Frusciante’s most memorable live solos, and a worthy tribute to Van Halen.
Frusciante discussed EVH’s influence on his approach to new Red Hot Chili Peppers material in an in-depth interview with Total Guitar earlier this year.
“I really love guitar players like Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen for the way that they could make the instrument explode through hand and whammy bar techniques,” he said. “But I also really like the way people like Greg Ginn or Kurt Cobain play without it being so much about technique – although there are all kinds of unconventional techniques in there – but the focus is definitely a more visceral thing.
“Eventually, by the time we were recording, my concept was to find a bridge between those two conceptions of the instrument: that idea of making it explode with the electricity of the human energy that comes through the strings.”
Upon the track’s release, Anthony Kiedis shared the inspiration behind the writing of Eddie.
“Sometimes we don’t realize how deeply affected and connected we are to artists until the day they die,” he explained. “Eddie Van Halen was a one of a kind.
“The day after his death Flea came into rehearsal with an emotional bassline,” he continued. “John, Chad and I started playing along and pretty soon with all our hearts, a song in his honor effortlessly unfolded.
“It felt good to be sad and care so much about a person who had given so much to our lives. Although the song doesn’t speak to Eddie by name, it talks about his early days on the Sunset Strip and the rock ’n’ roll tapestry that Van Halen painted on our minds.
“In the end, our song asks that you not remember Eddie for dying but for living his wildest dream.”
Eddie is taken from Return of the Dream Canteen, RHCP’s second album with Frusciante back in the fold, and their second of 2022, following Unlimited Love, which dropped in April.
Return of the Dream Canteen arrives on October 14 via Warner Records.