More often than not, when a member of a platinum selling, world-famous rock band goes on a solo jaunt, the adoring audience will be served up a night of “Spinal Tapisms” - that is to say a less-than-healthy portion of self-indulgent jamming, a side serving of rock posturing, and an extended avant-garde prog workout for afters.
Not so, however, with Red Hot Chili Peppers six-stringer John Frusciante, currently in Europe promoting his new solo album, To Record Only Water For Ten Days.
During the course of his ninety minute gig (and armed only with an electro-acoustic guitar, song book and vocal reverb unit), the man filled the packed-out Borderline with an amazing intimacy and charm, making every audience member his best friend in the process. And not a Jazz Odyssey in sight.
Hitting the stage on this, his second London date of a short tour, and kicking things off with “Been Insane”, a fan favorite from 1995’s Niandra LaDes and Usually Just a T-Shirt, the guitarist looked in better shape than ever since re-joining his bandmates for their smash success Californication.
With a crowd of such loyal fans, even the most obscure and inaccessible song was greeted with rapturous applause. And let’s not beat around the bush here; most of the songs randomly picked from his list or requested from the audience were certainly not your average rock fare, with loose structures, erratic vocal leaps and often very abstract lyrics.
But from mellow to intense, it worked, and from the looks of it, the crowd thought the same. We got a good number of covers too; amongst others a frankly beautiful rendition of Bowie’s “Modern Love”, given his own very personal touch.
Onstage, the man was funny and childishly endearing, willing to please, and evidently delighted that so many people love what he does. He actually invited people to record the gig, and returned to sign autographs for a good half hour after the show.
These weren’t the kind of sounds that make the top ten, and even some Chilis fans might find it too way-out (there was certainly no slap bass or funky rapping here), but the evening was a refreshing affair, one that showed that artists are increasingly able to rely on things like the internet and good old word of mouth in place of worrying about TV/radio airplay and commercial acceptance. John Frusciante was breath of fresh air in the otherwise largely stagnant pond of rock music.