Chris Nelson, ATN News of the World:
John Frusciante is back. And so are the Red Hot Chili Peppers. With their once estranged guitarist back behind his instrument and the rest of the band apparently in full health again, the Chili Peppers kicked off the Tibetan Freedom Concert weekend late Friday with an adrenaline-fueled gig at the famed 9:30 Club.
The 50-minute set marked the live return of one-time guitarist Frusciante, and served as an incendiary preview to the set that the punk-funk band is expected to deliver during its Saturday (June 13) slot at the Tibetan Freedom Concert at RFK Stadium.
"Knock on wood, we all stay good," singer Anthony Kiedis said early in the show. Though he likely was referring to Frusciante's return to the Chili Pepper fold after six years away, the muscular singer easily could have been pointing to the stormy circumstances that have enveloped his group in the past year, a time when Kiedis himself acknowledged his relapsed drug use and the band was kept from the concert stage by both natural disasters and broken limbs.
On Friday night into early Saturday morning, nary a hint of bad luck was in evidence, as the Chili Peppers ripped through a 13-song set that had more than 1,000 fans moshing on the floor and hanging off the balconies. As bare-chested bassist Flea took the stage shortly after midnight for an opening blast of funk, he and Frusciante stared at each other intently across the stage, as if they were stalking notes to pummel. Later, Kiedis -- shirt pulled behind his head, and a flowing faux skunk tail attached to his pants -- leapt back and forth across the stage, pivoting on the mic stand as his waist-length hair whipped at the ceiling.
By the time the Chilies launched into the rollicking chorus of "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," the front third of the room morphed into a mammoth mosh pit; when they exploded into the hit "Give It Away," the whole room began jumping and shaking to the song's hip-hop lyrical cadence. "Soul To Squeeze" elicited a similarly enthusiastic response, with dozens of audience hands outstretched during the hit ballad.
Throughout the set -- which focused heavily on the band's 1991 hit album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik -- Frusciante layed into his guitar as if he had never left the group, pulling soulful grooves from the six strings into which Flea and drummer Chad Smith pounded out funky rhythms. (Frusciante first joined the Chili Peppers as their fourth guitarist before leaving the band in 1992 to pursue a solo career.) Slower numbers were punctuated by his distorted solos, and by the time the band broke into "Give It Away", Frusciante and Flea spent less time watching each other than riding the waves of their notes. With the closing cover of Iggy and the Stooges' "Search And Destroy," the Chili Peppers fully ignited and burned out any energy they had stored in reserve. "They fucking rocked," said 29-year-old Mike Gallo of Arlington, Va. "I saw them in '89, and they always put on a good show. I'm glad they're back."
Before the Chili Peppers' set, Alex Gifford of Britain's DJ dynamos the Propellerheads took the stage for a run at the turntables. He later brought out good-vibe rappers the Jungle Brothers (who appear on the Propellers' debut Decksanddrumsandrockandroll) for an old-school romp through tag-team style mic skills.
Although the focus of the evening was clearly on the Chili Peppers and Frusciante's return, Flea made sure to remind the crowd about the mission of the two-day Tibetan Freedom Concert, which is being held at Washington's RFK Stadium.
"I know you all know China needs to get the fuck out of Tibet," the nimble bassist said. "We need to let the beautiful shit survive and the kill the bad."