Daniel Munro Walker:
The Borderline in London is a great little venue. As you go in you see a gallery of photos of big bands playing there like Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine. It is very small though, there can't have been more than 300 people.
John came on in jeans and a t-shirt and with three different plastic bottles, two full of water and one was some weird brown stuff. This was John's first English solo gig ever and the first of his tour to promote his new record. Everyone was really excited. His first song was "Been Insane" from his first record, a lot of people knew the words and sang along. It sounded great! After the song he screwed up his face and then admitted he didn't have a setlist and was thinking about what to play next. He played a variety of old and new songs aswell as covers of songs by Joy Division, Bauhaus, Iggy Pop and Syd Barret. He also played a few songs from a record he said he recorded but only gave to five friends. He says he plans to release it over the internet soon. Some people shouted for him to play "Your Pussy's" but he said it wouldn't sound right.
Near the end of the gig someone yelled for "My Smile Is a Rifle". He shook his head but everyone started yelling "Please, John!" and he played it after saying he hadn't played it in four years. It sounded brilliant though. He spoke quite a lot between songs and made jokes, the gig felt very intimate. He spoke about River Phoenix and played the song from his second record which River speaks on, "Well, I've Been". Apparently River really loved that song, and it was gonna be on John's first record. But River died, and so he didn't put it on. He also said he originally planned to release "Niandra Lades and Usually Just A T-Shirt" as two separate records but when he learned he could fit them both on one he decided to do that because he thought he was gonna die soon. That was sad.
He finished with one of the songs off the unreleased record he mentioned before.
John Frusciante, as you probably know, is one quarter of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of the most successful and innovative rock bands on the planet. He is also, however, a solo artist of limited success and, quite clearly, a strange guy.
"Thanks for coming to see me play," he grins modestly upon his arrival, here to plug new solo album "To Record Only Water for Ten Days'. Not that he needs to pander to his audience, who eagerly lap up the meagre offerings served up. Sure, it's great that a rock star feels that an acoustic baring of the soul is what the fans deserve, but, on tonight's display, catharsis has never been less fun.
With a freshly shorn crop of hair and light beard Frusciante hasn't looked better since the days of "Blood Sugar Sex Magik", but the days of narcotic-fuelled funk rock mayhem seem well behind him.
What do you mean you haven't heard his two previous solo albums and two more "that I just gave to my five friends"? Trust me, you haven't missed out. Frusciante's voice is fine, but his heartfelt pleadings tend to be accompanied by sub-Dylan tunes leading nowhere. Apart from an impressive 'My Smile Is a Rifle' the best songs tonight are all covers. Syd Barrett, Bauhaus, Iggy Pop and Joy Division all get strained through the Frusciante blender, with the latter's "New Dawn Fades" the evening's highlight.
For a man used to playing arenas around the world, his stagecraft is woefully unprofessional. Sat on a stool throughout with an box of effects by his side, Frusciante's tendency to stop half way through a song to change the echo setting on his voice quickly becomes less than amusing, especially as he begins each halted song again from scratch.
His edginess becomes positively uncomfortable when the sound of conversations from the bar drifts onto the stage. So, as the performance splutters from song to song, only interrupted by continual swigs from an assortment of bottles and some barely comprehensible tales, it's only the true faithful that leave with smiles on their faces. Emotion's one thing, but it's nothing without the quality to back it up.