Anthony Kiedis - lead vocals; Michael "Flea" Balzary - bass, vocals; John Frusciante - guitar; Chad Smith - drums
Beginning in the latter half of the 1980s, several Los Angeles based bands began stirring up a powerful new brew that had a significant impact on the landscape of modern rock music. Feeding off such diverse musical elements as hardcore punk, classic hard rock, funk, and rap music, groups like Jane's Addiction, Fishbone, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were intentionally blurring the lines between these genres in an explosive new way.
In 1989, the Chili Peppers were rebounding from the tragic death of their guitarist, Hillel Slovak, the previous year and the subsequent departure of their drummer, Jack Irons. New members, guitarist John Frusciante and drummer Chad Smith (who joined on just a month before this recording) were now on board and the band was beginning to work on a new album (Mother's Milk) that upon release would begin their breakthrough later that year.
Here we present one of the earliest live Red Hot Chili Peppers performances with the new lineup on board. Opening for fellow Los Angelinos, Jane's Addiction, this set finds the band primarily focusing on the material from the their debut album and the increasingly popular Uplift Mofo Party Plan album, the recording which had done more than anything to established the band's reputation up to that point. One new song destined for Mother's Milk also emerges here.
At this point, the band was still emphasizing the heavy funk, rap, and hardcore punk elements that initially defined their sound and this recording finds the new members just beginning to add dimension to the existing sound. It's debatable if anyone, other than John Frusciante, could have filled the void left by Slovak. One of the reasons he did work so well was that Frusciante was heavily influenced by Slovak, so he understood the guitarist's dynamic within the band and was able to fill that void while working toward adding his own contributions. Before long, Frusciante's melodic sensibilities would add a whole new dimension to the group, diversifying their sound so that every song wasn't based on rhythm, which was a major factor in the band achieving mainstream success in subsequent years. Chad Smith's hard-hitting drumming was also a factor, as he not only added a powerful new rhythmic feel, but also strongly contributed to Flea greatly improving as a bass player. However, at this early juncture, the new members are primarily still feeling their way in on pre-existing material and helping Anthony and Flea to maintain their special brand of unhinged punk-funk.
The set kicks into high gear immediately with the "Out In L.A.," from their first album. Appropriately enough, this was the band's first song, an autobiographical travelogue through their hometown with explosively funky instrumentation that clearly defines the band's initial sound. Next up are two key songs from the Uplift Mofo Party Plan album with a brief tribute to George Clinton (aka Dr. Funkenstien) in between. "Backwoods" serves as a prime example of Kiedis' rapping skills over one of the band's catchiest arrangements, while "Funky Crime," with its incredibly tight grooves, pays further homage to George Clinton and his uber-influential Parliament-Funkadelics. Flea then spontaneously plays around with the catchiest bass riffs ever created—Larry Graham's finger-popping bass intro to Sly & The Family Stone's classic "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)." Unfortunately, it's just a tease as they quickly move on.
The only example of new material follows with "Stone Cold Bush," a number that would soon surface on Mother's Milk. Here Frusciante gets a chance to cut loose and although this isn't radically different from the other material, it contains several surging instrumental breaks while maintaining its hard funk groove and the band moving toward a more standard rock song structure.
Next, the Peppers return to their debut album with "Green Heaven," featuring environmentally conscious lyrics from Kiedis that are for this early stage of the group uncharacteristically thought-provoking. This number also features infectious instrumental work, especially from Flea, whose bass propels this song along. This is followed by the short, loud, and defiant "Police Helicopter." Another brief spontaneous jam ensues before the recording concludes with the testosterone-fueled "Special Secret Song Inside" aka "Party On Your Pussy." Encapsulating their own brand of lust, this song's slinky grooves and hilarious lyrics clearly represent the band's unhindered sense of expression.