With live music slowly becoming a distant memory amid strict social distancing measures, we are going down the Far Out archives back to 1998 and revisiting the Washington edition of the Tibetan Freedom Concert. The show, which would see over 120,000 people flock to the RFK Stadium, spread the message of the province breaking away from China’s restraints.
The incredible line-up, which took place over two nights, saw performances from the likes of Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Sean Lennon, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, R.E.M., Pearl Jam and Pulp but it would be one band who weren’t even on the bill that would be the show-stealers.
The 1998 event was packed full of joyous surprises such as Michael Stipe joining Radiohead for ‘Lucky’ which was a beautiful moment and later on we would see Thom Yorke pay back the favour as he linked up with R.E.M. for a rendition of ‘E-Bow the Letter’.
The Beastie Boys also previewed their upcoming single ‘Intergalactic’ but even that would not be the high-point of the weekend. That moment, it has to be said, would come in the form of a secret set by the Red Hot Chili Peppers which would mark John Frusciante’s first performance with the band in six years.
Towards the end of the last day of the event, Pearl Jam dramatically cut their set 15 minutes short and handed off their instruments to the Red Hot Chili Peppers who had only just reunited with Frusciante after he first left the band. The concert marked the perfect occasion to show the world what they had been missing out on since his departure.
There was a lightning storm on its way that nearly scuppered the band’s plan to perform in front of the Washington crowd and the Chili Peppers were initially told they wouldn’t get a chance to appear on stage. “Eddie Vedder got wind of our dilemma,” Anthony Kiedis wrote in his legendary 2004 memoir, Scar Tissue. He added that Vedder then “threatened to pull out unless we were given part of their allowed stage time. It was an amazing show of support from them, and we never forgot it.”
This wasn’t actually their first performance since Frusciante re-joined but it was the first time that he played in front of a significant crowd with his two other shows being a Los Angeles radio show and a warm-up gig at the famous 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. earlier that June.
Frusciante’s re-addition was a fruitful one. The band produced some of their most adored music during his second spell in the group with the release of Californication, By The Way and Stadium Arcadium before leaving the group once more in 2009. Towards the end of 2019, he would re-join with Anthony Kiedis, Flea and Chad Smith for a third spell in the Chili’s and here’s hoping his influence has the same impact as it did last time.
Watch their glorious performance below of ‘Under The Bridge’ which would kickstart a new era for the band and make some of the best work of their career now Frusciante was back in the fold.