In one of our favourite finds in the illustrious Far Out Magazine vault, we’re bringing you the very first time that Anthony Keidis and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever played their iconic 1990s anthem ‘Under The Bridge’. The performance came six months before the release of Blood Sex and Magick and the song arrived on the shelves of record stores. As we mark 30 years of the classic anthem, we thought we’d look back at the track’s first-ever outing.
Taking place as part of a small film, the pair sits atop a boat in an Amsterdam canal as they expertly perform the track. Keidis is beguiling with his voice and Frusciante is simply mesmeric with his guitar playing, even without the amplification of electricity. The duo delivers what would become one of their most widely beloved songs, in the early stages of their career in 1991.
The pair were in Holland as part of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ European tour and took time out of their busy schedule to visit their friend and filmmaker Bram Van Spluteren. He filmed the band many times during those 20 years of friendship. When they toured in Europe, Spluteren was often invited, but also in Los Angeles where the band members bought their first houses, and also where John Frusciante went through his darkest moments.
Spluteren would eventually edit his extensive material into many short videos for Dutch TV as well as a wonderful full-length documentary titled: The Red Hot Chili Peppers – A Dutch Connection, which you can see in full here. One of the clear highlights of the film is this wonderful clip of Keidis and Frusciante performing an acoustic version of ‘Under The Bridge’, filmed on a boat in the canals of Amsterdam.
‘Under The Bridge’ is a song written by Keidis to highlight the loneliness and despondency he felt while struggling with his addiction to heroin. It was an affliction he shared with Frusciante and the pair were clearly bonded by mutual harrowing experiences. Over the years, Frusciante would continue to struggle with his addiction and fall in and out of love with the band in the process.
Keidis said of the song’s conception, “the loneliness that I was feeling triggered memories of my time with [former girlfriend] Ione and how I’d had this beautiful angel of a girl who was willing to give me all of her love, and instead of embracing that, I was downtown with fucking gangsters shooting speedballs under a bridge.”
It feels fitting then that the first debut of this iconic song about heroin should be sung by two users on the cusp of greatness in the capital of heroin in the 1990s; Amsterdam. Aside from this, the performance is beautiful, vulnerable touching and ultimately tragic. It highlights that underneath the brash videos and naked performances was something far rawer.
Watch below as Anthony Keidis and John Frusciante debut Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under The Bridge’ in 1991.