Red Hot Chili Peppers fans got a pretty huge shock on Sunday when, without any warning, the band announced via Instagram that longtime guitarist Josh Klinghoffer was departing the group and that John Frusciante, who left for a second time in 2009, was rejoining. “We are deeply grateful for our time with [Klinghoffer],” they wrote, “and the countless gifts he shared with us.”
Klinghoffer shared his gifts with the band as recently as November 2nd when the group played a charity show at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. They’d been touring behind their 2016 LP The Getaway for about three years at that point and there wasn’t even a tiny hint that a monumental change was about to come to the band. Here’s fan-shot footage of the whole show (by someone that really should have turned his phone sideways), which ends with special guest Eddie Vedder and the group playing a ferocious rendition of “All Along the Watchtower.”
Klinghoffer joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2007 and spent two years playing alongside John Frusciante as a second guitarist and keyboardist. They formed a writing duo five years earlier and recorded a series of under-the-radar releases together between 2004 and 2009. When Frusciante left the band in 2009, Klinghoffer was promoted to their main guitarist.
Right before that happened, the group was very concerned that carrying on without Frusciante would be a near-impossible task. “I was afraid,” bassist Flea told Rolling Stone at the time. “I couldn’t imagine going out with someone else. It seemed done. … It’s like missing a family member.”
But they quickly learned to value Klinghoffer’s unique contributions. “Josh is not a guitar virtuoso like John,” said Flea. “He’s a textural guy who also plays drums and piano. But there is no person on the planet we could have gotten who was better. And he was already playing with us.”
Unsurprisingly, Klinghoffer was thrilled by the new arrangement. “That’s something I’ve wanted more than anything in my life: to have a band of friends that you trust and love,” he said. “Flea and John had a special relationship — I saw it for years. That Flea and Chad and Anthony could open up and let someone else in, someone new, is amazing to me.”
The band recorded two albums with Klinghoffer (2011’s I’m With You and 2016’s The Getaway), but none of the singles really connected with a mass audience. (By comparison, they had about eight genuine hits during Frusciante’s second run with the band between 1999 and 2007.) The band remained a huge live draw during Klinghoffer’s time in the band, though. They spent much of this year playing festivals and other special shows and already have many overseas dates lined up for 2020.
Many questions linger over the news from last night: How long had this been in the works? Was Klinghoffer’s departure voluntary? Are they going to cut a new album right away with Frusciante or focus on touring? Might they use this as an opportunity to play some of their classic Frusciante-era albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magik and Californication straight through? Will they still play material from the two Klinghoffer albums in concert? We don’t have any answers at the moment, but hopefully the group will fill fans in with details sometime soon. In the meantime, welcome to the John Frusciante 3.0 era of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.