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"We've been through the guitar-player mill, and here we are again." The drummer admits he hoped Frusciante would change his mind, "which he's done before. "Flea and I were meant to share this life together.OK, he's doing other things, but one day, I'm gonna get that call: ‘By October 2009 – two months before Frusciante publicly announced he was leaving – Flea, Smith and Kiedis were writing with Klinghoffer, a gifted Los Angeles-born sideman who has worked with Beck, PJ Harvey and Gnarls Barkley and played extra guitar and keyboards on the in one month."I never had the feeling we were done," Kiedis insists. It's just what's happening."On the bus, Flea talks about that bond: "Anthony and I moved to L. at the same time, same age" – in their early teens; Flea from Melbourne, Australia where he was born, Kiedis from his native Michigan.The show is their first in more than a decade without John Frusciante, the Chili Peppers' brilliant and mercurial guitarist over 15 years and five albums of metallic funk and psychedelicized pop, including 1991's Top Five hit, .In 2009, Frusciante quit the band for the second time, for good.Sporting turquoise-green hair and a basketball jersey exposing his upper-body museum of tattoos, Flea explains the way he and Frusciante wrote songs: "John would come in with an idea, bam, and I'd pick it up.
At Dirt Cheap, the Chili Peppers – with a new touring member, percussionist Mauro Refosco – swing from the rolling acid pop of "Monarchy of Roses" and the stark ballad "Meet Me at the Corner," both on the new album, to the war-dance charge of "Throw Away Your Television," from 2002's funk command "Give it Away."In every number, Flea telegraphs each note and rhythmic inflection with his body bent forward practically in half, head and shoulders jerking in time. His dancing, in the instrumental breaks, is part karate, part break dancing, iced with a cocky smile. He often stands toe-to-toe with Flea – heads bobbing, almost butting – and hits his power chords with his long legs spread apart, like a basketball version of Pete Townshend. Even when Josh gets violent, he envelops more than attacks.""I'm not John," Klinghoffer says bluntly. "It was very sweet."Sammy Hagar, who plays with Chad Smith in the band Chickenfoot, envies the loyalty he sees in the Chili Peppers.That Flea and Chad and Anthony could open up and let someone else in, someone new, is amazing to me."Frusciante could not be reached for comment. Later, Frusciante sent Smith a text message: "It made me really happy to see you.""I don't know what's ahead – I never know – but right now, the band is really fun," Flea declares, his voice revving up."I think he just wants to be free to do what he wants," Flea suggests, "without the commerce involved with being in a big band."But the weekend before the Big Sur show, Smith ran into Frusciante at a Soundgarden concert in L. The Chili Peppers wrote more than 50 songs for n the corner of a room at Dirt Cheap Sound Stage, on the afternoon of the Chili Peppers' last tour rehearsal, Flea – shirtless and barefoot, in loose red pants – sits at a table with his vegetarian lunch.Get the spit, get the glue, hold it together."The Chili Peppers have, in fact, become experts at rebirth since forming in 1983.
Friends since high school and the remaining original members, Flea and Kiedis, also 48, have survived hard-drug abuse, death – the 1988 overdose of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak – and a dozen personnel changes, including Frusciante's first resignation in 1992 and the short mid-Nineties tenure of Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction. But when he quit the Chili Peppers again in 2009, near the end of a two-year hiatus from recording and touring, "it could have been the end, for sure," Smith, 49, says, taking his turn in the tour-bus lounge. " His voice trails off, as if he's pondering the impossible.
He is absolutely still for a minute, his eyes closed and hands turned upward, before he digs in."Flea says a little prayer over his meals," says singer-poet Patti Smith, a close friend and collaborator.