Experience Hendrix Tour, Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, NH- 10/18
When The Experience Hendrix Tour rolled through Hampton Beach New Hampshire, it served up a three hour long run of Hendrix material that paid homage to the fallen guitarist, and the several generations of talent that have followed in his footsteps.
Over the past several years, the tour has become an institution of sorts, an institution that celebrates the music of Jimi Hendrix, in addition to the spirit his musicianship embodied. In the past, the tour has booked artists such as Jerry Cantrell of Alice In Chains, both Vernon Reid and Corey Glover of Living Colour, Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. This time around, both Shepard and Glover were back on board, in addition to the slide work of former-Rolling Stone Mick Taylor, the modern day Steel Pedal mastery of Robert Randolph, the legendary licks of Buddy Guy, and most importantly the auxiliary power behind the Jimi Hendrix Experience; Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass.
With all of the talent on the bill, working each musician into the lineup was sure to be a feat that would either make or break the night’s performance. Sure enough, the efforts that went into prepping the set list and order of performances was not only balanced, but seemed strategically orchestrated to divide the talent up by the era that they arose in.
Eric Gales opened the show by leading into “Foxy Lady” with the help of both Cox’s bass licks and Layton’s beat keeping. The tune proved to be technically proficient, but uninspired. Fortunately, Mato Nanji’s followed with a take on “Little Wing” that kept the audience attentive.
The theme of the night’s earlier segment was a display of the new generation and their Hendrix-esque virtuoso playing. Yet as things moved forward, the younger generation stepped aside to make way for the older breed, many of which shared the stage with Hendrix himself. Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox vamped their way through a take of “Spanish Castle Magic” that featured Kenny Olson, and Corey Glover. As of that point, the tune was a clear highlight of the night. “Spanish Castle Magic” was followed with a rendition of “Catfish Blues” that took the degree of intensity to the next level. Mitchell and Cox gave the tune a serious degree of authenticity while Mick Taylor provided vocals on the tune, and more importantly, his signature slide-guitar work. The guitarist paid tribute to Hendrix’s famous guitar tone while simultaneously channeling the bluesy power he brought to Stone’s classics such as “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
Following Taylor’s stint on stage, Kenny Wayne Shepherd tore into a mini-set that featured versions of “Come On,” “I Don’t Live Today” and the lengthy blues Odyssey that is “Voodoo Child.” Shepherd wowed the crowd with his masterful precision and enthralling showmanship, only to be outdone by the mini set by Buddy Guy that followed.
Unlike every other artist on the bill, Guy has been heavily documented as a significant influence on Jimi Hendrix, and as a result, he came to the stage with nothing to prove. His short set consisted of a handful of long-time set staples, such as “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Five Long Years,” and “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” Many Hendrix tunes, such as Voodoo Child, were often credited as displaying the significant influence Guy had on Hendrix, and as a result, Guy managed to celebrate the music of Jimi Hendrix simply by doing his own thing. The highlight of Guy’s time on stage was when Mick Taylor joined him on “My Time After Awhile.” The collaboration between the two aging artists was one of those historical moments that everyone in attendance was thrilled to have been able to catch while both collaborating legends were still able to perform.
The Buddy Guy/Mick Taylor collaboration was a jam for the history books that will not be forgotten any time soon. However, the coup de grace of Hendrix oriented sit-ins was by and large the encore of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” that featured Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Sacred Steel prot Robert Randolph sparring off on solos like their lives depended on it. If the Mick Taylor/Buddy Guy jam was the climax of the older generations ode to Hendrix, then the Randolph/Shepherd power duo gave everyone in attendance a powerful update on where the electric guitar has taken Blues since Hendrix’s untimely departure. Not only was the dynamic jam a powerful ending to a lengthy performance, but it was a symbolic close to an event that celebrated both the past and future of guitar-oriented music.
The night may have been billed as a celebration of Jimi Hendrix, but by the standards of any practical analysis, the show was a celebration of all that Hendrix represented, which is far greater than the achievements of any single man. Beyond the new ground his left handed playing paved, James Marshall Hendrix embodied the spirit of open-minded audiological exploration, in addition to the no-holds-barred musical collaboration the night’s festivities were built around. Plenty of the artists on hand made a point of reinterpreting Hendrix’s material, and many of these reinterpretations fell unfortunately short of audience expectations. But the fact remains that the goal of the Experience Hendrix Tour was to showcase the power and spirit of one man’s music. This goal was achieved with flying colors. The music and spirit of Jimi Hendrix was celebrated, and the guitarists on stage passed his message on from one generation to another.