Experience Hendrix disappoints despite star power

A review of the "Experience Hendrix" tour at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on October 18, 2007

, Editor-in-Chief

Jimi Hendrix will forever be known as one of the greatest guitarist of all time. His craftsmanship was groundbreaking and his influences are still felt today. At the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom on Thursday night, an all-star cast came together as part of the "Experience Hendrix" tour to celebrate the life that ended nearly 40-years ago. Unfortunately, it was a night that had immense potential but seemingly could only rise to the occasion at distinctive moments.& &
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Surprisingly, it was probably the most accomplished musician from the "Experience Hendrix" lineup that ultimately brought the show down. Undeniably, Buddy Guy is a tremendous blues guitarist but when his own songs comprised the majority of his extended set, many fans were left pondering what happened to the Hendrix material that they came to hear. It\’s also not to say, his set wasn\’t entertaining. With former Howlin\’ Wolf sideman Hubert Sumlin at his side, the two (at a combined age of 146-years) dueled out a stunning blues jam during "Hoochie Coochie Man" that sparked one of the night\’s few standing ovations. Still fans did not come to hear Guy play his own blues like "Five Long Years".
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Thankfully, the marathon-like show that lasted over 3 hours was rescued when pedal-steel guitarist extraordinaire Robert Randolph took stage. After helping Guy close out his set with an impressive sonic explosion, he ironically declared, "let\’s get back to some Hendrix." What followed was easily the highlight of the night as Randolph delivered an incredible cover of "Purple Haze," nearly blowing the roof off the ballroom. Kenny Wayne Shepherd then joined him on stage for some of the best duels of the night, most notably on the show closer "Voodoo Child." It was exactly what fans expected when they snagged up tickets for this sold out show. The show was one of only seven stops on the mini-tour, but unfortunately the damage had been done.
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The whole show was not a lost cause. When the performers were on, they showcased mesmerizing solos and fine fretwork. The night began with Memphis\’ Eric Gales on stage. If anyone ever wanted to film a movie on Hendrix, Gales would be the perfect fit for the role. Just as his idol did, the left-handed African American played his axe upside-down. But Gales did much more than look the part; he played it too with a strong cover of "Foxy Lady" to open the show. Later in the night, when not joining in the countless number of random jam sessions, Gales could be found walking through the crowd enjoying the show and interacting with fans.
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Bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell, both of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, were also on hand for the festivities. Though not as timely and precise as they once were, they did give the show more meaning. Their highlight came alongside Gales and guitarist Andy Aledort during a rendition of "Red House". Bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, better known as Double Trouble – the late Stevie Ray Vaughn\’s backing band, proved to be the best rhythmic duo of the night. Former Rolling Stones great Mick Taylor delighted the crowd with an exceptional rendition of "Catfish Blues," a song that Hendrix also covered often. Shepherd\’s set was one of the best with "I Don\’t Live Today" standing out thanks to stellar vocals from singer Noah Hunt.
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Also on the bill were guitarists Doyle Bramhall II, Manto Nanji, and Kenny Olsen (of Kid Rock\’s band). Living Colour frontman Corey Glover added vocals throughout the night. Unfortunately, Robby Krieger of The Doors was schedule to perform but was a late cut for unknown reasons.
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Another downfall for the Thursday\’s show at Hampton Beach was the venue itself. "Experience Hendrix" was a show made for a theatre setup with superior acoustics and would have been better suited for a place like Boston\’s Opera House. Ultimately though, the show was a surprising disappointment because of its untapped potential for truly reminding fans why Hendrix was so special. If fans are leaving a show that lasted over three-hours and griping that staple hits were forgotten, there has to be a problem. I mean, "All Along The Watchtower" has to be one of the most covered songs of all-time. Sure, it was Dylan\’s originally but Hendrix mastered it – but nobody seemed to remember that on Thursday night. Not to mention other fan favorites like "Fire."
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Tribute tours can be great but thankfully Hendrix spirit lives on through his albums too. Fans can take a listen to Are You Experienced? or the recently released, Live at Monterey& and be blown away by its virtuosity and be inspired to pick up their guitar. At times on Thursday night, fans may have wished they could do the same.

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