All-stars give fans great way to Experience Hendrix

A review of the "Experience Hendrix Tour" at the Orpheum Theatre on November 7, 2010

, Managing Editor

Forty years after his death, the music of Jimi Henrix continues to be a major draw. What’s even more notable is the makeup of the current Hendrix fanbase, as representatives both old and young filled the seats at the Orpheum Theatre on Sunday in a clear display of the wide-ranging appeal of Hendrix’s music. There was also quite the range of artists on hand, as a slew of talent graced the stage to honor the guitar legend as part of the annual “Experience Hendrix Tour”.

The three hour guitar-a-palooza kicked off with Jimi Hendrix Experience/Band of Gypsys alum Billy Cox taking the vocals on “Stone Free”, accompanied by Ernie Isley on guitar and Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble) on the skins. Cox introduced the show and let the boys play as he left Isley to pull of the first Hendrix impression, playing with his teeth during “Manic Depression”.

Elevated guitar playing was certainly the theme of the evening. Eric Johnson showcased Jimi’s spacey side with “House Burning Down” before pulling off a famous Hendrix trick himself as he used the amps to create feedback. Steve Vai would later do the same, except his soaring sound was almost theremin-esque. Near the end of the show, Kenny Wayne Sheppard captured Jimi’s free spirit as he let loose on a lengthy jam during the classic “Voodoo Child”.

Although showcasing their six-stringed skills was still a major characteristic of their performances, Living Colour and Robert Randolph broke away from the theme the most as they focused on Hendrix’s music as a whole, rather than just his classic ax work. Living Colour thrilled in turning the normally two and a half minute “Crosstown Traffic” into an extensive romp, boosted by vocalist Corey Glover’s trip into the audience as he climbed up into the mezzanine and ran about the theater. Robert Randolph was a warmly welcomed surprise guest. He raised the energy level when he appeared with the Slide Brothers for “Purple Haze” and took it even higher with “Them Changes”, during which he literally fell out of his chair he was rocking so hard.

Johnny Lang pleased fans with a string of hits in “All Along the Watchtower”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, and “Fire”, the latter of which featured Living Colour joyously providing backing vocals. Fans were also happy to see local heroes Brad Whitford and Susan Tedeschi. Whitford mostly lent his talents to Lang’s set but surprisingly joined forces with Tedeschi as he strode on stage for a solo during the middle of her “If 6 Were 9” rendition.

Although there were some truly extraordinary guitar performances on Sunday, it was moments like that which seemed the most special. As outstanding as they were, after seeing solo after solo after solo, the effect started to wear. The guitar playing certainly didn’t go unappreciated, but it would have been nice to see Hendrix’s songwriting appreciated more.

Although he didn’t write it himself, the show appropriately ended with Billy Cox doing one of Jimi’s favorite songs in the beautifully bluesy “Red House”. For those in attendance who never actually got to “experience” Hendrix, this show provided a commendable substitute.

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