By Chyrisse Tabone, Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida–February 25, 2016
When one thinks of Jimi Hendrix, the name is bigger than life. The history of his brief life and contribution to the blues-rock scene with his innovative use of controlled feedback, distortion, and wah-wah pedals blew people’s minds in the 1960s. Even today his music continues to stand the test of time, landing in the “classic rock” genre. The lead guitar became the focal point of blues-rock and song structure in the genre evolved into new territories. The electronic sound effects created “psychedelia”–and with it a new music and social culture. It boggles the mind at the vast repertoire he contributed, like the killer classics “Purple Haze” and “Wind Cries Mary”. Hendrix breathed fresh life into songs written by others like Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and Billy Robert’s “Hey, Joe”. We all know the story of Hendrix’s tragic demise and I often wonder how his music would have evolved through time.
In 2004 the Experiment Hendrix Tour was launched as a way for musicians to collaborate and pay homage to Hendrix’s music by keeping the torch alive and well. Rock At Night was able to catch Experience Hendrix Tour 2016 at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida, which featured a stellar group of musicians in the blues and rock industry. Bassist Billy Cox, who was a long-time friend of Jimi Hendrix (originally from his army days) and who also played in the original Experience and Band of Gypsys, brought authenticity to the mix. I wanted to, in a sense, re-live the days and imagine how it felt to hear the music live in the day. The group of gifted musicians were there to bring to life Hendrix’s music in the same fashion as a symphony brings to life Beethoven.
Last night the theatre was filled to capacity with men and women (yes, quite a few) waiting for the show. The show opened with Dweezil Zappa (guitar), Chris Layton (drums) and Billy Cox (bass, vocals) playing “Freedom” while photos of Hendrix and swirling psychedelic graphics were shown on a background screen. During the second song “Stone Free”, Mato Nanji (guitar) and Henri Brown (vocals) entered the stage and segued into a thrilling and booty-shaking rendition of “Foxey Lady” which included Eric Johnson (guitar, vocals). I happen to be an Eric Johnson fan and it was great to see him singing as well as playing the guitar. Noah Hunt (singer with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) band is always a thrill, as he belted out more Hendrix songs with gusto and tossed around the microphone stand. Scott Nelson (bass) contributed to a few songs and later Zakk Wylde (who actually played keyboards rather than the usual guitar) played “Are You Experienced?” He later grabbed his signature Wylde Audio Viking V guitar, tossed his wild hair in the air, and posed on both sides of the stage. He jumped off the stage and continued playing up the aisle and even played with his teeth à la Hendrix. The audience went wild and lapped it up, standing and cheering. The collaboration and change of line-up continued throughout the evening with a brief intermission after “Purple Haze” which everybody was noticeably mouthing the words and chair-dancing. Also, there were quite a few standing ovations during the evening.
A few personal highlights included Jonny Lang’s singing, which was really raspy and authentically bluesy, putting his mark on “Fire” and “Wind Cries Mary”. I had always remembered him as a child guitar prodigy (in the 1990s) but did not realize he had a great voice. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Hunt were a sight to behold on the “Voodoo Child Medly”. Keb’ Mo’ was absolutely magic as he played seated in a chair and sang “My Friend”. Another highlight was seeing Buddy Guy play “Hey Joe”, one of my all-time favorite songs.
The evening was really magical seeing some of the biggest names in the business, Grammy Award winners, primo guitarists, blues legends—you name it—all performing in a single show dedicated to one of America’s most well-known and pioneering rock artist (next to Elvis) who changed the cultural direction of blues-rock.
Featuring Billy Cox (from Jimi Hendrix Experience / Band Of Gypsys), Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde (from Black Label Society / Ozzy Osbourne), Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson, Keb’ Mo’, Chris Layton (from Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), Mato Nanji (from Indigenous), Noah Hunt (from Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band), and Henri Brown
READ ROCK AT NIGHT’S ARTICLE ON THE NEW JIMI HENDRIX MUSEUM IN LONDON
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