The combined grace, hellfire, innovation and soul of Jimi Hendrix remains unmatched to this day – more than 40 years after his death. His six-string mastery has influenced every guitarist on the planet who has ever plugged into an amplifier.
So as you would expect with any tribute concert to Hendrix, there was a whole lotta guitar wanking going on at the Palace Theatre in Albany last Saturday night.
A whole lot.
There was down-on-my-knees guitar wanking. There was playing-with-my-teeth guitar wanking. There was feedback-firestorm guitar wanking. And, of course, there was the requisite playing-behind-my-head guitar wanking, too.
And much of it was truly glorious, as a seemingly never-ending parade of A-list guitarists hit the stage in rapid succession – from the subtle guitar histrionics of Eric Johnson to the way-over-the-top guitar histrionics of Steve Vai – each one attempting to out-Hendrix the others during a three-hour, non-stop guitar orgy.
Ernie Isley concocted an unlikely medley of “Manic Depression” and “Amazing Grace.” Double Trouble’s Chris Layton and Living Colour’s Will Calhoun teamed up for a double-drummer attack on “Are You Experienced,” with Eric Johnson leading the way. A last-minute addition to the line-up, Robert Randolph joined forces with Chuck and Darick Campbell for a three-way steel guitar assault on “Purple Haze” and “Them Changes.” And Jonny Lang took the evening’s most daring left hand turn, taking to the stage with an acoustic guitar for “All Along the Watchtower.”
It was Living Colour, however, who really fired up the crowd with their double-barrelled blast of “Power of Soul” and an off-the-charts hellfire burn through “Crosstown Traffic.”
If we were passing out trophies for the evening’s Experience Hendrix performances, these would be the winners:
Best Guitar: Steve Vai, Eric Johnson (tie)
Best Showmanship: Steve Vai
Best Vocals: Corey Glover
Best Combined Guitar/Vocals: Mato Nanji
Best Overall Performance: Living Colour
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “But flash only gets you so far. The evening’s most reserved player, Eric Johnson, was perhaps the most inventive and exciting guitarist to hit the stage in an evening full of those. His three-song set early on in the evening – ‘House Burning Down,’ ‘Burning of the Midnight Lamp’ and ‘Are You Experienced?’ – had Johnson running up and down the fretboard like a madman. While there were no slouches this evening, Johnson’s playing came the closest to capturing the melodic adventurousness of Hendrix.”
EXPERIENCE HENDRIX SET LIST
Stone Free (Ernie Isley)
Message to Love (same)
Manic Depression (same)
Power of Soul (Living Colour)
Crosstown Traffic (same)
House Burning Down (Eric Johnson)
Burning of the Midnight Lamp (same)
Are You Experienced? (same)
Hear My Train A Comin’ (Mato Nanji)
Hey Joe (same)
Purple Haze (Robert Randolph)
Them Changes (same)
All Along the Watchtower (Jonny Lang/Brad Whitford)
The Wind Cries Mary (same)
Spanish Castle Magic (same)
I Don’t Live Today (Kenny Wayne Shepherd)
Come On (same)
Voodoo Chile/Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (same)
Midnight (Steve Vai)
May This Be Love (same)
Love or Confusion (Vai, Living Colour)
Foxey Lady (same with Randolph)
Red House (Whitford, Randolph, Shepherd)