LIVE: Super 400 @ Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, 7/8/17
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Hometown favorites Super 400 brought the music of Jimi Hendrix to life in a thrilling, perfectly arranged two-and-a-half-hour set for a packed, appreciative crowd at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Troy on a recent Saturday night.
Opening with “Are You Experienced” was a brilliant move, inviting the initiated and the neophytes into Hendrix’s title track, sonic-manifesto from his classic 1967 debut album. It gave me goosebumps. Kenny Hohman’s vocals were relaxed and sly, and his guitar work deftly embraced the challenge of controlling feedback, distortion and volume at extreme levels. Joe Daley hit the drums with power and finesse, taking liberties with the template that the late Mitch Mitchell had set down on the original recording; and Lori Friday, bassist extraordinaire, played fluid riffs that often had a vocal quality to them.
Initially sticking to the ’67 era, Super 400 played a trio of songs – “Stone Free,” “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” – that showcased not only their prowess as the area’s premier power trio, but also the range in Hendrix’s skills as a composer. Hohman introduced the latter with a smile, proclaiming, “Welcome to the Electric Church! Jimi’s out there somewhere!” The band stretched “Crosstown Traffic” (from 1968’s Electric Ladyland) into a raucous, funky jam that also informed the approach to “Foxey Lady” and “Hey Joe,” as well as the deep blues of “Red House” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor,” the song that Hendrix had opened with at his star-establishing set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. One of Friday’s favorites, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp,” was beautifully done and led into a 10-minute tour de force take of “I Don’t Live Today.” Amazingly, the drum kit held up to the pummeling Daley gave it.
Though there were no post-1968 songs in the set, the group dipped heavily into Axis: Bold as Love throughout the evening, highlighteing some of the best songs of Hendrix’s career. “Up from the Skies” – a jazz-inflected tale told from the point of an extraterrestrial who returns to a climate-imperiled Earth (“the smell of a world that has burned”) after millenia – offered a prime showcase for Hohman’s wah-wah pedal work. “Spanish Castle Magic,” Hendrix’s nod to a music venue outside Seattle he attended as a teen, rocked the rafters.
“Little Miss Lover,” which has popped up in Super 400’s shows throughout the years, brimmed with vocal and rhythmic swagger, while “One Rainy Wish” explored a variety of guitar tones and and closed in a whispered hush. “Bold as Love,” one of Hohman’s favorites since his teens, was jaw-dropping in intensity. A concise “Little Wing” was exuberant; played with deep feeling, it confirmed what Friday said during the set: Hendrix was often all about love in his songwriting.
Of course, it would not be a night of Hendrix without the great one’s reworking of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” which Friday admitted had scared her when she first heard it. Super 400 rose to the challenge of capturing this touchstone about a world in political and spiritual peril – it was an epic performance.
Later, Super 400 dove into “Third Stone from the Sun,” a sci-fi account of Earth’s destruction at the hands of an alien spacecraft, sliced and diced the air with primal drumming, hypnotic bass and freaky guitar sounds.
Fittingly, the evening ended with a spirited “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” Hendrix’s expression of self-determination. For 10-minutes-plus, Super 400 were intrepid alchemists of sound, with the crowd cheering them all along the way.
SUPER 400 SET LIST
(all Jimi Hendrix covers)
*Are You Experienced
*The Wind Cries Mary
*Up from the Skies
*Spanish Castle Magic
*Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
*Killing Floor (Howlin’ Wolf)
*Burning of the Midnight Lamp
*I Don’t Live Today
*Little Miss Lover
*One Rainy Wish
*Bold as Love
*All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
*Third Stone from the Sun
*Voodoo Child (Slight Return)