The ground breaking, innovating, guitarist Jimi Hendrix became a legend of rock and blues music in his brief life. Forty years after his death his legacy lives on with the Experience Hendrix tour. The tour blends some of the best contemporary musicians with classic artists to pay homage to the guitar hero. Waves of distorted, feedback fill guitar solos rocked The Music Center at Strathmore on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. The real Jimi Hendrix Experience and his Band of Gypsys was represented by Billy Cox who played bass in both of those bands on this tour. Blues legend Buddy Guy – who influenced Jimi Hendrix – also played a tribute. Brad Whitford, from the classic rock super group Aerosmith, also performed.
The night really belonged to the younger guitar slingers. There was the second generation musician Dweezil Zappa, and former teenage blues prodigies Johnny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who have become rock-solid guitarists, stole the show with their performances. Eric Gales and Mato Nanji also showed they could hold their own with a Fender Stratocaster.
The show started with a brief video on Jimi Hendrix, then the screen rose above the stage and the artists took over. The first song was “Stone Free,” featuring Gales and Nanji on guitar along with Billy Cox on bass. Eric Gales brought a flashy, exciting approach to his guitar playing and it shined on “Foxy Lady.” After a couple of songs the cast changed. Dweezil Zappa played guitar for a few songs but EricGales – who provided most of the vocals – played more leads.
The next rotation featured Aerosmith guitarist Steve Whitford playing with Johnny Lang, who was one of the stars of the show. They covered “All Along The Watchtower,” a song made famous by Hendrix, but originally a Bob Dylan song. Johnny Lang performed the song on acoustic electric guitar and provided the vocals as well, while Steve played electric. The blend was nice and was a refreshing take on the song. They also covered another Dylan song – “Like a Rolling Stone” (at this point everyone was playing electric guitars). The set included “Fire,” “The Wind Cries Mary,” and ended with “Spanish Castle Magic.” Johnny played inspired solos giving his all on the stage. He showed his guitar work had improved over the years – since he entered the scene as a prodigy in the early 90s.
Lang was followed by another guitar prodigy of his era -Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Kenny was joined by his vocalist Noah Hunt for his set. Kenny rocked out to “I Don’t Live Today,” followed by “Let The Good Times Roll.” His set ended with a long, version of “Voodoo Chile,” which included some very long and impressive guitar solos from Shepherd, who even played the guitar behind his back, which earned his playing a standing ovation from the Strathmore crowd. It is important to note that drummer Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble Band provided drums for most of the evening. He is an exceptional drummer.
Billy Cox returned for the closing set which featured blues legend Buddy Guy. He apologized that his voice was not there tonight- but he gave it a good effort. His guitar playing was great and his playing was one of the highlights of the evening. He started with “Rock Me Baby” and was joined by Johnny Lang – who stayed along with Billy Cox for “Hey Joe.” Guy could hold his own with the guitarists from the younger generations. Simply put – he could show a bit of flash – but more importantly- he could get more out of one or two notes than someone else could do with a flashy guitar solo. Buddy Guy brought Kenny Wayne Shepherd up for the finale of “Red House.”
It was a wonderful opening night for the 2012 Experience Hendrix Tour. As great as the evening was – the rest of the tour will only get better as more guests join the tour at later dates.
Featured Picture: The real Jimi Hendrix.