Hop on kids, we’re taking a trip to a place know as, “Guitarworld!”
A couple weeks ago on a Sunday I was puttering around the house, bored stiff when I got a phone call from longtime guitar playing, bus driving cohort and salesman supreme, Stephen Foster. He said, “Hey Whale, wanna go see ‘Experience Hendrix’ tonight at the Civic Center?”
Two hours later we were sitting on the floor level of the Peoria Civic Center Theater, row 20ish among jigawatts, Brett and Jeff waiting for this highly acclaimed show to start.
It started right on time with old buddy and DJ supreme, Doc Watson giving away a loverly white Strat to a lucky crowd member. Then he introduced Jimi’s younger sister Janie Hendrix which caused a rousing round of applause. She then introduced the first quartet onstage: Billy Cox, and two guitarists that looked very "Jimi-esque. They were righty qnd lefty black gentlemen named Dani Robinson and Stan Skibby, compete in full Hendrix regalia, wielding Stratocaster type guitars alongside Double Trouble’s drummer (who played all night), Chris Layton. The familiar harmonics of "Stone Free" opened the show. Billy sang it and they nailed it.
Band of Gypsys megahit, "Machine Gun" came next followed by, ""Message of Love" and the posthumous, "Freedom" from the Cry Of Love album. I was flashing back to 1979 and ‘80 when my band Kool Ray played all of these to midwest crowds in stadiums and clubs.
Soon the quartet was joined by Doors axeman, Robbie Krieger and Black Crowes, Rich Robinson taking over as featured guitarists. An unknown to me and my friends singer dude did a passable version of "Manic Depression.” Robbie and Rich both played Gibson SG's with the old Gibson simple tremolo bars...reminiscent in sound of Jimi's Flying V's. I too liked those humbucking equipped axes and in the right hands, with proper amps and devices, they were capable of the terrifying feedback effects that were Jimi's trademark. These guys didn't disappoint!
The Los Lobos guitar duo of Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo joined the rhythm section for the Monterey classic "Can You See Me." The vocal, not unlike a few others through the night were sung an octave lower than Jimi's version. Nobody but nit pickers and critical musicians probably noticed...I thought it kind of sucked. Dweezil Zappa performed admirably in this set, echoing daddy Frank's guitar mastery and nailing the Hendrix vibe.
“Little Wing” and “Killin' Floor” were adequate, I'm kind of tired of those two ditties. Let me interject that whoever was manning the sound board was not doing a very good job of picking the right guitarists to boost the volume on solos...the mix was muddy and invariably late all night. It was too loud for the room at times and inexcusable for a big time arena rock major league concert! The overall mix of vocals and instruments was fairly good...I would give it a “B.”
Bootsy Collins, former Family Stone bass popper came on in a gold suit, gold tophat and sporting a star shaped gold bass guitar. He is a rock Gawd for the ages! Jaz-Rockdemigawd, guitarist Eric Gales and Asian gunslinger Mato Nanji also joined the guitar army fray. They plowed thru "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady". Gales sang "Haze" in a lower register which was not pleasing. I was waiting for Mike Myers in Garth mode to emerge and sing "Foxy Lady"..but he didn't. It sounded okay without him!
Clapton sideman extraordinaire Doyle Bramhall II did and acoustic solo of “Hear My Train A Comin’”, then he switched to electric and did the emotional "Angel" and another Cry of Love fave "In from the Storm"
After I took a short pause for a cigarette and a men's room trip, blonde heartthrob Jonny Lang butchered "All Along the Watchtowewr", “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Spanish Castle Magic.” I call the pretty white boys Bieber Blues. Jonny makes great rock faces and has some good licks. He is a polite young man that drives the ladies and young girls wild. I can name a dozen teen wunderking former students of mine that could smoke me and him from Peoria past and present. I am not jealous, he's rich and pretty and I am old and look like a basset hound!
IMHO, Kenny Wayne Shepherd is a snooze too. I've seen him in Nevada and he's another white boy Texas pretender with some good chops and tone but there will never be another Stevie Ray Vaughn or Johnny Winter...It takes more than anguished polished contorted faces and a three name moniker to be the real thing. 'Nuff said.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd played some of my persnal faves: "I Don't Live Today", “Come On (Let The Good TimesRoll)”, "Gypsy Eyes",and “Voodoo Chile.”
I loved the show and most of the players. I had never seen Billy Cox in person. I was lucky enough to see the real deal. In 1968 I saw Jimi, Mitch and Noel at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. First row, first balcony, five bucks. It changed my life. I was never so high with out drugs or alcohol in my life. I have seen the finest guitarists of these 2 centuries : Jeff Beck, BB and Albert King, Stevie Ray, Eric Johnson, Luther, Buddy, Alvin Lee, James Burton, Brian Setzer, Al DiMeola, John McLaughlin, Eric Clapton, The Stones and Beatles, Joe Walsh and Pete Frampton to name a few.
I grew up as friends and played with Fogelberg, Richrath, Somerville, Danny Beard (5th Dimension), Ron Stockert (Rufus and Three Dog Night) , Wild Child Gipson, Ronny Carrol, Greg X Volz, George Faber, Elvis Brothers, Coal Kitchen, Eddie King and Vanessa Davis. Globally speaking I was in or shared stages with Tributes to Elvis, Ricky Nelson, The Beatles, with members of the real Yardbirds, Shames, Buckinghams, Grass Roots, Pez Band, Off Broadway, Bill Haley's Comets, Rockin’ R's and Animals. But when I saw Jimi that night NOBODY before or since comes close to the fretboard mastery I saw that night. It was my intro to “Red House” (which had not been released in the USA.)
I will write about being experienced by the Experience in another story for MBIP.
Back to 2014, The finale was “Them Changes”, “Hey Joe” and “Red House”. Three guitar players' measuring sticks and victims of countless garage bands thru the years—kinda like "Wipe Out" is for drummers. Congrats to Jay Goldberg my friend and agent, a supplier of gigs and lifetime musical memories for nearly 50 years. He brought a world class show to P-Town. Thanks to Steve Foster for the invitation, free ticket and the great Janie Grier Kelley for providing facts, names and songlist for me. Thanks to all the people who keep the music alive, some of them have been around since the golden age of Rock. It's been fun and well worth the long strange trip.