March 23, 2012
Winstar World Casino
Thackerville, OK USA
Review by Terry Walsh
Photos by Jeff Jones
Experience Hendrix Tribute Tour - Oklahoma
Given the opportunity to see a bevy of rock music’s finest guitarists from the past and the present, jamming to Jimi Hendrix songs on one stage, you’d think the response would be overwhelming. Sadly, at the Winstar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, that wasn’t exactly the case with this excellent show.
In front of a half full audience, that spent much of the evening in their seats,
the Experience Hendrix 2012 musicians did their absolute best to do justice to the legacy of Jimi Hendrix with varying results.
This year’s Experience Hendrix featured a wide mix of musicians from the youthful Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd to veterans Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Funkmaster Bootsy Collins and Eric Johnsons, to downright legends like The Door’s Robbie Krieger and bassist Billy Cox, an original member of Hendrix’s Band Of Gypsy’s.
The show opened with Billy Cox and Mato Nanji on "Stone Free" from 1967’s Are You Experienced. "We want a raucous crowd tonight!" extolled Cox to the audience. The plea was somewhat in vain. During his time on stage, and for the first third of the show in fact, there seemed little anyone on stage could do to get the crowd fired up. Now don’t get me wrong here. There were periodic outbursts of applause and standing ovations throughout - just not the amount you’d expect from a show with guitarists of this magnitude.
While some of the tepid response was self imposed, some was no doubt in response to a given artist. Take Eric Johnson for example. His playing was phenomenal. In fact, his sound and effects (especially during "Are You Experienced") were nothing short of awesome. However, his relatively flat, nasally voice just doesn’t match well with the soulful, passionate style of Hendrix. Even when paired with guitarists Dweezil Zappa ("Little Miss Lover") or Eric Gales ("May This Be Love"), it still failed to fully ignite. Again, the music was amazing - "Little Miss Lover" really thundered - but the overall vibe was hit and miss.
David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas finally got the crowd stirring. The two came out strong with "Can You See Me" before going into "Little Wing." Hidalgo generated big applause from his solo. The Los Lobos veterans were joined by Robbie Krieger of The Doors for the Hendrix classic, "Hey Joe." Both Hidalgo and Rosas did surprisingly soulful Hendrix vocals punctuated by a brief, but fitting solo by Krieger. No pyrotechnics, just nice guitar playing that fit the song.
Next up was Robert Randolph, joined by Calvin Cooke from The Slide Brothers, a long with the legendary Bootsy Collins on bass. Tearing into "Purple Haze," they gave the audience its first real jolt of Hendrix-esque fire. Besides Randolph and Cooke trading slide licks, Bootsy’s thundering bass literally shook the building. During one segment of the song, Collins stepped up to solo on some bass lines and the band broke into a jam with Bootsy singing. "Scuse me while I funk up the sky!" It was everything you wanted from this song and the crowd responded with its loudest cheers of the night and a standing ovation. During "Foxy Lady" they were joined by Eric Gales who treated the audience to some really impressive Hendrix vocals.
Building on the momentum started by Randolph and Collins were Jonny Lang and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. Starting with Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower" and a rocking "Fire," they slowed up a bit with another Dylan cover, "Like A Rolling Stone." This song proved a nice fit for Lang’s gritty, passionate vocals. As good as these songs were, they paled in comparison to "Spanish Castle Magic" which ended up as the highlight of the night.
"Spanish Castle" featured an extended jam with Lang and Whitford trading solos for nearly five minutes. While Jonny Lang literally tore into his solos, seemingly exerting every ounce of energy, Whitford reeled off equally impressive efforts with the greatest of ease. As good as Lang was giving out, the exchange left little doubt about Whitford’s prowess and why he has long been considered one of rock’s most underrated guitarists.
The finale of the night came from Kenny Wayne Shepherd performing "I Don’t Live Today", "Come On" and "Voodoo Child." Backed by Noah Hunt on vocals, who offered up the closest vocals to Jimi Hendrix yet, Shepherd was in simply amazing. He literally beat his guitar into submission with one lengthy solo after another. Kenny Wayne stalked the stage, seemingly lost in his own world, all the while pounding his guitar, playing behind his head and simply wowing the audience. It was a perfect end to a magnificent show.
Like most people, my only reference for seeing Jimi Hendrix play live is from video. He always looked as though his life depended on it, and his playing was full of fire and passion. That lasting impression is what I expected from seeing other musicians perform Hendrix music. During this show, I experienced a little of both and came away with a new appreciation for how individual guitarists and singers approach the music. Robert Randolph, Bootsy Collins, Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd were in the category of fire and passion. Eric Johnson, Brad Whitford and the Los Lobos compadres were pictures of restraint. The common thread between them was this. Each musician played their asses off showcasing their individual talents in their own unique ways. It was a show not to miss.
Stone Free (Mato Nanji, Billy Cox)
Freedom (Dweezil Zappa, Billy Cox)
Midnight Lamp (Eric Johnson)
Little Miss Lover (Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa)
Love of Confusion (Eric Johnson, Dweezil Zappa)
May This Be Love (Eric Johnson, Eric Gales)
Are You Experienced? (Eric Johnson)
Can You See Me (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas)
Little Wing (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas)
Hey Joe (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, Robby Krieger)
Purple Haze (Robert Randolph , Bootsy Collins, Slide Brothers)
Foxey Lady (Robert Randolph, Eric Gales, Bootsy Collins, Slide Brothers)
Them Changes (David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, Slide Brothers, Robert Randolph, Billy Cox)
All Along the Watchtower (Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford, Mato Nanji)
Soul n’ Fire (Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford)
Like a Rolling Stone (Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford)
Spanish Castle Magic (Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford)
I Don’t Live Today (Kenny Wayne Shephard, Tony Franklin, Chris Layton)
Come On (Kenny Wayne Shephard, Tony Franklin, Chris Layton)
Voodoo Child (Kenny Wayne Shephard, Tony Franklin, Chris Layton)
Red House (Robert Randolph, Robbie Krieger, Mato Nanji)
Robert Randolph, Eric Gales, and Bootsy Collins perform Foxy Lady at Experience Hendrix 2012
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