Live Review: Experience Hendrix at the Paramount Theatre

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Experience Hendrix Paramount Theatre Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jimi Hendrix once said, “Music is my religion,” and the Paramount Theater essentially became the Church of Hendrix for three hours while some extraordinary guitarists paid tribute to who many consider the ultimate guitar god.

Eric Gales delivered an uplifting opening sermon with “Purple Haze” and “Foxey Lady” backed by Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox and drummer Christ Layton, who was part of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble. Indigenous guitarist Mato Nanji, who’d been playing rhythm guitar during the first two cuts, took the spotlight on “Stone Free” and the bluesy “Hear My Train a Comin’.”

Austin’s Eric Johnson has been tossing Hendrix songs into his shows for years, and his faithful takes on “Love Or Confusion” and “Bold as Love” made it clear that he knew those songs inside and out. Johnson, Cox and former Hendrix drummer Mitch Mitchell teamed up on the jazzy “Up From the Skies” with Mitchell keeping time on the brushes. Gales came back on stage to join Johnson on what may be one of Hendrix’s most beautiful tunes, “May This Be Love.” The two traded off singing duties as well as gorgeous solos near the end of the tune. Johnson fronted an outstanding take on “Are You Experienced?” backed by Mitchell, Layton and another drummer.

Jonny Lang and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford torched up the stage with their take “Fire.” Lang gave one of the most energetic performances of the night and almost seemed possessed during his solos on the “Fire” as well as on “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Spanish Castle Magic.”

Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his bandmate Noah Hunt dug in deep on the slow blues of “Voodoo Chile” and ramped up the intensity on “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” which finally got nearly everyone in the audience on their feet. Up until that point, some people in the crowd looked as though they wanted to get up and rock out a bit. It was just a bit strange that it took almost two hours and sixteen songs for everyone to get up from their seats since the there had been a lot of highly charged music earlier in the set.

David Hildago & Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos ran through a brisk take on “Can You See Me?” before Mitchell joined them on “Little Wing,” which was almost equally as beautiful as Johnson and Gales’s “May This Be Love.”

While Hendrix maybe have heavily influenced everyone that played until that point, the last part of the show included two guitarists that influenced Hendrix: 76-year-old Hubert Sumlin and the legendary Buddy Guy. Sumlin, who was Howlin’ Wolf’s long-time guitarist, played the Wolf classic “Killing Floor” before Buddy Guy came out and did two songs from his most recent album, Skin Deep. Sumlin and Guy, both smiling, traded licks on the slow blues of Guy’s “Best Damn Fool.”

During “Red House” there were something like three guitarists, three drummers (one of which was Hildago), a bassist and a keyboardist. Guy was in awesome form and at one point during his solo he let a note feedback while a roadie brought him a coffee cup, which he drank while his left hand fretted the note. It has to be tough for a keyboardist to be in the midst of so many great guitarists, Marty Sammon, who plays in Guy’s band, did a noble job when they let him rip into a solo on “Red House” sprinkle in a bit of Professor Longhair and Thelonious Monk.

After closing the show with “Hey Joe,” some people in the audience looked a bit stunned and exhausted, and for some it was probably damn close to a religious experience.

--Jon Solomon

Critic’s Notebook Personal bias: If anyone wasn’t experienced in the magic of Hendrix’s music, they probably are now. Random notes: Guitarist Ric White (of Buddy Guy’s band and who also played “Red House”) was wearing a CU Buffaloes jersey. By the way: Mitch Mitchell only played on a handful of tunes.

Set list:

Purple Haze – Eric Gales Foxey Lady – Eric Gales, Stone Free – Mato Nanji, Hear My Train a Comin’ – Mato Nanji Love or Confusion – Eric Johnson Up From the Skies – Eric Johnson May This Be Love – Eric Johnson & Eric Gales Bold as Love – Eric Johnson Are You Experienced? Eric Johnson Fire – Jonny Lang & Brad Whitford The Wind Cries Mary - Jonny Lang & Brad Whitford Spanish Castle Magic - Jonny Lang & Brad Whitford Come On (Pt. 1) – Kenny Wayne Shepherd I Don’t Live Today - Kenny Wayne Shepherd Voodoo Chile - Kenny Wayne Shepherd Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Kenny Wayne Shepherd Can You See Me? – David Hildago & Cesar Rosas Little Wing - David Hildago & Cesar Rosas Changes - David Hildago, Cesar Rosas, Mato Nanji Killing Floor – Hubert Sumlin Best Damn Fool – Buddy Guy Out of the Woods – Buddy Guy & Hubert Sumlin Red House – Buddy Guy, Brad Whitford, Cesar Rosas & Ric White Hey Joe - Buddy Guy, Cesar Rosas, David Hildago

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