On Wednesday, March 16th, The Experience Hendrix rolled into the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse as an all-star cast brought the legacy of Jimi Hendrix’s music to life for the capacity crowd. Jimi’s sister, Janie, opened the festivities, welcoming the congregation to the Electric Church in celebration of the spirit and music of Jimi Hendrix.
The stage saw a revolving cast of guitarists and singers coming on and off the stage to share their renditions from Hendrix’s library. The evening started with Dweezil Zappa on lead guitar, Billy Cox (who played in both the Band of Gypsies and The Jimi Hendrix Experience) on bass and lead vocals, and Chris Layton (of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble) on the drums, ripping through “Freedom”.
The absence of an opening act was evident as it took several songs before the crowd matched the energy level of the music being pumped out of the Marshall stacks. Though, with the 25-song setlist clocking in at 3 hours with a 20 minute intermission, it is debatable if an opening act was even feasible.
Much like a well-written symphony, the onstage ensemble went through physical crescendos and decrescendos as musicians were added to and taken from the mix, providing a seemingly endless variety of ingredients to the hungry masses. From the basic power trio, to a full stage that included two pedal guitars, two lead guitars, bass, and percussion, The Hendrix Experience delivered a full spectrum of flavors through the night.
Each of the guitarists more than held their own and provided his own take on Hendrix signatures. Dweezil churned out an amazing wah-laden solo in “Stone Free”. Eric Johnson spent much of “Are You Experienced?” off in the wings of the stage conjuring supernatural feedback sounds from the amps. Zakk Wylde invoked some Jimi showmanship with both behind the head soloing, as well as literally chewing out a solo with his teeth. The Slide Brothers’ Calvin Cooke and Chuck Campbell hit unfathomable registers on their pedal guitars, most notably on “The Sky is Crying”. Mato Nanji and Johnny Lange shared a blistering solo in “Spanish Castle Magic” that had the crowd screaming in appreciation.
Then of course there was Buddy Guy, who was doing his thing before Jimi was doing Jimi’s thing. And at 79 years old, Buddy continues to do it. Buddy delivered gritty, witty lyrics in “Louisiana Blues”, and backed them up with shredding solos that reinvigorated the crowd that had started to look at their watches (not out of boredom, but disbelief and exhaustion). There is something about watching an elder statesman ripping through scales with the speed and feel that most guitarists will never know, it gives folks the energy to cheer just a little louder, a little longer.
Leaving the venue, I noted that instead of hearing conversations that started with “I wish they had played…”, what I heard mostly was “I can’t believe they played…” as the crowd was clearly pleased with how deep they dug into Jimi’s catalog. Much like a congregation after mass, those leaving the Landmark Theater appeared to be uplifted, fulfilled, and spiritually satiated, thanks to the service at The Electric Church.
Cast (in order of appearance): Dweezil Zappa: guitar; Billy Cox: bass, vox; Chris Layton: drums; Mato Nanji: guitar, vox; Henri Brown: vox; Chuck Campbell: pedal guitar; Scott Nelson: bass; Calvin Cooke: pedal guitar; Eric Johnson: guitar, vox; Noah Hunt: vox; Zakk Wylde: guitar, vox, keyboard; Johnny Lange: guitar, vox;Janie Hendrix: backup vox; Kenny Wayne Shepherd: guitar; Billy Austin: drums; Buddy Guy: guitar, vox; Guitar: Dweezil Zappa, Mato Nanji, Eric Johnson, Zakk Wylde, Johnny Lange, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Buddy Guy; Pedal Guitar: Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell; Bass: Billy Cox, Scott Nelson; Drums: Chris Layton, Billy Austin; Vox and Backup Vox: Henri Brown, Noah Hunt, Janie Hendrix
Set 1: Freedom, Stone Free, Foxey Lady, The Sky is Crying, Wait Until Tomorrow, One Rainy Wish, Love and Confusion, Third Stone from the Sun, Are You Experienced?, Manic Depression, Little Wing, Purple Haze,
Set 2: All Along the Watchtower, Fire, The Wind Cries Mary, Spanish Castle Magic, Gypsy Eyes, I Don’t Live Today, Come On – Part One, Voodoo Chile, Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), Louisiana Blues, Hey Joe, We Gotta to Live Together, Red House