Experience Hendrix obliterates The Orpheum

It's not every day you can walk into a theater hall and listen to the best revival of the most unique rock guitarist that ever lived, but that's what a sold out Orpheum got a taste of last night as the Experience Hendrix show came to town. Billy Cox (Bassist of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys), Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Living Colour and many more wowed the assembled mass of St Patrick's Day revelers, bringing down the house with long solos and once-in-a-lifetime jams that could alternately make one's ears bleed or even coax away the blues with some touching soul. Guitars were played behind heads (and at least five times with teeth) and no one seemed surprised that every element and genre of Hendrix's legacy, style and imagination were on display, causing our ears to still ring with delight.

Experience Hendrix obliterates The Orpheum
Jon Behm for City Pages

Billy Cox and Ernie Isley (of the Isley Brothers) started out the show with some real finesse, effectively creating, better than most of those that would follow, a real essence of Hendrix's music: fast electric blues sung with a tortured soul's voice. That is what Hendrix has always sounded like to me, but also psychedelic, jazzy, funky, experimental and many other uncharacterized genres in between. There's no doubt that he was a one of a kind performer and this long cavalcade of 21 or so musicians touched on a 24 song set of his classic works, doing a pretty solid job, with each adding a different piece to the mix.

Experience Hendrix obliterates The Orpheum
Jon Behm for City Pages

Probably the most called upon group of the evening was the more modern group Living Colour. Led by the enormous vocal range of Corey Glover and the smooth finesse of guitarist Vernon Reid, Living Colour was one of the highlights of the evening and one of the few that was able to get the half-in-the-bag crowd staggering to it's feet. While Glover's occasionally high-pitched falsetto was not exactly a trait begotten of Hendrix's voice but it worked well with the increasing high pitched and very heavy guitar as they came on and off stage a couple of times. But it was Reid that brought possibly the most unique style of guitar work to the stage, obviously more of the jazz and avant-garde genre as evidenced by his more placid technique and jazz musician postures. Not to mention his phenominally effortless looking  speed strumming.

Experience Hendrix obliterates The Orpheum
Jon Behm for City Pages

Following were Eric Johnson (who's entirely too short set was highlighted by an excellent rendition of "Are You Experienced"), then Jonny Lang (who's potential for an aneurism as a result of his anxiously pained and de-oxygenated facial expressions seem very real) and the night's obvious virtuoso in our midst, Kenny Wayne Shepherd. This last of the three younger guitar superstars is the one who was most obviously cut from the same cloth as Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.  His willingness to serve the music that was Hendrix before serving his own style prominently set him apart from the rest. Shepherd shared his amazing ability to tiptoe the line between showman and showboat, tough to do amongst such historic company and true geniuses. His tour-de-force was a 15 minute plus medley of "Voodoo Chile" (the blues version) and the pop radio version ("Slight Return") combined.  It was a technical display like none I've seen before and Shepherd was shown to be the best amongst those on stage, at least on this evening.

(Click here for more photos from Jon Behm)
Amidst all this testosterone was a phenomenally diverse contribution by Susan Tedeschi. She contibuted vocals, rhythm guitar and some striking solo work in a bit of face off with Brad Whitford (of Aerosmith) and Jonny Lang (who proved to be a much better singer than a solo guitarist). Susan not only held her own but also produced some of the best bluesy solo work of the evening with the warm sound of her hollowbody amdist a sea of Strat solos. Another highlight for Tedeschi was in playing next to the senior performer of the night, 78 year old Hubert Sumlin (of Howlin' Wolf's band). Tedeschi wasn't always singing or playing but she provided more soulful vocals than many of the others were able to contribute.


Experience Hendrix obliterates The Orpheum
Jon Behm for City Pages

Alas towards the end it began to get too loud as there were more and more musicians on stage (at times 8 or 10) and this had an effect as the house speakers were sounding over matched by the bassist struggling to be heard amongst 3 or even 6 guitars. While Robert Randolph and his Sacred Steel trio of pedal steel guitarists were a welcome addition to the night's entertainers, their sound tended to wash together and had little backbone to it. Then when other guitarists including Shepherd, Reid and Whitford returned to the stage it all built into a raging mess of noise on "Them Changes."

The whole evening was finished off by a great bluesy workout of "Red House", sung by bassist Billy Cox in a fashion very similar to that of Buddy Guy or B.B. King. After the rapatious feeling of Satriani's overzealous, constantly high-noted and angular solo work, a return to the foundation of Jimi's music was a fitting way to end the night. A night that was certainly star studded and bigger than life, but maybe not always with the style and soul of Hendrix in mind. Yet neither I nor the crowd seemed mind, I know the guy walking through the front row with four Mic Golden Lights in his hands, a mullet, and sporting a Fender shirt (complete with cut-off sleeves) didn't mind living the high life. It was a big loud show of electrified sound and it seemed to suit us all just fine.

Stone Free - Billy Cox, Ernie Isley
Message To Love - Billy Cox, Ernie Isley
Manic Depression > Amazing Grace - Ernie Isley
Power of Soul - Living ColourCrosstown Traffic - Living Colour
House Burning Down - Eric Johnson

Bold As Love - Eric Johnson
One Rainy Wish - Eric Johnson, Susan Tedeschi
Are You Experienced - Eric Johnson, Will Calhoun
Fire - Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford
The Wind Cries Mary - Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford
Spanish Castle Magic - Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford, Susan TedeschiI
Don't Live Today - Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Noah Hunt

Come On (Let the Good Times Roll) - Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Noah Hunt
Medley: Voodoo Chile and Voodoo Child (Slight Return) - Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Noah Hunt
Can You See Me - David Hildago
Killing Floor - Hubert Sumlin, David Hildago, Susan Tedesch
Purple Haze - Robert Randolph and Sacred Steel
Them Changes - Robert Randolph and Sacred Steel, Billy Cox, Corey Glover

Third Stone from the Sun - Joe Satriani, Corey Glover, Doug Wimbish, Will Calhoun

Foxy Lady - Joe Satriani, Living Colour

All Along the Watchtower - Joe Satriani, Living Colour
Red House - Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Brad Whitford, Robert Randolph, Will Calhoun

Except when replaced by Living Colour or Billy Cox, Chris Layton played drums and Scott Nelson played bass.

(Click here for more photos from Jon Behm)

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