Hendrix Tribute: Not Worth the Experience

By Dave McKenna
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mick Taylor must be sick of hearing how quitting the Rolling Stones in the mid-1970s was the worst decision of his rock-and-roll life. Perhaps that's why he agreed to appear on the travesty known as the Experience Hendrix Tour, which kicked off Tuesday at Constitution Hall. If the opening-night show was any indication, the British bluesman can soon make the argument that the Stones' parting was only his second-biggest mistake.

Shoddiness ruled even before the three-hour debacle got started. Signs were posted at the hall's entrances saying Jonny Lang, one of the top draws on the long and distinguished bill, wouldn't be appearing due to "emergency" circumstances. Curiously, Lang's name, unlike the names of several lesser no-shows (Corey Glover among them), wasn't even mentioned in the tour program. Then there were the signs for the tour's primary sponsor, Gibson guitars. Given that Jimi Hendrix was far and away the most famous player of the Stratocaster, an instrument made by Gibson's arch-rival Fender, the pairing seems as wrongheaded as a Richard Petty tribute being sponsored by Toyota.

Despite all the star power, nothing went right musically. The sound was bad beyond belief, as if no sound check or even rehearsal had taken place prior to showtime. Taylor's microphone wasn't working at all when he tried singing "Catfish Blues," a traditional tune covered by Hendrix. The mike was also dead when former Hendrix bassist Billy Cox tried to sing "Red House." Kenny Wayne Shepherd made all the right faces, but his guitar solos were buried so deep in the mix during "I Don't Live Today" that his instrument might as well not have been plugged in.

Drummer Mitch Mitchell and Cox served as Hendrix's last rhythm section, but for whatever reason on this night they kept time worse than a street-corner Rolex. Mitchell was particularly off his game on "All Along the Watchtower," and his bizarre banging left Taylor and former Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger lost and looking like amateurs.

The stage setup was also a mess. Buddy Guy's band equipment took up the center and left portions of the stage, but until Guy was called on, performers were forced to huddle in a small patch on the right side.

Guy's set started with the house lights on and the hall half-empty, since an intermission had been announced about two minutes earlier and then cut short for no obvious reason. Guy, backed by his own band, delivered the only tolerable performance of the very long evening, but his 12-bar blues numbers weren't what the crowd thought they were spending their time and money on.

After Guy played one of his own signature numbers, "My Time After Awhile," a woman sitting up high in the back of the hall screamed simply "Hendrix!" as if she was in pain and angry. Everybody in the venue could relate.

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