The spirit of Jimi Hendrix was at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida on Monday night! The Hendrix catalog was brought to life by some of the best musicians of several generations. So many names to drop and I will get to that shortly. Guitar driven performances, could there be anything else with this material?
As well as master sidemen with their own musical pedigrees in various instruments. It is billed as the “Guitar Event of the Year” and with so many players in one show, it is reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festivals, albeit a smaller version. An eclectic group of players in style and genres makes this show all the more interesting, especially since the setlist is Hendrix or covers Jimi played.
Opening the show with “Freedom” was Billy Cox who served in the Army with Jimi, became friends and eventually played with Jimi in several of his bands. Joining Cox was Chris Layton, drummer for Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble and carrying on the Zappa music lineage, Dweezil Zappa. They added Jimi’s cousin Henri Brown on vocals and Chuck Campbell on slide guitar and Indigenous band front man Matu Nanji for the classic “Foxy Lady”. Kevin McCormick, who has produced Jackson Browne among others, handles bass duties for the show. The show’s pace keeps moving with the appearance of blues guitarist and vocalist Ana Popovic, the only female in the lineup who along with Dweezil Zappa jams on “House Burning Down” and “Can You See Me”. Lighting for this show are pristine with graphics of Jimi flashing across the screen.
Precision guitarist Eric Johnson appears for “The Sky is Crying” and “Bold as Love”. Johnson brings back Dweezil and plays with such perfection, it amazes. This show is about to get wild as Zakk Wylde, guitarist for Ozzy and Black Label Society, brings his fun insanity onstage for “Rock Me Baby” and takes it up into ̕the audience to rock out. Wylde does a great version of Jimi’s beautiful “Little Wing”. The audience is on their feet for this first half of the show. There is a 15-minute intermission just to recover from the incredible first half and there’s still much more to come.
The second half of the show brings Doyle Bramhall II to the stage with a trio of tunes that includes “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)”. Bramhall has done extensive work with Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. Work with Gregg Allman, Derek Trucks and Elton are also on his resumé. One of Hendrix’s most beloved guitar anthems, “All along the Watchtower”, brings the appearance of Jonny Lang on guitar and vocals, Eric Johnson and Zakk Wylde joining in. A highlight of the evening! “Fire” gets the ax treatment from Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine who hits the stage on a Flying V and Jonny Lang is handling the vocals while Mustaine tears it up. Billy Cox sings lead vocal on “Stone Free” with Mustaine. It is a short appearance by Mustaine, but appreciated by the audience. Henri Brown and Billy Cox pay tribute as family and friend to Jimi with a memorable rendition of “Hey Joe”.
Speaking of Joe – Satriani, that is – he and drummer extraordinaire Kenny Aronoff make their way onstage to thunderous applause; joining them is King’s X singer and bassist Doug Pinnick. These three should start a band! From “Manic Depression” to “If 6 was 9” to the killer jam of “Voodoo Child” the trio owned it! Satriani is a guitar beast and one of the reasons Dave Mustaine said he was thrilled to do this show because he is a fan. The encore was “Red House” and the cast came out for a bow. If you are a Jimi or guitar fan, this is a NOT to miss show. Jimi may be gone, but never forgotten. He lives on through his music and great musicians who keep his spirit alive!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / sarasotapost.com