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Concert Reviews:

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, October 26, 2008

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DETROIT -- If a rock guitar addict's heaven would be one more concert by the late Jimi Hendrix, then having 10 of his accomplished admirers play his songs is at least a "Cry of Love."

Such was the case Saturday night (Oct. 25) at the Fox Theatre, where the Experience Hendrix Tour 2008 set down for a three-hour orgy of six-string pyrotechnics that not only rocked the house -- or, if you prefer, the "Red House" -- but provided a bit of education and context to a too short (three-year) solo career that spun out more sonic prototypes and performing archetypes than most players foster in decades. The breadth of styles -- from tripped-out hard rock to gritty blues and melodic balladry -- was illuminating; so was depth of the material, reaching deep into Hendrix's catalog to show there was much more of merit than merely the rock radio staples.

Early in the evening former Hendrix bassist Billy Cox promised that "y'all are in for a treat tonight. It's gonna get better and better and better" -- and in this case the hyperbole was spot-on. Eric Gales, playing with Cox and drummer Chris Layton from the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble, started the round robin show with "Purple Haze," then welcomed Mato Nanji of Indigenous for a bluesier rendition of "Foxey Lady" -- during which the gregarious Gales struck a Hendrixian pose playing the guitar behind his head.

The rest of the night was filled with short sets by the featured players, often joined by their colleagues for special collaborations. Kenny Olson, formerly of Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker and a longtime Experience Hendrix favorite, came home for the night and joined Gales and Nanji on a fiery "Stone Free" and later hooked up with Howlin' Wolf sideman (and Hendrix influence) Hubert Sumlin and Aerosmith's Brad Whitford for a spirited romp through Wolf's "Killing Floor." Whitford joined forces with Jonny Lang for a trio of "Fire," "The Wind Cries Mary" and "Are You Experienced." Nanji acquitted himself well on "Little Wing," "Hear My Train A Comin' " and "Remember" -- joined on the latter by Doyle Bramhall II, an Eric Clapton and Roger Waters sideman with an estimable solo repertoire of his own, who in turn delivered soulful takes on "Angel" and "Rock Me Baby."

Texas guitarist Eric Johnson showed off plenty of flashy technique as he rolled through "Love or Confusion," "Up From the Skies," an exceptional "May This Be Love" with Gales," "Bold as Love" and an epic "Are You Experienced" that was turned into a trancey march with four drummers -- including Hendrix cohort Mitch Mitchell, who came and went throughout the show. And, with all respect to show-closer Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd's five-song set was the night's pinnacle; aided by Noah Hunt, the evening's best vocalist, he fired through "Come On (Part 1)" and "I Don't Live Today" before blowing the roof off with a coupling of the bluesy "Voodoo Chile" and the psychedelic opus "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" that breathed genuinely fresh air in to what has become something of a warhorse.

Lang explained during his portion of the show that he and the others were "trying to attempt top lay these great songs." That was a modest assessment; their efforts succeeded both in honoring the spirit of Hendrix's musical footprint and establishing its relevance as an enduring and still exciting body of work.

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