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Concert Reviews:
Experience Hendrix brings Electric Church to the Fox Theatre

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2019

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DETRIOT -- Janie Hendrix, the late Jimi Hendrix's half-sister and keeper of his creative and commercial flame, promised a "tornado of Jimi's music" at the outset of the Experience Hendrix Tour stop Saturday night, March 23, at the Fox Theatre.

She couldn't have come up with a more apt description of what was to follow. Or a more pleasing prospect.

As it has in previous years, Experience Hendrix celebrated the guitar icon's body of work, voluminous despite the fact he only recorded for a little over four years on his own, in the most appropriate way possible -- by playing it. Thirteen featured musicians, often in collaboration, brought Hendrix's concept of Electric Church to life over the course of 29 song and three hours and 15 minutes of music (plus intermission), an exhaustive and, at times, exhausting (but impressively smooth-running) overview that affirmed the devotion of all in the Fox congregation and maybe converted a few newbies along the way.

This year's roster freshened the mix with some new sounds and approaches. Detroit's Calvin Cooke and fellow Slide Brother Chuck Campbell brought sacred steel guitar to the mix, with Cooke singing a gospel blues lead on "The Sky is Crying" and later passing the ball with Campbell, Indigenous' Mato Manji and Los Lobos' Cesar Rojas and David Hidalgo on "Red House." Megadeth's Dave Mustaine joined the troupe to blend a little shred into the proceedings for "Fire," "Purple Haze" and "Stone Free."

And Joe Satriani returned the tour for the first time in nine years, bringing with him an all-star trio -- dUg Pinnick of King's X and star drummer Kenny Aronoff -- for a five-song set that saluted Hendrix's psychedelic, extemporaneous side, particularly on "I Don't Live Today" and "If 6 Was 9" and culminated in a wailing take on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."

Experience Hendrix's stalwarts testified well, too. With performances on six songs, Texas ace Eric Johnson was the night's nominal MVP, playing nice with a variety of others and turning in newly definitive renditions of "Power of Soul," "Bold As Love" (with Dweezil Zappa) and "Are You Experienced?" (with Zakk Wylde on piano). Hendrix pal Taj Mahal brought bluesy authenticity to "Killing Floor" and "Hey Joe," and Doyle Bramhall II opened the second have with a trio of "Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)," "Drifting" (with Johnson) and "Isabella" before Jonny Lang "All Along the Watchtower with Wylde and Nanji providing solos.

Wylde, of Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne's band, also provided the usual, well, wild man highlights with versions of "Rock Me Baby" and "Little Wing" that were each longer than some entire Hendrix album sides as he walked up the Fox aisles, through the seats and, during the latter, all the way into the balcony.

And while the star players certainly merited their spotlights, Experience Hendrix's support cast should not get short shrift. Billy Cox, Hendrix's bassist in both the Experience and Band of Gypsys, was a welcome presence who connected the spirit of 50 years ago on songs such as "Foxey Lady," "Stone Free" and the Chambers Brothers' "Them Changes." Chris Layton of Steve Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble -- the only Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee on the stage Saturday -- held down the drums until Satriani's set while Kevin McCormick did the bulk of the heavy lifting on bass. And Henri Brown shored up the vocal ranks and acted as an unobtrusive emcee.

Hendrix has been gone a long time (nearly 49 years), but the music endures -- a testament to both his sonic and his compositional vision, as well as to, on Saturday, a corps of acolytes who knew how to keep it current without losing any of its original creative spirit.

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