Sat. Feb 16th, 2019

REVIEW: The Experience Hendrix Tour featuring EVERYBODY inside the Whitley Center at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville, KY

Experience Hendrix - Eric Johnson - Photo by Jonathan Newsome-1-2

*Be sure and check out our MASSIVE photo gallery here and enjoy a few retro themed photos below.

I’ve got to admit, going into this show, I have never been more excited to go see a tribute tour. Of course, this is no ordinary tribute tour. It’s a tour dedicated to the greatest guitarist to ever grace the Earth, Jimi Hendrix. The Experience Hendrix Tour is an All-Star tour that includes many great musicians who are quite famous in their own right, all coming together to pay tribute to James “Jimi” Marshall Hendrix. On this night the lineup was set and I’ve got to admit it was pretty damn incredible. I’m betting you know quite a few of these names: Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Brad Whitford, Eric Johnson, Cesar Rosas & David Hidalgo, Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Layton, Eric Gales, Mato Nanji, Dani Robinson, and Stan Skibby. Yeah, that’s a pretty exciting lineup right there.

This stop was held inside the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts at Whitney Hall in downtown Louisville, KY. A beautiful venue with around 2,300 seats that features several balconies, so no matter where you are, you are always close to the stage. As I made my way inside, I was surprised to see such a diverse amount of people. Sure there were older folks who knew Jimi’s music from back in the day, but there were quite a few young people. Many of them sporting Black Label Society t-shirts or even the occasional Aerosmith shirt. Let’s just say that there were many different cultures represented on this night and THAT is the beauty of music. It can bring people together, no matter their background. People talk of finding ways to promote peace, I say make timeless music to combat those who choose war.

Seeing the stage for the first time, I was intrigued by how much equipment was onstage. Fender amps, old Marshall amps, two full drum kits, a couple bass rigs and about six microphones filled the entire stage. It was then that my brain started to connect the dots and a nervous excitement took over.

As the event began, it was really cool to hear the tales and revisit Jimi’s Kentucky connection as well. Most are probably unaware that Jimi served his military time in the 101st Airborne. Which is stationed in Fort Campbell, Ky.

After seeing Jimi’s old bandmate Billy Cox take the stage, that really put into perspective the idea of Jimi’s age if he were alive today. It made me begin to think about a couple things. One, I wondered what his music would sound like today if he were still here and it also made me realize just how powerful and timeless his music has become. After all, we were all in a sold-out concert hall to celebrate his music nearly 44 years after his death. That speaks volumes in and of itself.

Once my thoughts stopped racing from the excitement, I got to focus on Dweezil Zappa as he took the stage for a couple of songs, including Stone Free. Dweezil is of course the son of Frank Zappa and brings a very polished style to the event. His laid back demeanor and huge smiles put us all into a trance.

That is until Eric Gales hit the stage. Having only heard a small sample of Eric’s work, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we got though, was a highly energetic, contagious performance of the brilliant Foxey Lady. Eric’s energy and skill were on full display and it conjured up another thought; With Eric being a left handed guitarist, who has the skills, why was Andre 3000 cast to play Jimi in the upcoming biopic instead of Eric? His voice and skill level are perfect for it. Why not? I will say that Andre 3000 does seem to make a great Jimi. Check out this first clip:

Next up was Grammy winning artist Eric Johnson. His style is extremely polished and his incredible tone really brought to life, the classic Hard To Love. Focusing on his guitar neck, Eric became quite animated as his feet were sliding back with each note that slid across the neck, even standing on his tiptoes during the high notes, as if he were reaching further into the stratosphere for that extra pitch. His performance was really enjoyable. Eric was a part of several songs. Such as Freedom and Ezy Rider where he was joined by Dweezil and vocalist Noah Hunt.

Then came one of my favorite moments of the night. Eric Johnson was joined by Eric Gales who played a fantastic version of May This Be Love. The chemistry and energy that these two shared was amazing to watch. As they faced each other and traded licks, as well as smiles, during the solo you got the sense that this tour was just as much fun for them, as it was for all of us.

The last song with Eric Johnson was Are You Experienced. Which featured none other than Zakk Wylde on the keyboards. Eric really let loose, as if Zakk’s presence motivated him and if that’s what it takes, let’s put these two on a tour together tomorrow. For me, the most captivating moment though, was watching Eric create the muted, scratching noises heard within the original song. I’d expect that from say a Tom Morello, but it wasn’t something I expected from Eric.

As Eric left the stage, Zakk Wylde strapped in for the next couple of songs. He began with I Don’t Live Today and ended with Purple Haze. Those are two of Jimi’s heavier tracks and let’s just say Zakk took full advantage of that. I’ve seen Zakk with his band Black Label Society many times, but I can’t say that I’ve seen him as “on fire” as he was on this night. His solos were blazing and his stage presence stole the first half of the show. Positioning himself at the very edge of the stage, he marched from side to side blasting through melting the faces of those in his wake. No matter if he played the guitar behind his head, or with his teeth; he never missed a note and OWNED that stage. This was Jimi’s music, but it was definitely Zakk’s interpretation. Once Purple Haze was over, he laid down his guitar center stage and made his way around the front of the stage, where he high-fived as many hands as he could reach. This was Zakk’s moment and he absolutely owned it going into the intermission.

Speaking of an intermission, enjoy a few retro themed photos here and pick up the article afterwards.

After the brief intermission, Doyle Bramhall took the stage by himself to perform a phenomenal rendition of Hear My Train A’Comin on his 12-string guitar. As the stage filled with musicians once again, Doyle played a version of Angel that is only topped by Jimi himself. Definitely one of the highlights on the night for me.

Next up were Cesar Rosas & David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. They tackled the massive Little Wing and brought a calm, collected performance to the stage. While not as exciting to watch as say Zakk Wylde and his aggressive solos, the Lobos oozed with cool and turned in one of the more soulful performances on the night.

Then came the man I was waiting for. As much as I love each guitarist on this tour, Jonny Lang holds a special place in my heart and I was eager to get started. Jonny began with an acoustic guitar and was joined by Zakk Wylde and Brad Whitford. As Jonny hit the first chords of All Along The Watchtower, I knew we were about to be blown away. A Bob Dylan song, performed in Jimi’s style with the soulful vocals of Jonny, aided by Zakk Wylde AND Brad Whitford? COME ON!! Who wouldn’t lose their mind witnessing that?! Needless to say, it was more than amazing. It was transcending.

As Zakk once again left the stage, Jonny picked his guitar and alongside Brad Whitford, they ANNIHILATED Spanish Castle Magic. Facing each other, trading licks, Jonny was not only a player, but a cheerleader as well. Egging Brad on with each note. I sat in silence. Stunned. In awe of what I was witnessing. I thought to myself, “Good Lord! This night can’t get any better!

Boy was I wrong, but more in that later. Next up was Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his vocalist Noah Hunt. Kenny Wayne has often been compared to Stevie Ray Vaughn, so it makes perfect sense that SRV’s drummer Chris Layton is a member of KWS’s band, and that he join him on this night as well. They played Let The Good Times Roll and brought the crowd to their feet with the ultimate Jimi anthem in Voodoo Chile. Which is a song that has been recorded by all three artists. (Jimi, SRV and KWS) Now, I’m 100% certain the night can’t get any better. Right? Wrong. On the side of the stage, I see the black and white polka dot shirt. It’s the legendary Buddy Guy and he’s brought out onstage by Jimi’s bassist Billy Cox! Are you kidding me?! They’re playing a mini-set together? Mind=Blown. They could’ve played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for all I cared, I was in Guitar Heaven. So what songs did they play? First they played a classic Muddy Waters tune as Buddy shared a couple stories about Jimi and his love for the blues. They were then joined by Cesar Rosas & David Hidalgo for Hey Joe and ended the night with Red House which nearly blew the roof of the place.

I’ve read some reviews about this tour that say there isn’t enough soul to capture the essence of Jimi Hendrix. While I can’t totally agree with those opinions, I can see their point. These performances were more of an interpretation of Jimi’s music and what they meant from an influential standpoint. For me, I had one of the best musical experiences in my entire life. So many different styles, attitudes, tempos within the structures of the songs that we all know and love. This will become a destination for me every time it’s close and I strongly suggest you do the same.

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