Friday, March 19, 2010

Experience Hendrix 3.18.2010/Friday Randomness

So, last night CByrd and I saw the Experience Hendrix show at the Chicago Theatre. Our seats weren't the best, in the balcony, second row, extreme stage left, but, hey, they were free.

I'm sharing my memories, but with a show like this, so many people on and off for 3 hours, I can't remember everything. If I don't mention someone on the performer list, I forgot what they did...take that as you will.

Shows like this tend to be a grab-bag. I mean, yeah you're seeing some of the greatest guitarists in the world play Hendrix music, but some of the performances hit home more than others. Add to that the quick in and out of the performers, and the sheer numbers, making sound a difficult balancing act. I'll just say this; the sound was VERY muddy, I don't know if that was because of where we were sitting, or the general mix, but I would guess both played a part. The bass tended to drown out everything, the vocals especially.

We started out with Chris Layton (Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble), who handled the drums for most of the night, Billy Cox (Band of Gypsies, Jimi Hendrix Experience) on bass, and Ernie Isley on guitar. They started with "Stone Free," Cox handling vocals. Generally good, but I will fault Isley for this...whereas most of the guitarists on stage honored Hendrix by being themselves...Isley seemed to be trying to BE Hendrix. Right down to the outfit and the "tricks," (behind the head, between the legs, with the teeth, etc.) and it seemed to be a little...well, precious.

After that Living Colour took the stage, and they were fantastic, but, man, the crowd sucked. An attempt at a call-and-response for "Crosstown Traffic" just became sad. Corey Glover (vocals) and Doug Wimbush (bass) went WAY out into the audience to try to get people on their feet and singing along, but the old hippies weren't having it. Look, I know they went into a slightly different direction with the songs, folks, but they sounded like Living Colour, and that is exactly the way it ought to be, in my book.

The artists came and went pretty quick, no more than 3 songs each. Eric Johnson played exquisitely, as usual, but, being a guy known for his beautiful tone, the sound issues hit him hard. I couldn't even understand what he was saying between songs (granted, he is a mumbler). Susan Tedeschi joined him for a number on vocals, and that was nice. Johnson is such a genius, but so unassuming and kind of withdrawn on stage, he doesn't really come off as "dynamic." A missed opportunity, in my book.

Johnny Lang and Brad Whitford (Areosmith) came out and started off with "Fire" (the entirety of Living Colour and Tedeschi providing the "Let me stand next to your fire" back-up vocals), and, if I remember correctly, "Castles Made of Sand" with Tedeschi, again. Things started picking up. Nice set, with an appropriate amount of, well, fire. Lang's got a nice voice, can play well, and Whitford stepped out from his sideman image and really laid it down.

Then, the bomb dropped.

...And I mean that in the absolute best way.

I had thought Kenny Wayne Shepherd was a decent enough guitarist in the Stevie Ray Vaughan mold, but I always thought he had a way to go. Well, he's gone it. His set, with his regular vocalist, Noah Hunt, was THE moment of this show. Especially their set-closer "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" it was breathtaking. Shepherd and Hunt went after the audience, much like Living Colour did, but from an idiom, straight-ahead blues-rock, that the crowd was much more responsive to. Very few of the other performers threw out that much energy.

I felt very sorry for whoever had to follow that...And Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos - David Hidalgo was on the performer list that night, as well, but never appeared) didn't buck the feeling. Nice, pleasant, and utterly underwhelming from what we'd just seen. Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf) and Tedeschi joined in for a second number, and Sumlin, frankly, didn't come off well. The number seemed sloppy.

Rosas stayed on to play drums (with Layton) for Sacred Steel featuring Robert Randolph. Wow. Three pedal steel guitar, two drummers..."Purple Haze." Quite amazing. Randolph is quite a showman, and plays brilliantly. I'll have to try to find some of their stuff.

Joe Satriani played last, backed by Living Colour. Nice set, Joe is a great ambassador of guitar, and he's eloquent about Hendrix. The playing was up to his high standards, but didn't upset Shepherd as the night's MVP, for me. They wrapped up the "main set" with "All Along the Watchtower." Then Whitford, Randolph, Cox and Layton returned, along with a local 14-year-old guitar student (didn't catch the name...he was great, honestly), and did a jam on "Red House." Cox handled vocals.

It was a nice enough wrap-up, but I had expected a few more people to join in. They were there, as the entire company took a bow after the number...why not a few more people playing. I'd love to see Johnson and Satriani play off each other live. I also, to be honest, find "Red House" a pretty dull number to end such an evening on. I know it was a favorite of Hendrix, but it's just not very exciting for me, personally...

So that was a brief (?) rundown of the show. All in all, a great time, and well worth the effort to see. My question is...where was Doyle Bramhall II? He was on the roster to play last night, not a peep....Hmmm.

Tomorrow night...Alice in Chains at the Aragon. Looking forward to it, the new album is pretty fantastic. Ought to be a good time, and it's walkable from our apartment. Of course with the rain and snow coming, I don't know if that'll happen, actually.

The SDCC hotel experience is pretty much settled, we got a headquarters hotel this time! Just about 1 block from the convention center. This is exciting to me. It'll be nice to have our room so easy to get to before we go to dinner, or drinks, or whatever. Bottom line, this trip is starting to feel real and immediate now, and I cannot wait to get rolling...

I just need to save, save, save...I am a little behind on my "Convention Savings Plan." Nothing disastrous, but I always like to have, as I call it, "enough money so I don't ever have to worry about money" while I'm in San Diego. It just makes the trip easier and less stressful.

Let's see....what else to end the week?

I really need to get rolling, not only on learning lines for my new show, but continuing to read scripts for Stage Left season selection. More scripts have been added to the mix, and, while I'd rather see more eliminated completely as we do that, I've seen a few bright spots in the ones that have been added.

I plan to finish "Reason" this least musically. Like I said, vocals are going to be a much longer process than they have been. I want to finish all the other tracks, and just LISTEN to them for a while, until lyrics and vocal lines organically start to emerge.

I also really want to try to see The Runaways this weekend. The movie may end up silly, but the reviews have been pretty good so far, and I've always liked that band. I really don't know if there will be time to see it, but I may scuttle out for a matinee at some point.

So, good weekend, everyone.

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