Classic Rock Corner

Last Night: Experience Hendrix Tour At Arena Theatre

Experience Hendrix Tour Arena Theatre March 22, 2012

It was a guitar-gasm of monstrous proportions at the Arena Theatre when string shredders, bass thumpers, keyboard squealers, and one very, very hardworking drummer paid tribute to the musical legacy of Jimi Hendrix in a 3+ hour show that expertly mined the catalogue of the late musical genius.

In fact, there were so many musicians coming on and off the stage throughout the show - often in groups - that the venue's legendary revolving stage was at least for this night frozen. And the guitar racks were so high and heavy with instruments that an entire section of seats behind them were not for sale.

Before show, Rocks Off caught up with singer/bassist Billy Cox -- Hendrix's old army buddy and the only performer on the bill to have actually played and recorded with Jimi as part of both the Experience and Band of Gypsys. Manning his own merch table with wife by his side, he told us how the three week tour is going so far.

"It's incredible, we're having so much fun! Every night, we get to do what we want to do, and the crowds have been so great. It's life-changing, man...people come up to me with tears in their eyes afterwards. OK, God bless!"

After a short film on Hendrix's life, his half-sister Janie -- who as head of the singer's estate Experience Hendrix LLC has done great things with music in recent years -- started things off with a rousing introduction rocking a blinged-out hat and shiny shirt.

Cox then took the mike for the lead on a buoyant "Stone Free" and "Message of Love," bringing out Dweezil Zappa for "Freedom." Tony Franklin and Eric Gales delivered a strong "Manic Depression" with Gales on scorching vocals.

Cult favorite guitarist Eric Johnson -- who clearly had some supporters in the crowd -- slowed things down with "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" before bringing Zappa back out for deeper cut "Little Miss Lover" to the accompanying photos of Hendrix and, um, some lady friends. The pair also raged through "Love or Confusion," which Zappa called "the most psychedelic song ever written."

Robby Krieger of the Doors and Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos were next up with a number of tunes, including a meaty "Hey Joe" (Hendrix's cover version was his first hit). But the game was anted-up considerably with the next power duo of funk bass legends Bootsy Collins (in an incredible shiny rainbow suit and top hat) and sacred steel king Robert Randolph.

Their funked-up cover of "Foxy Lady" - with Gales back out on vocals and his lady friend bumping and grinding appreciatively behind the stage - was perhaps the evening's highlight song. And their "Purple Haze," of course, got perhaps the best audience response of the evening.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero