Last night I witnessed some amazing rock at the Experience Hendrix Tour. Some of the most legendary guitar players in history assembled to pay tribute to Hendrix and lay down some epic tunes. Click below for the pics and write-up.
Eric Gales and Billy Cox came out at the beginning with Mato Nanji and kicked off with Foxy Lady. Being born in the late seventies, I’ve only ever heard the most famous renditions of any Hendrix tune. But to my credit, there were some people younger than me on stage. Anyway they dutifully brought in Foxy Lady with respect and power. They were definitely soaking up the spotlight, Eric in particular, but you could tell they were just as thrilled to be honoring Hendrix as the audience was hearing it.
Two surprises fairly early in the evening were Dweezil Zappa coming out, and them playing All Along the Watch Tower. I had assumed that both would be brought out near the end, as to not peak too early. But maybe that’s me. From the awesome lineup of guitarists, Zappa was the one that my friends recognized without any introduction. And for what it’s worth, Watchtower is my favorite Hendrix song. I know, it’s a Dylan song, but even Dylan admits that Hendrix owned it. I grew up with Watchtower being played whenever a movie was set in the 60s, much like hearing Rule Britannia whenever you see London. (Thanks Lyzz) Zappa was amazing by the way. He was very chill the whole time, so comfortable in the spotlight, but not at all showy. Of course I love showy.
This was my first time shooting at the Strathmore, and the big difference was the seating. I’m used to a big standing room only area where I can move about and get my shots up close. However, in this venue I was a bit more limited, in that I didn’t want to block anyone’s view of the stage. If you want to read more about the experience of photographing this show, check out my photo blog Nevercap.com, but I did make my way up to the front a few times and got Kenny Wayne Shepherd from down in front. I wasn’t familiar with him at all, but the man can rock. He’s self taught but has the record for an album spending the most time on the Billboard 100. And you just can’t take a bad picture of him. He just exudes rock ‘n roll.
I was excited to hear Brad Whitford from Aerosmith perform. That man is amazing. He doesn’t rock out very much either. You can tell he’s not used to being the star focus, after decades on stage with Tyler and Perry. I loved watching Jonny Lang rock the nuts off the place, but Whitford’s calm shredding was almost like that reserved ninja master saying “this is all you need, son.” Every guitar lick was deliberate, but full of soul. It was also like watching a master cat burglar pick a lock.
And don’t get me wrong, I was totally in to Lang and all his glory. I just posted something on Nevercap earlier this week about how I wish the rockers I’m shooting would rock out more, and this guy rocked out about as much as you possibly could. Lang is known for being enthusiastic, but you could tell he was thrilled to be standing where he was standing, playing what he was playing.
As I mentioned earlier, they weren’t pulling any punches by holding the big acts or songs until specific points in the program. There was an amazing vibe of playing what felt good, when it felt good. The guys came off and on the stage several times, hopping in here and there and that really lent itself to the tribute feeling. It wasn’t a planned out showcase as much as an extended jam session. I love that you could run into several of the artists at the merch table during and after the show. I got Eric Gales’ autograph on a set of commemorative guitar pics for a friend who couldn’t make it that night. You could tell the audience was starting to look for an intermission at one point, but one never came, and I don’t think anyone minded. It was a definite “happening” that flowed as it should, and it wasn’t really the format for scheduled breaks.
I had a kick ass time. I loved hearing the music. I love the smorgasbord of legendary talent I got to photograph all in one night. Buddy Guy placed thirteenth on Rolling Stones list of 100 best guitarists ever. When we were filing out of the auditorium, people were looking at each other smiling, looking at other patrons, with a look in their eyes that said “Did you just see that? Did you feel that? Yeah…”
Swing by Experience Hendrix Tour to see when it’s coming to your city.
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