The Jimi Hendrix Experience: First person accounts of what those concerts were like, via reviews from the 60s

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Jimi Hendrix redefined rock music with his pioneering guitar work and distinctive sound. Alongside him, Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums formed the core of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This trio was was a cohesive unit, with Redding and Mitchell providing a dynamic backdrop that ranged from intense rhythms to spontaneous bursts of energy, complementing Hendrix’s innovative approach and creating an unforgettable impact in the world of music.

Live, the Jimi Hendrix Experience unleashed a musical storm that defied mere musicianship. Hendrix wielded his guitar as a sonic paintbrush, conjuring both whispers and screams from the strings, telling tales that transcended mere riffs.

Redding became a bedrock of rumbling thunder, his basslines anchoring the chaos with earthy grooves that pulsed through the stage. Mitchell, a rhythmic maelstrom, his drums a whirlwind of precision and controlled fury, shattered the boundaries of timekeeping.

Jimi Hendrix Experience band photo

Their live shows were anything but predictable. One minute, they’d be locked in a blues groove, the next, Hendrix would let loose a feedback storm that ripped through the venue. Mingled with the fury, there were moments of pure beauty, delicate melodies emerging from the sonic haze like flowers blooming after a volcanic eruption.

The Experience was not about polished concert perfection. Their performance goals were raw energy, controlled chaos, and pushing boundaries until they crumbled. Witnessing them live really was an experience, a baptism by fire and feedback — a journey into the electrifying heart of 60s rock and roll.

Now, let’s turn the dial back to 1968, a year that saw Hendrix at the peak of his powers. We have two vintage concert reviews here. In the first, a reviewer from Los Angeles “got” the band… the other one in Ohio, well, not so much.

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Looking back: The Jimi Hendrix Experience concert at the Hollywood Bowl (1968)

The Los Angeles Times, California – September 16, 1968

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was too much for the ushers who have managed to confine spectators to their seats during the summer series of rock concerts in the Hollywood Bowl.

The audience pushed forward, clogged the aisles and stood craning to see the wild man and his guitar. Nearly everyone stood and in the front box area, they stood on chairs and teetered on the fences which compartmentalize seat sections.

Jimi Hendrix Experience 1968

Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding headlined the Saturday night concert, which also featured the Vanilla Fudge, the Soft Machine and the Eire Apparent.

It was one of Hendrix’s best appearances locally, and came only a year after he received a generally adverse reaction from a Bowl crowd who had come to see the Mamas and the Papas, and were hardly ready for several hundred watts of feedback guitar manipulated by a showman who knows the value of dashes of vulgarity.

This, however, was his show, and it was easy to forget his frustrated retreat from the stage last summer.

Since then, two of his albums have become best-sellers, he has become one of the most-discussed guitar stylists in rock and — probably most important in terms of packing the Bowl — “Hendrix the Iconoclastic Negro” has become a rallying point for youth in their conflict with adult tastes.

Hendrix Band of Gypsies

He heads one of the best trios in rock music, a trio dominated by his screaming guitar and dry husky voice. But his dominance is made possible by the solid underpinning of Bedding and Mitchel on bass and drums, a freely interacting rhythm section which would stand out in any rock combo, whatever its size.

Hendrix’ guitar playing is hard to assess because his electronic manipulations are so tightly interwoven with his basic instrumental technique.

No one else handles feedback as well as he does, and his knowledge of the instrument is so thorough that he can play easily with one hand, with his teeth, or in any number of strange performing positions. It would, however, be interesting to hear him work with an acoustic guitar.

His voice is not one of the greatest in pop music and his lyrics tend to be simplistic, but he remains one of the most electric (in either sense) acts in rock because of his theatrical talents. He embodies rebellion on stage and manages to distill the primitive sensuality of a decade’s worth of rock performers into a one-hour show.

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Old and new tunes

The Saturday night appearance consisted of old and new tunes, among them “Red House,” “Are You Experienced,” “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,” “Hey Joe,” “Sunshine of Your Love” and a mingling of the National Anthem and “Purple Haze.”

Jimi Hendrix Experience is an experience, all right (1968)

by Gary Bainbridge (Chronicle-Telegram, Elyria, Ohio) April 2, 1968

What can only be described as the granddaddy of all “happenings” occurred last Tuesday night at Cleveland Music Hall, when Jimi Hendrix took Cleveland the way Grant took Richmond — and with just about as much noise.

WKYC teamed up with Belkin Productions to bring the best artist (sales-wise) the underground sound has to offer to 60,000 screaming, pushing, experience-hungry fans.

Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced album cover US

Considered by many experts to be the greatest guitarist in the pop field today, Hendrix sang, screamed, writhed and beat his guitar against the amplifiers through such songs as “Foxy Lady,” “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire,” “Hey Joe,” and his biggest hit to date, “Purple Haze.”

Accompanied by The Sense Laboratory (Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding), Jimi gave everybody something to remember. To KYC, a show that will be talked about for some time to come; to Belkin, an ulcer; to his fans, enough garbage to last most of them a lifetime; to the press, a near riot when about 100 teens rushed the stage in an attempt to touch their idol.

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During a Teen Page interview, Jimi explained he’s a native of Seattle, Washington, and has been in the music field for the past seven years, most of that time as a back-up musician for well-known groups like Little Richard and The Drifters.

While in England 16 months ago, he “got tired of doing all the work while somebody else got all the glory,” so he formed his own group. The rest is pop history.

PLAY THIS: Jimi Hendrix: The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock (1969)

He’s worn out 15 guitars since his present tour started. Jimi doesn’t consider his music underground, but, “if that’s what we are, I hope it lasts forever.”

He’s refused many TV offers because his backup men, both English, have visas which allow them to entertain indefinitely in this country, but do not permit TV appearances.

Jimi wouldn’t talk about the war except to say: “If I’m elected president, the war will be over tomorrow.”

Billboard Feb 3, 1968 Hendrix music

He doesn’t like being compared to Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry, and says, “I don’t want to be either one of those guys — I just want to do my thing.”

The concert was not a complete loss, since it showcased The Soft Machine, one of the best bands to hit our area in quite awhile. Whether you’re an underground fan or not, if you like good music, backed by fantastic showmanship, you’ll flip for this group.

They play a combination of jazz and rock, backed by a screen on which psychedelic figures are projected. The figures are created by dropping oil capsules in a variety of colors into heated water, causing them to explode.

The projection of these color explosions on the screen creates some weird designs. Members of the Soft Machine are Robert Wyatt, drummer; Michael Ruttledge, organist, and Kevin Ayers, bass guitarist, who looks and acts enough like Tiny Tim to be his twin. They’re all from London and all college grads, says their manager.

Whether you like him or not, The Jimi Hendrix Experience is just that — an experience.

ALSO SEE: How famed rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix died – and lived (1970)

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