Experience Hendrix: Live at the Casino Ballroom. Hampton Beach, N.H.

Concert photos HERE
Photos by Micah Gummel
Review by King Dale
“Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have. And I’m extremely grateful.”  Wow, what a way to start the concert season. If you were one of the lucky 1,800 people in attendance at a sold out Casino Ballroom that night, you are blessed.
This being my third time seeing this tour. I sure was excited to see some of my favorite guitar heroes. To have all this talent under one roof, playing some of the greatest music ever recorded. A two and a half hour Electric Church odyssey honoring the “Guitar God” himself, Jimi Hendrix. If you can top this show, I’ll take two tickets.
This show features some of the best guitarists you’ll ever hear. But I’d like to take a moment to give brief history lesson. There’s a reason why Buddy Guy is headlining this show. This is a man who was playing distorted blues through a cranked up amplifier before anyone ever heard of Jimi. Legend has it that Buddy Guy and Hubert Sumlin are where Jimi got his inspiration to play. When I first saw the tour in 2007. I saw the two of them perform together, and being the blues fan that I am, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Buddy and Hubert brought the blues to the moon. Jimi jumped on board, and took it to Saturn. Let’s give thanks.
On with the show. The evening started off with Jimi’s sister Janie greeting the crowd. She went on to thank everybody for coming out to support the music, as well as set the mood for the night. The show started off the same way Jimi’s career did; with a kick ass power trio. On bass was Jimi’s long time friend and Gypsy band mate, Billy Cox, who was kind enough to sign a T-shirt for me before the show. Thank you much my brother. Holding down the drum kit for most of the night was the legendary Chris “Whipper” Layton; mostly known from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, as well as The Arc Angels, and currently holding it down for Kenny Wayne Shepherd. The first of the axemen to take the stage was Dweezil Zappa. A great musician in his own right, he’s also the son of one of my favorite musicians, the late great Frank Zappa. The trio cranked out the sweet funky rhythm of “Freedom”, which seems to be the adopted theme for the tour. With Billy taking the lead on vocals. “Electric Church” was now in session.
Joining the guys on stage to sing back up vocals and second guitar on “Stone Free” was Mato Nanji. He’s a very smooth tactician and lead guitarist for the band Indigenous and has been a big contributor of the tour for the last fifteen years. Mato remained on stage with the addition of Quinn Sullivan; a hot new stud, who I was first introduced to by Buddy Guy. The two traded licks on “Foxey Lady” while being accompanied by Henri Brown on vocals, who worked the crowd with an electrical performance. He is one fine entertainer and first cousin to the man himself.
Billy was replaced on stage by tour veteran Scott Nelson. He is currently holding it down for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Joining Scott and Chris on stage is a local favorite. One of the mainstays in the Boston Music scene, Jon Butcher proved worthy of the title Axis. The technique he displayed on “May This Be Love” was outstanding. If you holding a tribute to the man in these parts, you gotta have the Axis.
Up next, is that Texas guitar slinger Eric Johnson. There’s a long list of great guitarists from Texas. Eric may very well be the most polished. With the ever solid support of Chris and Scott, the band was joined by cousin Henri and Noah Hunt; another tour regular and lead singer for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Even though this was the night of the lead guitar, the song “Wait Until Tomorrow” was owned by Scott Nelson. He really provided a great groove on that one. After “One Rainy Wish”, Eric called out Dweezil to assist with some feedback on ‘Love Or Confusion”, definitely one of the best collaborations of the evening. Eric then took center stage and closed out his set with Jimi’s psychedelic classic “Third Stone From The Sun”. It was truly incredible. He worked that feedback to perfection. No surf music for me.
Eric stayed on for a collaboration on “Are You Experienced” with the Wildman himself, Zakk Wylde. The veteran head banger from Black Label Society really brings the energy. After supporting Eric on the keys, he took the crowd into his hands and jacked them up. After a shredding rendition of “Manic Depression”, Zakk took his act out into the crowd. A long time staple of Buddy’s, Zakk took the music to the people. As he started to do his solo on “Little Wing”, he began to walk out into the crowd while playing his guitar. While he was going up and down the isles, the people were drawn to him; patting him on the back, grabbing hold of him, even pulling on his hair. But he never let up. By the time he tore through “Purple Haze”, he had the place electrified.
Zakk hangs out in support of Johnny Lang. As he trades licks with Mato Nanji on guitar, Johnny belts out a soulful version of “All Along The Watchtower”. Eric Johnson then joined Johnny on “Fire” and “Wind Cries Mary”, which was one of best vocal performances of the evening. Johnny closed out his set with Mato playing the lead on “Spanish Castle Magic”.
Now taking center stage is the “Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band”. Veterans of the tour, and well schooled in everything “Hendrix”. These guys have it down. They have played these songs together for a long time, and it shows. With the help of Mato adding some rhythm on “Gypsy Eyes”, the band displays there fluidness as they stomp through their version of “I Don’t Live Today”, followed by “Come On” and a out of this world “Voodoo Child Medley”. Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band showed why there one of today’s premier live acts and I hope Kenny continues to carry the torch.
Now it’s time to bring on the man that helped get this all started. I don’t know if he planted the seed, but Buddy Guy sure provided the fertilizer. With the assistance of his drummer Tim Austin, Billy Cox and Mato Nanji, Buddy showed that while at seventy nine years old, he’s still the reining king of the blues guitar. After he brings you down home with “Who Knows Fanfare and Louisiana Blues”, he brings up Quinn Sullivan to trade licks with on “Hey Joe”. It was followed up by a fine tribute to the “Band Of Gypsys” as Henri Brown joined the fellas on Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes”. Henri did his thing, as he got the crowd on their feet.
The Encore was a blistering version of “Red House”. As Buddy traded licks with Quinn and Mato, it reminded me that Jimi didn’t just play the blues. He evolved the blues. And he influenced every guitar player that came after him, whether they know it or not. So it was fitting that the night ended with a blues song, because that’s what got it all started. Like the late great Willie Dixon always said, “You don’t get the fruits without the roots.” Can I get an amen?

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