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London Hippodrome, 25.10.07

Topped and tailed by former NME journalist and man of the times Keith Altman, this special Hendrix anniversary evening started low key, but quickly gathered momentum with the film highlights of Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival and finally climaxed with some serious playing from superb guitarist Gary Moore and assorted guests.

But there was the rub, as what you got with Gary Moore was sheer frisson, underpinned by technical brilliance, a blaze of fiery notes at the speed of light, combined with an awesome tone that varied according to the guitar he played. But in truth you didn’t get the feel of the late guitarist that the band sought to emulate. So while the trio generated some serious energy levels and an avalanche of notes to colour the Hendrix palette, you didn’t get any sense of the charisma that carried Jimi Hendrix to other parts of the planet.

But as it was, the sympathetic crowd let Hendrix do his talking from the grave on the big screen. Nearly four decades on, he still drew unrestrained applause from the crowd and we were left in the presence of the powerhouse trio of Moore, bassist Dave Bronze and drummer Darrin Mooney to rekindle the musical highlights of the fallen guitar god.

Significantly perhaps, it wasn’t until the introduction of the colourful Mitch Mitchell in a blur of red, and the funky bass playing and very tasty blues vocals of former Band of Gypsy’s member Billy Cox, that sheer technique gave way to feel. It was in fact Billy Cox’s understated bluesy vocals, and funky bass playing that added a dash of light and shade to the proceedings, while Mitch thrashed around in joyful abandon, happy to just catch the occasional outro.

And ironically it was probably Mitchell’s lack of a proper rehearsal that brought a breath of fresh air to the proceedings. For the one thing this slick Hendrix enterprise seemed to lack all night was any semblance of spontaneity. And while Gary Moore built up an awesome head of steam, and really came into his own on the fulsome ‘Angel’ and applied his craft to a magnificent ‘Hey Joe’ and was in his element on ‘Fire’, we hadn’t in fact moved on much from the Altman introductory sermon about the magic of Hendrix circa ’67.

It was as though the startling on film reaction to Hendrix’s mix of psychedelic tinged sexual symbolism and on stage violence was from a different dimension. And of course it was. It wasn’t just the startling figure of Hendrix that shocked people, it was as much the doors he kicked open and the change that he ushered in that were significant.

Faced with such a preceding pivotal moment on film, Gary Moore and his power trio duly delivered their chops without fail, but eschewed any suggestion of any emotive connection, save for a barnstorming rendering of some of Jimi’s back catalogue. Only Mitch’s brief farewell blessing for having been there at the time, made any reference to the reason we had all gathered here on the night, while Billy Cox thanked the crowd for keeping the Hendrix spirit alive.

Yet surely the point was to recreate just a little bit of magic? As it was Gary Moore played superlatively well, and did all that was asked of him and more, in terms of his cascading licks. But while Gary is a peerless rocker occasionally touched by the blues, the true spirit of Hendrix remained on film. A real enigma to the end, Jimi it seems took his unique magic with him to the grave.

Review by Pete Feenstra

GRTR! Best of 2007

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