Music review

'Experience Hendrix' tour rocks the Benedum Center

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His disciples may play harder and faster and with more technique than he ever did.

But many of them came Thursday night to the Benedum Center to pay homage to their master, one James Marshall Hendrix — of course, known popularly as “Jimi” — for the Pittsburgh leg of the “Experience Hendrix” tour.

It’s questionable just how much pure Hendrix the audience actually experienced, save the repertoire during the 3-hour show; after all, he’s been gone nearly 44 years and we only can speculate where he’d be today musically.

But the 22 musicians, more then half of them guitarists ranging from hard-core electric Chicago blues (Buddy Guy) to heavy metal (Zakk Wylde), who participated were clearly making the statement “It all started with him.” And of course it did -- Hendrix's fusion of blues and 1960s psychedelia sparked a musical revolution that endures to this day.

As for the music itself ... well, it felt like one long jam session; in fairness, you probably don’t need to do much more than that given that the cats on stage were all reared on Mr. Hendrix’s music. It's not possible to mention all the performers and songs done last night, but every last one of them was appreciated, most receiving standing ovations, from the mostly-male audience — probably including more than a few guitarists who were wishing secretly they could have joined the band.

The evening kicked off with “Stone Free” by the Band of Gypsys Exprerience, an ensemble led by bassist, vocalist and Schenley High School alumnus Billy Cox and featuring two Hendrix look-alikes on either side of him. Following that was “Freedom,” featuring the first two guests, Dweezil Zappa and Eric Gales, and which eventually moved on to “Foxy Lady.”

And things just flowed from there. Mr. Wylde, who played with Ozzy Osbourne and who was one of only two electric guitarists playing something other than a Fender Stratocaster, gave an update on “Purple Haze.” Jonny Lang, the other one, let loose on “Fire,” and Kenny Wayne Shepherd shredded on “Voodoo Chile” and especially “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”

The show ended with Mr. Guy, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Mato Nanji of the all-Native American band Indigenous trading off on “Red House.”

Perhaps most amazing, however, was how quickly the players came on and off the stage — whoever was doing the directing had it down to a science, especially considering that you’ll generally see that number of Strats only in a music store. I would have like to have seen all the musicians come out together for one last number, but with the large cast that probably wasn’t practical.

But threre was no question as to the real star of the show, as photos of Mr. Hendrix were projected on the back screen throughout the entire concert.

As Mr. Wylde said at the close of the first set, “God bless Jimi Hendrix.”

Rick Nowlin: or 412-263-3871. First Published March 21, 2014 10:44 AM

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