For all his eternally revered talent as a live performer, Jimi Hendrix never liked touring. Despite being immensely enigmatic and utterly otherwordly on stage Hendrix, for the most part, hated being on the road.
I know what you’re thinking – Hendrix was only on the road for four years of his life but he made the most of those years. Amid a slew of immortal recordings, Jimi toured ceaselessly, crafting raw guitar sounds that still manage to blow our mind 50 years on.
The further the got away from the sanctuary of Electric Lady Studios, the more stressed he became with a touring schedule that would jump from small clubs to arenas night in night out.
However, even during otherwise unremarkable gigs, Jimi would produce a fair amount of mind-blowing guitar invention. Of the captured live shows these are the most spectacular. From start to finish, this is Hendrix at his most ethereal, unbelievable best.
Put yourself in the mind of those lucky enough to witness Jimi Hendrix in concert with these 5 essential live performances.
5. Live At Berkeley – 30/05/70
The college crowd at Berkely Community Theatre on May 30 are some of the most appreciative you will hear at a Hendrix concert. Despite facing hassles from his manager and interference from the black power movement, Hendrix is clearly at ease here as he takes a moment to finish off his spliff between songs.
Having Mitch Mitchell back on the team along with Billy Cox, sees Hendrix unleash his most primal power with a resplendent 11-minute Voodoo Child (Slight Return), often noted as the best ever recorded.
4. Winterland – 10/12/68
Jimi Hendrix rarely performed Little Wing live. The instrumental jam at the Cafe Au Go-Go is hauntingly brilliant. However, the version found here is the defining rendition of Jimi’s magnum opus, packing a toppling emotional punch.
This is the absolute peak of Jimi Hendrix’s live performance career. Throughout history, The Winterland Ballroom has always brought the best out those who performed there, and of the three nights recorded there, Hendrix performed definitive versions of Purple Haze, Tax Free, Spanish Castle Magic along with covers of Bob Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone and Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love.
3. Live At Woodstock – 18/08/69
This transcendent performance of The Star-Spangled Banner will live forever, there’s no doubt about it. Those few minutes of frenzied feedback and haunting dive-bombs made for one of the most defining moments of the ’60s, however, the rest of the concert was somewhat shaky.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still an incredible concert, but if you peel back the layers of mythology surrounding Woodstock itself, you find a show that is near perfect but not quite. It was also the longest performance in Hendrix’s career, which doesn’t help considering he was running on very little sleep.
2. The Fillmore East – Band Of Gypsys – 01/01/70
The one and only performance of the short-lived Band Of Gypsys was – like many mindblowing live albums – recorded at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East. Tracked on the New Years Eve of 1969-70, it feels like Hendrix is marking out the new and improved ground with players he truly trusts. The cohesion and telepathy are magnetic, giving Jimi the ideal sonic territory to take flight.
Tracks like Who Knows and Power Of Soul are absolutely among the best work Hendrix ever made, with truly unforgettable melodic arcs and live invention. Though it is an eternally haunting version of Machine Gun which is not only Jimi’s greatest protest song but an evolution of the ideas birthed in A Star-Spangled Banner.
1. Live At Monterey – 17/06/67
This legendary concert was where it all began for Jimi in his home country. His banter and free-spirited ways are on perfect display before sealing his fate with a charred-guitar, an iconic photo, and the most important squealing feedback ever recorded.
Here it’s Jimi’s wild sexual energy that made the show iconic, as opposed to the emotion of one song at Woodstock. It was made all the more interesting for a photo of a cheeky looking Hendrix with LSD on his tongue before the show. While Janis Joplin was the talk of the town after that weekend, Hendrix was the only one daring enough to do something nobody had ever seen before, throwing down the gauntlet for an untold number of future artists.