Musical Mastery at The 2019 Experience Hendrix Tour at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, FL

By on March 8, 2019

Celebrating the Music & Legacy of Jimi Hendrix

Photo-Travis Failey

“Wow” was the only word that came to mind as I exited Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Monday night. I was one of many who witnessed arguably the most diverse and talented group of guitarists and musicians to grace the stage during the 2019 Experience Hendrix Tour. 

Satriani, Pinnick & Aronoff (Photo-Travis Failey)

The Experience Hendrix Tour has been an annual/semiannual event since 2002, with the idea spawning from the 2000 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tribute to Jimi.  The Experience Hendrix format consists of mega-talented musicians taking turns performing Jimi Hendrix songs throughout the evening.  This year’s lineup of musicians included some new additions, like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Dug Pinnick from Kings- X, naming just a few. Pinnick joined drummer Kenny Aronoff and Experience veteran Joe Satriani in a rousing six-song set prior to the encore.

Dave Mustaine (Photo-Travis Failey)

Dave Mustaine expressed his excitement about being part of the tour. “Jimi Hendrix. The name that comes to my mind as one the ‘Premiere American Guitarists Of All Time.’ An Innovator, and legendary musician, I am beyond honored to do my part in this tribute to the immortal Jimi Hendrix, and want to thank [EH Tour producer] John McDermott for inviting me to play along such mind-blowing guitarists as Joe Satriani, and a personal favorite of mine, Eric Johnson.”

Janie Hendrix (Photo-Travis Failey)

The night started with Janie Hendrix saying “Hello” and thanking those in attendance for coming out and then proceeded to present a very lucky young man with a beautiful new green guitar sponsored by Yousician. The young man accepted his new instrument with tears of joy in his eyes. As the two departed, the first set of musicians took the stage: Dweezil Zappa, Billy Cox, (from the original Band of Gypsies), along with Chris Layton from Double Trouble and The Stevie Ray Vaughn band.

Billy Cox (Photo-Travis Failey)
Dweezil Zappa (Photo-Travis Failey)

The trio kicked the show off with “Freedom,” and then a huge Hendrix hit: “Foxey Lady,” with  Zappa being replaced by Mato Nanji, and Henri Brown. The track was the catalyst for audience participation that continued throughout the night.

Ana Popovic (Photo-Travis Failey)

Blues guitarist Ana Popovic took center stage for the next two songs, “House Burning Down” and “Can You See Me,” with Ana just crushing the slide guitar during the latter song. I wasn’t familiar with Ana’s style or sound prior to the night, but her performance was memorable due to her own artistic flair and the style in which she played the Hendrix classics. A guitar jam/duet with Ana and Lzzy Hale from Halestorm would be epic.

Chuck Campbell (Photo-Travis Failey)

The slide guitar continued as the Slide Brothers performed “The Sky is Crying,” and at 48 years old, I don’t think I’ve ever seen two guys playing slide guitar in unison on stage before. Then again, I’m sure it happens all the time in the Blues scene, just not so much, or ever, at a rock or metal show.

Calvin Cooke (Photo-Travis Failey)
Eric Johnson (Photo-Travis Failey)

Experience Hendrix Tour veteran and fan favorite, Eric Johnson, joined bassist and producer Kevin McCormick, and drummer Chris Layton on “Bold as Love,” with Johnson finger-tapping in a bluesy fashion. Johnson also incorporated his signature style, reminiscent of his landmark song, “Cliffs of Dover.”

Zakk Wylde (Photo-Travis Failey)

Then Zakk Wylde cozied-up to a piano to assist the others on “Are You Experienced.” Visuals of Jimi Hendrix alone and with his band, The Band of Gypsies, played in the background throughout the show. Green, blue and red psychedelic imagery also danced on the screens to match the tone and tempo of the music. Wylde deferred to the others until it was his time to shine and finish off the first act of the evening.

(Photo-Travis Failey)
Zakk Wylde (Photo-Travis Failey)

Wylde, Layton and McCormick got the whole crowd at Ruth Eckerd Hall on their feet for the first time during “Rock Me Baby,” and “Like a Rolling Stone,” with Zakk asking everyone “Can You Dig It?” as he introduced Chris Layton and said, “On the bass and the pasta, Kevin McCormick.”

Zakk Wylde (Photo-Travis Failey)

Zakk Wylde then masterfully performed the classic “Little Wing,” behind his head, while he walked up the side aisle and across the 65-seat row through the heart of the crowd. Wylde finished the song in the front row with the fans. Woman and men alike were taking selfies with Zakk in the background. It was an enormous finish to the first half of the Experience Hendrix, and I’m glad they took a break, because no one could have followed Zakk Wylde after that performance, well, except for maybe Jimi himself.

Doyle Bramhall (Photo-Travis Failey)

Act two kicked off after a fifteen-minute break with Doyle Bramhall II taking center stage. Bramhall II is an incredibly accomplished guitarist and vocalist who has collaborated with Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and BB King just to name a few. Bramhall II was joined on stage by Chris Layton and Kevin McCormick with both of them playing the brunt of the music throughout the show. The three of them performed  “Come On,” “Izabella,” and “Angel,” while blue and white lights streamed across the venue and with blue angelic-like visuals on the big screens.

Jonny Lang (Photo-Travis Failey)

One of the many highlights of the show was next when Zakk Wylde joined Jonny Lang for Lang’s first song of the evening, a classic hit in “All Along The Watchtower.”  Watching these two musicians shredding onstage at the same time was a sight to behold.  As Lang’s set continued with “The Wind Cries Mary,” and “Spanish Castle Magic,” I realized what makes Lang so special: every note that he plays is with emotion and soul and you can hear it in his playing and see it on his facial expressions. Lang does not just “go through the motions” and I think that the audience recognizes it and appreciates it. If you haven’t seen Jonny Lang play before, like I hadn’t before tonight, I implore you to take in his mastery of the six string. You won’t regret it.

Johnson & Lang (Photo-Travis Failey)
Dave Mustaine (Photo-Travis Failey)

The fans in the crowd that were waiting to see their thrash metal hero take the stage had to wait no longer when Dave Mustaine joined Lang and others for a heavier version of “Fire” with Henri Brown on vocals. Mustaine was sporting a new axe on stage as Dean Guitars made Dave a new version of Mustaine’s Signature Flying V specifically to play the 2019 Experience Hendrix Tour.

(Photo-Travis Failey)

Mustaine only took part in two songs with “Stone Free” being the other, but one thing was certain: Dave truly looked happy and honored to be there. Mustaine even broke out an uncharacteristic smile when he addressed the crowd.   

Dave Mustaine (Photo-Travis Failey)

On a side note, after the show, Mustaine went to the World of Beer in Tampa and met a packed venue full of Megadeth fans to promote his Tout Le Monde beer. Once again, Dave was in a great mood and signed everything the fans brought with a smile, and even poured a few beers for some thirsty patrons.

Mato Nanji (Photo-Travis Failey)

Another great moment in the night was during “Hey Joe” as the whole crowd stood and sang along  with Billy Cox and Mato Nanji. Hendrix’s “Hey Joe,” was, and still is, a staple on classic rock radio, and will continue to be played even after we all pass.

Joe Satriani (Photo-Travis Failey)

The Experience Hendrix stage took on another face when Joe Satriani, bassist Dug Pinnick, and drummer Kenny Aronoff crushed Ruth Eckerd Hall with a six pack of songs. The trio started off with “Crosstown Traffic,” and then “Manic Depression,” with Dug Pinnick on vocals. Satriani was vintage Satch, as he incorporated his signature sound and style while still staying true to the original songs as performed by Jimi Hendrix. All three performers were in perfect synch and looked like they have been playing together for years. The trio concluded their set with a perfect, audience grabbing, sing-along-song and arguably the biggest Hendrix song in “Voodoo Child.”

Dug Pinnick (Photo-Travis Failey)

As Satriani, Pinnick and Aronoff left the stage to a roaring standing ovation, some of the audience started to leave but quickly returned when Billy Cox, Mano Nanji and others got together for one more salute to the late, great Jimi Hendrix, turning Ruth Eckerd Hall into the “Red House.”

Kenny Aronoff (Photo-Travis Failey)

Tonight’s Hendrix Experience was an extreme example of talent and humility shown by amazing musicians. Most of them can headline their own shows with their bands but put their egos aside to commemorate and celebrate a legend in Hendrix.  Even though Hendrix left the world at the very young age of 27, his music and songs will remain to influence the young and the old for decades to come.

(Photo-Travis Failey)

The Hendrix Experience continues through April 6th and is a can’t miss tour for 2019.

For dates near you:

More Photos From The Show By Travis Failey

Ana Popovic (Photo-Travis Failey)
Chris Layton (Photo-Travis Failey)
Jonny Lang (Photo-Travis Failey)
Joe Satriani (Photo-Travis Failey)
Ana Popovic (Photo-Travis Failey)
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