Recorded live at The Olympia Theatre, Paris, France, October 9, 1967, and The Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco, February 4, 1968, these two performances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience are fascinating insights into the group’s progression while still in its infancy. The first show was recorded with the intention of being broadcast on French radio, something which Jimi must have been aware of, hence the JHE’s extremely spirited performance throughout.
Hendrix kicks things off with a rousing version of “Stone Free”, followed by vigorous performances of “Hey Joe” and “Fire”, the latter in particular delivered with a great deal of untamed fervour. There are some technical problems along the way, not unusual for a Hendrix gig, the remainder of which is a balancing act between raw energy and amplified anarchy. Jimi brings down the house with a raucous interpretation of B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby”, followed by a compressed although no less intense “Red House”. Jimi excites the crowd with a powerful rendition of “Purple Haze”, before closing the show with an inspired “Wild Thing”, an almost impenetrable tableau of chaotic feedback and controlled mayhem.
By the time the JHE flew to California the following year, the band had modified their inventory. Touring America to support their latest album, Axis: Bold As Love, they were booked to perform eight concerts over four nights at the behest of Bill Graham. Yet for some reason, none of these shows were professionally recorded. Fortunately an amateur stereo tape was made of Jimi’s final gig there, thus preserving (albeit in incomplete form) what unfolded that night.
Hendrix burns down the house with an intense “Killing Floor”, after which Jimi performs an uncharacteristically urgent “Red House”. Hendrix was obviously in the mood for the blues, as he plays old favourite “Catfish Blues”, perhaps to impress Albert King, who was on the same bill, and no doubt watching from the wings. Like Jimi, King was another left handed guitarist who played his instrument upside down, something which Jimi himself would have no doubt mentally acknowledged and perhaps drawn inspiration from.
For the next two songs, Mitch Mitchell courteously vacated his drum kit for Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles, someone who had known back when they were both doing what was then called the Chitlin’ Circuit. With Miles in tow, the band launch into an enthusiastic “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, a Traffic tune, interrupted by the tape having to be changed over half way through. After hearing Mitch’s lighter, jazzier approach, it’s fascinating to contrast it with Miles’ far heavier, less agile style. Still, it works, with Hendrix maintaining a high degree of energy and focus throughout what was clearly little more than a jam session. But Jimi doesn’t forget the audience, delivering an intense “Purple Haze”, a suitable finale to what must have been a fascinating evening of music.
Dagger Records have done a splendid job in presenting what would otherwise have remained forgotten and largely unheard. Let us hope that more recordings such as these were made and will find their way into the libraries of Hendrix fans the world over.