When it comes to paying tribute to Jimi Hendrix, many have tried, but few have actually succeeded in coming anywhere near the great guitarist himself. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Vernon Reid and Jean-Paul Bourelly are amongst those few who have proved themselves more than capable of tapping into some of the spark and energy Hendrix possessed. But now, we can also add to that list the late Gary Moore, another guitarist who, like Jimi, learnt his trade the hard way, working his way from the ground up through various bands and genres, from blues, heavy metal, rock, and even fusion. Moore was someone who understood his instrument thoroughly, and who could play in almost any style without sacrificing his own unique personality.
Recorded at the Hippodrome Theatre, London in 2007, but not released until 2012, Blues for Jimi is a strong reminder of Gary’s talents, and a fitting tribute of its own, since Moore passed away in 2011 at the age of 58. The show was organised as part of Experience Hendrix’s official launch for the CD/DVD release of Live at Monterey, Jimi’s historic performance from 40 years earlier. Also taking part, and joining the stage were Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, two of Hendrix’s closest band mates, something which must have pleased Moore no end one should think.
Throughout the 73 minute set, Moore pulls out all the stops, putting everything he has into every tune. With Dave Bronze (bass) and Darrin Mooney (drums) in tow, the trio rip their way through searing versions of “Purple Haze” and “Manic Depression”, before the opening of “Foxy Lady” comes bursting in like a supernova, just as the original did. Overall Moore remains true to the original arrangements, yet plays with such wild abandon that one almost forgets that these are covers. Moore delivers a soulful bluesy rendition of “The Wind Cries Mary”, followed by a scorching “I Don’t Live Today”, then an absolutely beautiful “Angel”, a song that revealed Jimi’s tender side (and Moore’s virtuosity).
The band turn up the heat again with a blazing “Fire”, on which Moore truly excels himself, capturing the spirit and energy just as Jimi did in the old days. “Red House” is next, with Mitchell and Cox, and it’s a delight to hear them perform again. Both Gary and Billy share vocals, with the former carrying the majority of the load, flooding the amps with an extended solo that is simply stunning. Cox sings lead vocals on a slightly disjointed “Stone Free”, however one can’t say the same thing when it comes to Moore, who seems to be holding back a bit, as he also does on “Hey Joe”, which isn’t to say that either rendition lacks the necessary depth or expertise – it’s only that Gary obviously had to consider Jimi’s former band mates age and ability.
Bronze and Mooney return to play on the last track “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”, where once again Moore obliterates the frets and reveals his innate understanding of Hendrix not only as a guitarist but also as a composer.
Sadly, Mitch would pass away the following year, leaving Billy as the last surviving member. One wonders over the memories they must have shared that night.
All in all, Blues for Jimi isn’t merely a superb celebration of Jimi’s music, but a wonderful document in its own right. Apart from the CD, the concert was also filmed and released on DVD, and is the best way to experience it, as one gets to witness the energy on display. As far as Hendrix accolades are concerned, this would have to be one of the finest and most engaging.