by Kevin Amos
For New Pittsburgh Courier
Tuesday evening at the Benedum Auditorium a class was indeed in session and the “students” were the audience in Pittsburgh as they got schooled by Billy Cox, Ernie Isley, Living Colour, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Brad Whitford. Pittsburgh was the kickoff location for the second part of the Experience Hendrix Tour. The former Stanley Theater became a classroom and Rock church for this sold out concert.
The Experience Hendrix tour crisscrossed the country this past March for a string of concerts and returned with a new set of U.S. and Canadian dates for October and November. The tour offers multiple opportunities for performers and audiences to witness unique collaborations.
Featured artists performing music associated with the legacy of Jimi Hendrix include some of the best known and highly regarded names in contemporary rock and blues including Jonny Lang, Steve Vai, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, The Slide Brothers a/k/a Chuck and Darick Campbell of Sacred Steel, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brad Whitford (of Aerosmith), Noah Hunt, Ernie Isley, Living Colour, Double Trouble’s Chris Layton and Mato Nanji from Indigenous, along with bassist Billy Cox. The tour is presented by Experience Hendrix, LLC, the Hendrix family-owned company founded by James A. “Al” Hendrix, Jimi’s father, entrusted with preserving and protecting the legacy of Jimi Hendrix.
Cox, is the legendary bassist whose relationship with Hendrix and his music dates back to the early 1960s when the two met while serving in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. The two bonded over their love of music and would later work together backing R&B acts on the “chitlin’ circuit.” They reunited when Billy was recruited with Buddy Miles to be part of the Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsies. Cox, who has been part of all previous “Experience Hendrix” tours, notes, “It’s always a great thrill and honor for me to play Jimi’s music for audiences now just as it was in the 1960s.The Experience Hendrix tours have shown how timeless this music really is and is just wonderful that we’ve continued to get an infusion of new, very enthusiastic artists to participate and are able to offer the most wide-ranging Jimi Hendrix-related repertoire possible.”
Cox also had a homecoming. Billy was born in nearby Wheeling, WV and he attended Schenley High School before entering the Army. Along with Cox, Ernie Isley and drummer Chris Layton of Stevie Ray Vaughn fame, we became “Stone Free, “ and got a “Message to Love” as part of an amazing concert. Ernie Isley gave an account as how when he was in school, many times he would witness Jimi and his brother’s practice in the dining room of the Isley household in New Jersey while he did his homework. Hendrix lived and played with the Isley Brothers for two years.
Will Calhoun , the drummer of Living Colour joined Ernie Isley onstage for “Manic Depression” as the guitar master put on a performance that included him playing the guitar with his teeth in classic Jimi Hendrix style. Another great performance was by Living Colour who got into a revival type atmosphere with their renditions of “Power of Soul” and “Crosstown Traffic.” Corey Glover, the lead vocalist of the group, took to the floor and balcony of the auditorium and got the concert goers into a call and response frenzy. Other amazing performances included Brad Whitford, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Eric Johnson and Steve Vai with Living Colour. The 43 song set concluded with Billy Cox on “Red House.”