Just Ask the Axis

Review

From Colin Hartridge's 30th Anniversary Personal Recollections

In 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played at the Pacific Coliseum (at the time, it was a brand new hockey arena in Vancouver) on September 7, the day after my 18th birthday. Because Vancouver was and still is a key town on many major rock tours, I remember the show as "just another concert" in a series of many others like the Beatles, the Stones, the Who -- sort of like if you're a 90s high school student and Smashing Pumpkins or Metallica were coming to your local arena the week after Nine Inch Nails. However, Jimi Hendrix was absolutely HUGE & extremely popular at that point in time (even bigger than Elvis), so it was definitely an event *I* had to go to. For my birthday present, my parents bought me a ticket to the show (I've still got the ticket stub), so I went with my brother and a couple of high school buddies. I well remember the ticket price of $4.50, as well as the fact that there were 3 other bands: Eire Apparent, Soft Machine and Vanilla Fudge. Hey, I even bought a $5.00 poster at the concert (which now adorns my bedroom wall along with the aforementioned ticket stub) -- altogether I got a great show & a souvenir for under ten bucks!

The concert got under way with a new band we'd heard that Jimi was producing: Eire Apparent had Claptonesque perms and the lead guitarist played the loud feedback guitar solos that were popular back then, but on the whole -- they stunk! Soft Machine were incredible, although they only played one song called "Thank You Old Horse For the Use of Your Body" (which was 40 minutes long) in the freak rock/jazz style they had been playing on their first two albums. (It was spooky to meet drummer Robert Wyatt in London last year!) Vanilla Fudge were also superb, if a little self-indulgent: One song, "The Break Song", featured each member in a solo spot, culminating in Carmine Appice's extra-long & ponderous drum solo.

Finally, at midnight, Jimi hit the stage all dressed in white and announced, "Hello Canada." He admitted he had a cold, but nonetheless proceeded to play some blistering music. Even with a haze of 30 years separating then from now, I can distinctly remember "Fire" and "Hey Joe" (which Jimi introduced as Hey Josephine), as well as an unforgettable version of "Voodoo Child/Slight Return" (when the Electric Ladyland LP was released in Vancouver a month later, I remember thinking, "Wow, this sounds just like the concert!"). At one point, he acknowledged his grandma, who lived in Vancouver & apparently was in the audience, and played "Foxy Lady". From my vantage point of halfway back in the arena, I could see that Jimi was moving with the music, and during some of the guitar bends in Voodoo Child SR, he would bob & weave along with the guitar sounds. (The note goes down, Jimi goes down!) I can't remember if Jimi played the guitar with his teeth, but I do remember some pretty slick hand moves, like that "bit" he does with his right hand (his guitar neck hand), where he'll quickly palm down the neck, swing his hand around behind the neck & back... and not miss a damned note! (It's in "Jimi Plays Monterey" for sure, because I just watched it the other night.)

The show was marred, though, when some idiot in the audience yelled out "hey nigger!" during a rare lull in the proceedings, which not only created tension in the crowd but made Jimi visibly annoyed (we were non-racist Canadians, not Southern rednecks!). From then on, his onstage attitude was more malevolent and even a bit offhand. When audience members yelled familiar requests at the stage, Jimi countered with "what are we, slaves to the public?" He announced, "We're gonna do one by The Cream... naw, I don't wanna do it", and played one more song before he just walked off the stage, with no encore! (For years, we racked our brains wondering what that Cream song might have been. It wasn't until many years later that I learned it was a concert staple, "Sunshine of Your Love"!) One thing I do remember about the close of the show was that we all left the arena absolutely drained and stunned from the stunning display of musicianship, passion & power. It was a long show, it was exhausting, and I was SPENT! But I won't forget it.

In 1969, Jimi was to return to Vancouver to do play a concert (the posters & flyers for the that concert were auctioned on the Net recently at the Gary Switlo auction). However, due to the Toronto drug bust which unfortunately happened the same week, Jimi never did another concert in Vancouver.

Keep on rockin',
Colin