Modern guitar heroes moved their limber little fingers at lightning speeds last night at Verizon Theatre, proving without a doubt that … uh … they can move their fingers really fast.
Maybe they should give up guitar and become professional finger wavers. Or maybe find a job that takes better advantage of their mad skills. Professional texters or cow ball ticklers, perhaps.
The traveling tribute show of Jimi Hendrix music – Experience Hendrix 2016 – made one thing clear. Hendrix is still very dead.
I love Hendrix.
I hated this show.
Is there a stronger word than hate? No? Then I’ll make up a word. Pretend “plikkatuck” means “way stronger than hate.”
I plikkatucked this show.
Full disclosure: I left at intermission. This review speaks to the first hour and 15 minutes of the show only. I kept thinking things would get better during the first half but they only got worse. The show just reeked of being half-assed and halfhearted. Nothing led me to believe the second half would get better even though Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Jonny Lang were scheduled to play.
The show began with former Hendrix bassist Billy Cox playing bass and singing, which turned out to be the highlight. Cox still plays a mean bass and his vocals are reminiscent of Hendrix’s. It wasn’t a great start to a show, but I had no idea at the time how far south things would turn.
Dweezil Zappa’s segment was unremarkable to the point of being boring. At least he wasn’t offensive. Eric Johnson followed and proved that even the fastest scale-runner can sound like an amateur when playing Hendrix. Neither guitarist came close to channeling any Hendrix mojo and they dressed like college hipsters on summer break.
In lieu of anything resembling soul, Johnson put extra emphasis on speed. In lieu of guitar tone, he relied on a shrill, tinny sound. He did a lot of running toward huge stacks of amplifiers and sticking his guitar up to them to get feedback, except the feedback either didn’t happen or it sounded limp.
Johnson’s sterile butchering of “Are You Experienced” and “Third Stone From the Sun” made me want to get experienced at throwing stones at the stage.
As bad as Johnson was, Zakk Wylde was worse.
Seeing Wylde play “Little Wing” was akin to watching Leatherface trying to carve a tiny origami with his bloody chainsaw.
On the bright side, Wylde’s over-the-top histrionics and un-ironic rock-god poses worked on a comedic level. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while, especially after my friend, Taylor, commented that Wylde, shaking his head and shivering his body while playing his one stupid lick, looked like “a rabbit fucking.”
Rabbits having sex would be an improvement over Wylde’s guitar playing. At least the bunnies are quiet.
Wylde played more notes in his first song than Hendrix played in a lifetime.
If I were to write my review like Wylde plays guitar, it would look like this:
I’m no Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, or Rusty Brown. Not even close. But I’ve played guitar long enough to understand the elemental importance of playing a piece of music versus vomiting notes as fast as humanly possible with no regard to the song. My friend was surprised that I wanted to leave at intermission.
“It will get better,” Taylor said.
“I’m seriously sitting here thinking about giving up guitar,” I said. “Watching these guys play makes it all seem so pointless and silly. If you unplugged his guitar, he’d just be a guy standing there moving his fingers really fast while thousands of people sit and stare at him. I’m literally sitting here thinking about burning all my guitars when I get home and joining a monastery.”
“Yeah, we better go now,” Taylor said.