Review: Jimi Hendrix delivers 'bad trip,' 'tame show' at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Hall in 1968
Today would have been Jimi Hendrix's 70th birthday. In his honor, we decided to look up some old newspaper reviews of his concerts in Tampa -- in particular, two shows at Tampa's Curtis Hixon Hall on Aug. 18 and Nov. 23, 1968.
So what did Tampa critics think of the greatest guitarist who ever lived?
"As Hendrix 'experiences' go, this one was rather tame." "Throughout his performance, he never really seemed to excite his audience to the degree he is supposed to be able." "Many of the 7,161 were leaving the audience during his last number, Wild Thing." "Hendrix's behavior was inexcusable."
That's right: Jimi Hendrix got panned.
In those original reviews, critics write that Hendrix looked "very weary," and acted "angry" at the crowd -- as one reviewer put it, it looked like Hendrix "thought the audience was lagging far behind him." At the end of one show, he flipped off the stunned audience, chastising them for taking photos during the show.
"It's too bad you spent all that money for one picture," the guitarist told the crowd. "I thought you came for sound." (Gee, wonder what Jimi would think about all the cell-cams in the air at today's concerts?)
Still, when Hendrix was clicking, it was hard to deny his talent. "When he played, the roof caved in, the walls shook and the floor vibrated. When it was all over, you wondered what had happened," one reviewer wrote. "When the blues were soft and gentle, the audience rested in his hand; when the sound was frenzied and angry, it was at the end of a shotgun."
Check out the full, original Jimi Hendrix concert reviews from the St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent after the jump.
Hendrix Experience Was Tame Show (Aug. 20, 1968, St. Petersburg Times)
By William W. Jablon
TAMPA -- The Jimi Hendrix Experience, billed as the most progressive rock act in the world, gave a less than sparkling performance before 7,161 young fans at Curtis Hixon Hall in Tampa Sunday night.
Interviewed before his performance, Hendrix gave the impression of being very weary. Speaking in almost a whisper, he complained of the length of his almost continuous two-year tour.
"I've had almost no private life at all in the two years we've been on tour," he said as he slouched in front of his dressing room mirror.
"WE HAVEN'T HAD a practice session in almost four months," he added.
The obvious weariness carried into his performance. As Hendrix "experiences" go, this one was rather tame.
The audience greeted him with screams and banners, but this fervor seemed to generally subside.
HENDRIX concocted the wild cacophony of sound, blasting and bombastic, for which he is known. He also played his guitar in only the way Hendrix can, from indescribable positions, working the guitar for every note and screech of sound possible. Yet throughout his performance, he never really seemed to excite his audience to the degree he is supposed to be able.
He had said before the show that "if the audience really digs us, we'll play harder, if not, we won't try as hard." In other words, he wouldn't try and win an audience.
He did not work hard Sunday night.
Perhaps a malfunctioning amplifier which plagued him throughout his performance did not allow Hendrix to fully concentrate on his music.
Only in two songs Hey Joe and Manic Depression did the audience get anything that resembled the real Jimi Hendrix experience.
THE HENDRIX experience is supposed to bring an audience to feel the frenzy of the wild electronic sounds that marks his underground beat. It is supposed to bring body and mind to the crescendo of involvement with the ever-increasing wild beats of the supercharged electric pulse and throbs of the guitars.
The audience seemed to sense this feeling for these two numbers, but then it was lost.
Perhaps that was why the Hendrix part of the show only involved about eight numbers, and why many of the 7,161 were leaving the audience during his last number, Wild Thing. Both Hendrix and audience were suddenly very weary.
Jimi Hendrix: Soul Squeezed Through a Guitar (Nov. 24, 1968, St. Petersburg Times)
By Suzanne Harris, Of the Times Staff
TAMPA -- Jimi Hendrix fingered the strings of his whtie guitar with the intrigued air of a child examining a shiny new toy.
"I'm fascinated with it," he grinned. "I'm diggin' it."
HIS INTEREST in the guitar was surprisingly naive for a guy who has been on the road with his present group for two straight years, playing the frenzied electronic sound that plugs people in like nothing else can.
"Y'all labeled it electronic," he said. "I don't know nothin' about it ... We have amplifiers and I know how to turn a button up and down," he said, twiddling a knob on the guitar. "That's all."
In the moments before Hendrix strode on stage at Curtis Hixon last night, some 7,000 pairs of feet began stomping in anticipation. When he came on, a shrill whistle rose from the crowd.
HE HAS fuzzy black hair, sprouting from his head, and was wearing a flowered shirt, black vest, beads, and had a red scarf tied around one leg of his white, bell-bottomed slacks.
"How y'all doin!," he said softly into the microphone. "I'd like to dedicate this show to four costa Rican girls..." (They had made their way backstage to talk to Hendrix before the show.)
As the show began, ushers lined up in front of the stage to keep the utterly "freaked-out" from joining the show.
Hendrix plays with two musicians he found in London -- Noel Redding on guitar and Mitch Mitchell on drums.
Together they created a sound without beginning, without end, just middle. When he played, the roof caved in, the walls shook and the floor vibrated. When it was all over, you wondered what had happened.
HENDRIX SQUEEZED his soul through the guitar and into the audience, sometime letting it emerge as a mean piece of blues, other times making it scream to every corner of the room.
When the blues were soft and gentle, the audience rested in his hand; when the sound was frenzied and angry, it was at the end of a shotgun. But Jimi Hendrix thought the audience was lagging far behind him last night. Those buzzes and whines, shrieks and whirs can really be tamed. And Jimi Hendrix is doing it.
The 'Experience' Offers Bad Trip (Nov. 25, 1968, The Evening Independent)
By Kay Donahue, Independent Reviewer
Jimi Hendrix stopped singing in the middle of a phrase of Purple Haze, turned his back on the audience and finished the song as an instrumental. Bass player Noel Redding moved to the microphone and offered a few adlibed words of the song in a futile attempt to dull the impact of Hendrix's obvious anger.
Purple Haze was finally finished. Hendrix turned to the audience, slowly put down his gutitar, replaced the usual peace sign with a gesture using his middle finger and strode off stage. Though he'd been performing almost an hour, his action was not the normal climax of a concert. The audience sat in stunned silence then there was a mixture of applause and catcalls.
What motivated Hendrix's unorthodox behavior? He told the policeman who escorted him to the car the audience was bad and just wouldn't react. During the performance he complained about the number of people taking pictures saying, "It's too bad you spent all that money for one picture. I thought you came for sound."
Regardless of the cause, Hendrix's behavior was inexcusable.
For the second time in four months, he packed Curtis Hixon (his first concert was a sellout with several thousand turned away and Saturday's concert was a near sellout). And for the second time he failed to give the audience what they came to see -- that Hendrix magic and excitement so evident in his spring appearance at the Miami Pop Festival.
"The Jimi Hendrix Experience" has been on the road for more than two years and the members are tired. This was the problem at the last concert.
Hendrix's obvious good mood during interviews before the performance promised a better performance than the one in August. The presentation of Fire as the show's opener indicated a good show to come. It had the driving excitement that kept Miami listeners on their feet all through his performance last spring.
As the flashbulbs continued to light the house with psychedelic effect and the audience sat silently listening to his sound, Hendrix became angry. As his anger increased, the quality of his performance decreased. By the end of the show he was a stranger to the crowd -- an experience they didn't especially dig.
Hendrix can put on a good show -- an exciting experience in musical experimentation. For some reason neither performance on the Suncoast neared the quality of his concert in Miami.
Maybe Hendrix should decide two years on the road is long enough and take a rest -- for his audience's sake.
-- Jay Cridlin and Caryn Baird, tbt*. Photo: Pete Johnson (from the November 1968 show in Tampa)