The Borderline Club, Wellington | 23rd January 2003

If it’s ever really possible to refer to a band as “legendary” surely, love them or hate them, one of the major candidates has to be The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The man could do things with a guitar that other guitarists couldn’t even dream of at the time.

I was (and still am) a real Hendrix fan and in my younger days I couldn’t get enough of the guitar magic that Jimi, ably supported by Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, became famous for.

I’ve seen The Hamsters (voted the UK’s top Blues/Rock Band) many times, who interpret Hendrix brilliantly and I consider Barry Martin to be one of the finest guitarists I’ve ever seen.

However, as someone who isn’t over enthusiastic about tribute bands, I didn’t expect much when I was persuaded to go and see Birmingham based Are You Experienced? I had heard their version of “Foxy Lady”, taken from an early album, but assumed that it was just a clever mixing job.

I thought, “surely no one can ever attempt re-create the live stage show”. Well, these lads not only attempted it, they achieved it.

They easily live up to their claim of being the ultimate tribute to Hendrix, with John Campbell not only sounding and looking like him (see photo), but also playing like him as well. From the outset the observer is transported back to see the great man weave his own brand of electronic wizardry.

They opened the first set with “Hear My Train ‘A Comin’”, then took the audience on a journey through “Stone Free”, “Can You See Me”, the bluesy “Red House”, Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower”, the haunting “Little Wing”, followed by “Fire” and “Are You Experienced”.

Talking to other Hendrix fans at the break it was obvious they had captured the imagination. The stage show is pure Hendrix, psychedelic clothes and all. It’s difficult to find anything negative to say about them with the obvious exception that John is right handed.

The second set was even more Hendrix than the first with flawless versions of “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Foxy Lady”, “Johnny B Goode”, “Voodoo Chile” and many more. It was way past dark when the evening culminated in an outlandish performance of “Wild Thing” during which the guitar was soaked with lighter fluid and “sacrificed” on stage.

As with the original band, the front man had all the limelight. However, in the background the rock solid rhythm section (Mark Arnold on Bass and Kevin O’Grady on drums) was providing all the support that he could require.

One piece of advice for anyone who ever liked Jimi Hendrix – do yourself a favour and get out of your armchair next time this band’s in town and go see them – EXCEPTIONAL!

As I said earlier, The Hamsters interpret Hendrix brilliantly, but Are You Experienced? is Hendrix.

Graham Stellmach