The Troubadour, London | 23rd September 2011

What a great night! Again. The weekend of 17/18 September has turned into an annual commemoration of Jimi Hendrix’s impact on London, and London’s impact on Hendrix.

The date marks the anniversary of Hendrix’s death in the city in 1970. It’s truly remarkable that 41-years on Hendrix can still sell out Earls Court’s Troubadour Club; at least he can in the guise of Are You Experienced, undoubtedly the UK’s top Hendrix tribute band, admirably lead by the incomparable John Campbell.

The Troubadour Club is the ideal venue. It’s a small, basement club, not much changed since Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Nick Drake and other folk-rock luminaries launched their careers there. The low ceilings, alcoves and almost claustrophobic atmosphere engendered by 120 or so howling Hendrix acolytes send shivers up (and down!) your spine.

And Campbell knows how to manipulate his audience; with Purple Haze he gives just enough pause for 120 voices to get to ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky (this guy)’ before he does, and everyone gets to ‘where you going with that gun in your hand’ that planned fraction early. It’s a perfect, crowd-pleasing performance. But not just populist; AYE’s rendition of Machine Gun is delivered every bit as meaningfully now in these current war-torn times as it was during the Vietnam years. Drummer, Kevin O’Grady, keeps time like an M16, and Mark ‘I Blame it on Rio’ lays base notes down like well-placed mortar rounds.

A good percentage of the crowd were ‘Rhodes Rockers’; guys enjoying a reunion weekend having met at the Lindos Rock Festival (check it out: A fair number had gone to the bother of ‘fancy dress’ and it made for a colourful crowd in more ways than one.

Great night. Nice also to some regular faces, not just the Lindos crowd but ‘authentics’ like Mouse O’Brien who was a roadie at the gig where Hendrix jammed with Cream at the Regent’s Street Poly. ‘Good gig’, said Mouse. ‘Yeah, didn’t Clapton walk off stage in tears?’. ‘No, not that one. This one.’ Praise indeed.