50 Greatest Concerts of the Last 50 Years
We start with Jimi Hendrix’s 1967 world tour on our list of some of the most incredible concerts of the last five decades
This list was born out of some pretty serious arguments. Was Bruce Springsteen better in 1975 or 1978? When did Kanye hit his stride? Which was more awesome, ‘The Joshua Tree’ or ‘Zoo TV’? The concerts and tours that made the final cut weren’t just huge spectacles, they deepened the power of rock & roll itself; “You’re almost levitating on the energy from the audience,” says Keith Richards. “And I miss it when I’m not doing it.” From Neil Young thrashing out 20-minute jams with Crazy Horse to BeyoncÂŽe turning stadium glitz into a personal outpouring, here are the people who’ve done it best.
THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE – 1967
Jimi Hendrix‘s 1967 debut album, Are You Experienced, established his genius. The 200-some shows he played to support the album assured his legend. Backed by his ecstatically indulgent English rhythm section ”“ bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell ”“ Hendrix did nothing short of liberate the electric guitar, turning each show into a pyrotechnic exploration. “I thought, ”˜My God, this is like Buddy Guy on acid,’” Eric Clapton later recalled.
For the U.S., the coming-out party was the Monterey Pop Festival, where Hendrix set his guitar ablaze, terrifying the fire marshal while leaving the crowd spellbound. As the Experience toured that year, they played alongside Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens in every type of venue, from theaters to biker bars. “We also did a graduation ball in Paris in March 1967, a really plush place,” Mitchell recalled. “There was an oompah band on before us, and they would not leave the stage. I remember one of our roadies, in a final act of desperation, pushing the trombonist’s slide back into his mouth ”“ blood and teeth everywhere.”
When the shows went right, however, Hendrix was a tour de force. His sense of showmanship went back to his years as a sideman with Little Richard; dressed in radiant psychedelic frills, he banged the neck of his guitar, bit its strings and played it behind his head. “With Jimi, it was a theater piece,” Soft Machine drummer and onetime Hendrix tourmate Robert Wyatt once observed. “The drama, the pace, the buildups and drops.” The peak Summer of Love moment came in early June, when the Experience played London. With the Beatles in the crowd, Hendrix opened with the title track from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had been released just two days earlier. “1967 was the best year of my life,” he declared later. “I just wanted to play and play.” —Kory Grow.
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Watch the Jimi Hendrix Experience perform “Purple Haze” live in 1967: