This feature originally ran in February 2016. We’re reposting it in celebration of Jimi Hendrix’s 76th birthday.
It’s one of the odder contradictions about Jimi Hendrix: Despite being so enigmatic and galvanizing in front of a live audience, he actually hated being out on the road. In his defense, “the road” in the 1960s was an unforgiving and punishing place to be, especially when plotted out in advance by Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery.
One night he and his band, The Experience, would be playing a gym in Santa Barbara, California, and the next night they’d find themselves in an arena in Seattle, Washington. Patently brutal. Then there was the added anxiety of being far away from the recording studio — the place where he felt most at home. To Hendrix, touring was more stress than it was worth. It was just something he had to do to keep the black lights at Electric Lady Studios on. The rest of us of course know the truth.
Hendrix was only on the scene for about four years of his life, but he absolutely made the most of that time. Amid a number of classic, immortal recordings, he also toured incessantly and performed an incredible number of live shows that still have the ability to shock and surprise nearly 50 years on. From the Fillmore East to the Fillmore West, from Woodstock and Monterey to Paris, London, and everywhere else that he and whatever group was backing him went, the possibility that real magic might present itself always hung heavy in the air.
Here are the 10 concerts when the magician was at his most spellbinding.