Recorded live at the Berkely Community Theatre, Berkely, California on May 30, 1970. Includes liner notes by John McDermott.
While there's certainly no shortage of posthumous Jimi Hendrix concert recordings running the gamut in terms of quality, this one is something special. It captures Hendrix in a period of transition. He was ready to start a new chapter, having no way of knowing he'd be dead in a matter of months. After his Band of Gypsys phase, he had decided to reunite the original Experience, but bassist Noel Redding declined, perhaps convinced that his band, Fat Mattress, was bound for glory. Consequently, the visceral R&B of the Gypsys mixed with the fluid open-endedness of the Experience through the combination of Mitch Mitchell and drummer Billy Cox.
On this night in Berkeley in 1970, the trio was on fire, roaring through “old” chestnuts (“Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze”) invested with new life, and pushing the boundaries with works-in-progress (embryonic versions of what would become “Straight Ahead” and “New Rising Sun”). It's interesting to note that while Hendrix's gut-wrenching solos on the evening's second set were among his most expressive, the song list tended toward the more blues-based numbers rather than the psychedelic masterpieces he'd been concocting in the studio. It's as fascinating to hear him make his way through the thickets where composition and improvisation meet, as it is tragic that we'll never know where he would have emerged at the other end of his journey.