Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Plays Berkeley

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The Jimi Plays Berkeley film, documenting his performances at the Berkeley Community Theatre on May 30, 1970, was about as haphazardly organized as most of the projects from the final year or two of his life were. It endured a post-directorial cut from Hendrix manager Mike Jeffery and, even with the insertion of some footage of period Berkeley rioting and protest, still clocked in at less than an hour. Perhaps it could have been better if more footage was prepared -- and, unfortunately, a few of the songs weren't filmed in complete versions -- but what remains is actually a pretty enjoyable and valuable document of Hendrix in concert. Just a few months prior to his death, he's backed by the reliable Mitch Mitchell on drums and newer trio mainstay Billy Cox on bass, mixing some old classics ("Purple Haze," "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," "I Don't Live Today") with quite a few selections he wouldn't release on record during his lifetime ("Johnny B. Goode," "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," "Lover Man," "Hear My Train a Comin'"). Hendrix seems to be a little tired and fed-up on some of the footage that survives of his concerts from his final months, but that's not the case here. He seems relaxed and in a pretty good mood, even on the obligatory "Purple Haze," the one song on which he really pulls out his most famed bag of tricks, like playing the guitar with his teeth. There's also "The Star Spangled Banner," not destined to make the lasting impact as the version filmed for Woodstock, of course, but impressively executed here. Most video releases have an audio-only section of concert recordings from the second set of the night's performances (also available separately in standard audio as Live at Berkeley). It's unclear, though, why neither the audio nor video included any material from the first show; as a consequence, some songs in the film, like "Hear My Train a Comin'" and "Johnny B. Goode," aren't heard on the audio-only portion.

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