In Jimi Hendrix’s short but momentous music career he was almost permanently on the road touring. On his travels, the guitarist discovered clear differences between crowds across the world, and there was one place that remained his firm favourite.
During the early days of his career, a time when Hendrix was a session musician, nobody in the crowd to see him, he was simply an accessory to the performance. However, sharing a stage with acclaimed artists such as Little Richard allowed Hendrix to pick up on patterns in audience behaviour and notice how they react differently from location to location.
After moving to England in 1966, Hendrix soon became accustomed to how British people engaged with artists they’d paid to see. In truth, the guitarist didn’t find the conduct vastly changeable across the Atlantic, although he did say crowds in the United Kingdom were more appreciative. Instead, it was mainland Europe that surprised him the most.
While there are cultural differences between Britain and America, these are minuscule compared to what he found on the continent. Sweden especially stuck out to Hendrix, and although his time there was a strange experience, Sweden was the guitarist’s favourite country to perform. He told Rolling Stone: “We play certain places in the States. In England, we played almost everywhere you can name. Both of the audiences listen, like in the States if they like you, they do; if they don’t, they don’t and they’ll show it. In the States they know who you are on stage, you play one single note, they say, ‘Oooh, aaahhh.’ In England, they appreciate it just as much as anywhere else”.
Hendrix added: “Sweden is the one that shows appreciation more than anybody. They show it by being completely silent while you’re playing, completely. I mean like there are a few rockers back there, running around falling out of balconies. The average person you know, they’re completely quiet, and they wait until every last thing is over and then they clap. Sounds like the walls caving in. It’s great when they go ‘oohh, aahh,’ but not when you know you’re not playing nothing.”
Although the Swedish crowds were the most outwardly appreciative, Hendrix understood that this is culturally dependent. He also noted how you could be having the show of your life in France, but the audience wouldn’t let you know. Hendrix continued: “In France, like the first time you’d go over there you might not know where you’re at, ’cause it’s a different reaction, different ways they show. You say, ‘Oh, man, does that mean good or bad?’
“They got so many different ways all over the world of showing appreciation. So, therefore, as long as they listen, that’s what counts, really, from the beginning. That is the whole scene from the beginning. All the other good or bad or indifferent comes after that. Just as long as they listen.”
Although there was something special about performing to a room of Swedes stunned into silence, Hendrix didn’t care how an audience reacted as long as they respected his craft enough to listen. Watch the footage below of him playing in Stockholm from 1969.