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What did Jimi Hendrix play at his final gig?

@TylerGolsen

When Jimi Hendrix passed away on September 18, 1970, he closed the book on the 1960s, on psychedelic rock, and perhaps even on the guitar itself. There are a fair number of fans who insist that lead guitar dynamics, and even rock and roll as a whole, never got better than Hendrix. His ability to mould blues-based lines, fluid melodicism, massive volume and righteous fury made him one of the original guitar heroes, and anyone who has picked up a Strat in the last 60 years has inevitably stood in his shadow.

In late August of that year, Hendrix played his final high-profile show at the Isle of Wight Festival with Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, still occasionally and erroneously billed as The Experience. Hendrix played new songs, including ‘Freedom’ and ‘Ezy Rider’ from what would be his first posthumous album The Cry of Love, plus classics like ‘Red House’, ‘Foxey Lady’, and ‘Purple Haze’. He even managed to fit in a rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

But the Isle of Wight wasn’t Hendrix’s final show. He stopped for a handful of shows in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany before headlining the Open Air Love and Peace Festival on the German island of Fehmarn. Not unlike his appearance at Woodstock, the Open Air Love and Peace Festival was beset by chaotic management and poor weather, with Hendrix not making it to the stage until midday Sunday. The crowd was apparently unhappy, if not downright hostile, to Hendrix when he first came out.

It didn’t take long for Hendrix, Mitchell, and Cox to turn them around, though. Opening up with a live favourite, Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’, Hendrix and his bandmates blasted through thirteen songs of pure fuzzy bliss, playing songs from across his relatively short career. Included in the set was Hendrix’s take on ‘All Along the Watchtower’, his interpretation of ‘Hey Joe’, the Band of Gypsy’s song ‘Message of Love’, and the new song ‘Room Full of Mirrors’. Hendrix closed with ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’, by which time the audience was fully converted.

The European tour itself was tumultuous, exasperated by Hendrix’s drug dependency, but he managed to end on a high note. There were more booked gigs, but Cox came down with either an illness or a bad LSD experience and quit the tour. Hendrix and Mitchell returned to London, and Hendrix died less than three weeks later.

But the Open Air Love and Peace Festival wasn’t the final time that Hendrix publicly played the guitar. At Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho on September 16, Hendrix joined Eric Burdon and War on stage to jam. Hendrix reportedly played on ‘Tobacco Road’ and ‘Blues for Memphis Slim’ with the group but refrained from taking solos and mostly played quietly in the background. ‘Tobacco Road’ was frequently the band’s closing number during this time, which makes it likely the final song that Hendrix ever played in public.

Open Air Love and Peace Festival set list:

1. Killing Floor
2. Spanish Castle Magic
3. All Along the Watchtower (originally by Bob Dylan)
4. Hey Joe
5. Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)
6. Message of Love
7. Foxy Lady
8. Red House
9. Ezy Ryder
10. Freedom
11. Room Full of Mirrors
12. Purple Haze
13. Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)

Eric Burdon and War Sept. 16, 1970 set list:

  1. Gun
  2. Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones cover)
  3. Spill the Wine
  4. Mystery Train (Little Junior’s Blue Flames cover)
  5. (Set Break)
  6. Gun
  7. Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones cover)
  8. Blues for Memphis Slim (with Jimi Hendrix)
  9. Tobacco Road (John D. Loudermilk cover) (with Jimi Hendrix)

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